Proudly representing clients in family law and criminal defense matters since 1975.

Do you have to take your ex’s student loan debt?

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2023 | Divorce, Marital Property Division

For many Americans, student loan debt makes up a significant portion of their total debt load. It’s a major expense that many people take on, and this often happens right around the time that they get married.

If a couple like this gets divorced, one thing that each spouse might wonder is if they have to pay back the student loan debt that their partner took out. For instance, perhaps your spouse has $100,000 in debt and you do not have any. You know that Washington is a community property state, so are you going to have to take 50% of the debt – $50,000 – when you divide up your assets?

When was the debt obtained?

The biggest question to ask here is simply when your spouse took out that debt, as that can determine if you’d be responsible for it.

If you were already married when they took out the loan, then it is partially your obligation. This is when the community property laws about splitting things in half come into play. You would need to take 50% of that debt with you since, under the eyes of the law,  the two of you took it out as a couple.

However, perhaps your spouse took on the student loan debt before the two of you got married. You then met in college, after they already had their loans. If they already brought that debt to the marriage, then it is a separate asset. You are not obligated to pay for their personal debt, and it does not automatically become shared debt when you tie the knot.

Dividing assets and debts can be complex, and it’s important to know exactly what steps to take.