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Do spouses have to help pay back student loans after a divorce?

 Posted on October 18, 2021 in Family Law

Married couples acquire all kinds of personal property and financial obligations during their relationships. When couples divorce, they often have to figure out how to split up their property and the debts that they share.

Under the Illinois equitable distribution standard, the goal of litigated property division is a fair outcome. Judges must review the property and debts a couple shares and the unique circumstances of their marriage to arrive at a decision regarding the distribution of both the property and the death.

Although people often focus on the division of property in a divorce, that can also be a major concern. If one spouse has substantial student loan debt, is that debt possibly divisible in the divorce?

When did that spouse incur the debt?

Like with assets, certain debts can be separate property that aren't subject to division by the court. Debts held prior to marriage will usually remain the sole responsibility of the spouse who incurred the debt.

If you marry someone who has six figures worth of student loan debt from college and medical school, you are not responsible for those debts after you later divorce. However, if your spouse goes to school during your marriage, you may have a partial obligation to help repay those student loans.

Provided that the debt originated during the marriage and that one spouse took the debt on with the intention of benefiting the marital relationship, possibly by increasing their earning potential, then the debt may be marital property for which each spouse will have partial responsibility in the divorce.

The length of the marriage and the ability of each spouse to contribute toward paying the debt will influence how a judge rules as well.

You don't have to co-sign on a debt to have a financial obligation

Although the creditors for an account can only make a claim against you personally if you are the borrower or a cosigner for an account, the Illinois family courts can potentially hold you accountable for a debt that is not in your name if they believe doing so will result in a fairer outcome to your divorce proceedings.

A careful review of your finances and marriage records can give you a better idea about which debt may influence the outcome of property division in your divorce.

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