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Are you on the hook for the cost of your spouse’s student loans?

During a divorce, one of the things you’ll need to do is to decide how to divide your debts. One of the debts that you may share is your partner’s student loans.

Student loans that are taken out during your marriage could be marital debts in some cases. The fact that the debt occurred while you were married could mean that you share in them. However, if those student loans were taken out before you got married, or if you didn’t sign as a cosigner on any of the loans, you may be able to successfully argue that you shouldn’t have to repay any of that debt.

Who is responsible for student loans during a divorce?

To break it down simply, most loans work like this in divorce.

  • Loans taken out before marriage are the responsibility of the individual who signed for them
  • Loans taken out before marriage and cosigned by a spouse or other party will be the responsibility of both parties
  • Loans taken out in one person’s name during a marriage will usually be the responsibility of the spouse who took out the loan, but since you were married, you could be responsible for a portion of the loan based on Illinois’s equitable distribution laws
  • Loans taken out in both partners’ names during the marriage are likely to be both of their responsibilities upon divorce

It may seem unfair to have to pay for someone’s schooling if you’re now getting a divorce, but the reality is that it is usually a shared burden for a married couple. However, you may be able to successfully argue against paying if you signed a loan expecting to get the benefits of your spouse completing school. For example, if you signed the loan to get them through medical school and they’re divorcing you before they start practicing medicine, you may be able to argue against paying, since you won’t get the extra financial support you expected by having a spouse work in the medical field.

This is a complex situation. Don’t assume that you will or won’t have to pay back this debt on your spouse’s behalf. It’s worth taking some time to look over the debts you have and figuring out if there is a way to have the debt assigned as a separate debt instead of a marital debt.