Student loan debt is a heavy financial burden for many college-educated Americans. In fact, roughly one in four American adults carries student loan debt. Accordingly, many enter into marriage with that debt. In the event that the marriage does not work out, the divorcing couple may become concerned about who is responsible to repay it, along with any other debt.
New York is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court considers a number of statutory factors under the Domestic Relations Law, and specific facts surrounding the marriage, to ensure that property and debt are divided fairly. Generally, student loan debt incurred before the marriage is the sole responsibility of the party who took out the loan and is not considered marital debt subject to equitable distribution.
Student loan debt incurred during the marriage is a more complex consideration and can be extremely fact specific. Pursuant to a change in the New York Domestic Relations Law 236 B (5) in 2016, professional degrees and licenses in and of themselves acquired during the marriage are no longer subject to equitable distribution. However, the debt incurred to acquire the degree or license may be subject to equitable distribution depending on the precise details and facts of the case. For example, a court may consider whether the loans were taken out to help support the family and cover the couple’s living expenses, in which case they may be considered marital debt. If the loans were taken out in the student spouse’s name only for the purpose of tuition and textbooks, they may very well be considered separate debt.
The financial implications involved in a divorce can be extremely stressful and confusing. Property and debt division in New York divorce cases is extremely fact specific. It is best to speak with an attorney who can help guide you through the process.
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