What Happens to Student Loans in a Divorce?

Bettering your education is something that can benefit you and your family. Education is expensive, and the costs continue to increase. Most people need to take out student loans to pay for their college expenses. It is estimated that more than 43 million student loans are outstanding. The average student loan debt per borrower is as high as $40,000. This means that most couples enter a marriage with at least some student loan debt or they accumulate student loan debt during the marriage. 

Community Property in Washington

Washington is a state that utilizes the community property laws for divorce. Community property includes most property and assets that were acquired by either party during the marriage. When couples divorce, they must divide their assets and debts equally between spouses. Separate property is property that you owned prior to marriage and gifts that were made to you alone during the marriage. The laws regarding community property can be complex in some cases, so it is best to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney. 

Loans Made Prior to Marriage

Although Washington is a community property state, there are some exceptions to the rule. One of the exceptions that may apply to your situation is debt that was incurred prior to the marriage. If someone obtained and signed for a student loan before they got married, the debt belongs to that person alone. This is generally true even if the loan was partially repaid during the marriage. 

Student Loans Made During the Marriage

Distributing marital debts can become more difficult when some student loans were made prior to the marriage and another loan was made after taking your wedding vows. It is helpful to note that if you entered into a student loan agreement during the marriage, the debt belongs to both parties. This debt is considered marital debt, even though it was only utilized for one spouse. This debt would then be divided equally between spouses in a divorce. If a loan was made during the marriage, gather and review the loan agreement. 


There could be some other exceptions that might make a difference when it comes to dividing up the costs of student loans in a divorce. One notable exception is when someone cosigned for the loan prior to marriage. The co-signer is still responsible for repayment of the loan should the loan go into default. Another possible exception is when a prenuptial agreement is in place that specifically addresses student loans. Additionally, couples may make decisions regarding their divorce settlement terms, which could impact the way student loans are to be repaid. 

Student loans can be one of the complicated issues that you need to resolve during a divorce. It is important to address all of the numerous aspects of community property so you can be assured that you are getting a fair settlement. At Hodgson Family Law, we offer compassionate legal guidance to make the divorce process as easy and stress-free as possible. Contact us today at Hodgson Family Law at (866) 756-5661 to learn how we can help.