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Am I responsible for my spouse’s student loans if we divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2022 | Property Division

For Virginia couples contemplating divorce, the presence of unpaid student loans can loom large. Who is responsible for paying off student loans in a divorce?

As with many legal matters, it depends on a variety of factors when determining responsibility for these debts. Let’s delve deeper.

Virginia is not a community property state

Virginia divides marital assets and debts equitably, rather than splitting things 50/50, such as is done in a few community property states. But it does not completely address the responsibility of student loans. For example, when were these loans taken out? If it was prior to your marriage, this further strengthens your position that the loans belong solely to your spouse. But you are not off the hook, yet.

Did you co-sign the loan(s)?

Let’s hope that you didn’t. If you did, unfortunately, you are equally liable for repaying the student loan debt. This applies whether you co-signed during your courtship or after your marriage. If you didn’t co-sign, that’s another good indication you’re free and clear of the debt.

What about refinancing a student loan?

Often, student loans that were taken out solely by one spouse before they got married get refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates or to lower payments. If you signed off on the refinancing of the loans, this makes you partially responsible for repaying them.

Property division negotiations might include student loans

If you bear any responsibility for your soon-to-be ex’s student loans, you and your family law attorney could use that as leverage during negotiations about your marital property division. For instance, if you are in a position to wipe out those loans for you both, you might offer to do so in exchange for a larger share of the marital assets.

There are many ways to structure a divorce settlement, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Good negotiations can help you avoid being saddled with debts that shouldn’t be yours to keep.