How Does Divorce Affect Student Loan Debt?January 30, 2019
Updated May 31, 2022
Lots of millennials are waiting longer to get married so that they’re more secure before tying the knot. The divorce rate dropped 18% in the last several years. Even so, divorce still happens. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Maybe your uncoupling is a fresh start, and separating your finances is the first step to setting up your new life.
As a millennial, many of us have student loan debt that is just part of our everyday reality. That’s true whether we’re married, single, or divorced. This is why so many people often will end up seeking out help and advice about student loans during the divorce process. Answers aren’t always clear, but we can help. There are a few things you should know about marriage and student loans to prevent any financial surprises.
Can’t Divorce a Servicer
Student loan responsibilities after a divorce—particularly for Federal Loans—will be dependent on whose name is on the loan. If you and your ex-spouse agree on a payment arrangement that requires one of you to help pay, if it’s not in your name on the loan, that may not be enforced by the servicer. If your name is on the loan, you’re the one they’re going to pursue for payment. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to come to an agreement that works for both of you but stay on top of which of your loans are being paid. Make sure you never miss a payment even if your ex is supposed to be paying it.
Repayment Amounts and Plans
With divorce, your family size changes, as does your household income. Changes to income and family size can mean changes to your monthly payment. Now it’s likely these changes will only happen if you are on an income-based repayment plan. It doesn’t mean that your monthly payment will go down, but your loan payment could go up or down. The payment amount will depend on what your spouse’s income was when compared to yours, so everyone’s situation is unique. Make sure to update the paperwork and stay current on your loans as you transition to paying your debts on your own.
If you’re having trouble making payments, look at different repayment options like an IBR plan so that you stay current on your loan payments and don’t fall behind. If at all possible, avoid deferment. Deferring your loans ensures that you don’t fall behind on payments, but the interest continues to accrue while you are not paying. This could extend the life of the loan and increase the amount that you owe, so it really should be a last resort.
Some people think just filing for divorce will negatively affect credit, but that isn’t necessarily true. What can affect your credit is the process of changing your bills around. For example, putting things in solely your name that weren’t previously could affect your credit score. Making big financial changes like selling a house, refinancing, or restructuring debt can also have effects on your credit score. Some of those things could be good and some could lower your score, so it just depends on your situation. For example, adding on more debt without increasing your income could have a negative effect on your credit score.
If you are in the process of reassessing your financial situation on your own, you’ll want to review paperwork. Gather vital documents like your credit report and score. If you haven’t checked your credit report in a while, now is a great time too. Make sure there are no errors on your credit report and ensure that you know what your score is. You may be looking to make some changes that will certainly need a credit review. Changes could include looking for housing on your own, your own mortgage, changing the car you drive, or something else that will require a credit check. Don’t be caught off guard by not knowing what’s on your report right now.
The laws will either determine the debt as separate property or marital property. Now, separate property generally includes things like assists obtained before marriage like that of inheritance. Generally paraphrasing anything obtained by an individual before marriage is considered separate property. Anything that remains outside of separate property typically is marital property. Marital property is where the state laws really play a role.
Your remaining marital property will be divided based on if you are located in “community property” state or an “equitable distribution” state. During a divorce in a “community property” state, any marital property is split down the center at fifty-fifty. Most states tend to fall into the “equitable distribution” state law. The “equitable distribution” law says that each party has a legal claim to the asset or debt. The portion of value that is then divided to each party is determined by a number of different factors according to The Court.
Cosigners and Private Loans
Private loans can be more complex. For instance, if your ex-spouse is a cosigner, then you are both responsible to pay the debt. If he or she was not your cosigner, the debt is the responsibility or you and your cosigner, if any.
It might be a good time to refinance loans.
Whether you are just entering the divorce process or have already completed, see if now is the time to refinance. Get in touch to have one of our friendly advisors walk you through the process and give you information on how we can help.
Divorce can be one of the most stressful events a person will face, but empowering yourself with information will make it easier to navigate. Be sure to consult with a lawyer before you start divorce proceedings so that you can prepare. Do your best to work together to come to an agreement that helps you both afford to live on your own so everyone can move forward.
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