Many California residents are struggling with a significant student loan debt burden. The cost of higher education has risen dramatically in recent decades, as have student loan obligations. When people decide to divorce, they may be particularly concerned with the financial implications, especially as they can have long-term consequences that linger on for years after the end of a marriage. When student loans are a major burden, both parties may be wondering how this debt will be divided.

In general, most people who already had their student loan debts before marriage will remain responsible for the loans after divorce as well. The obligation will remain a separate debt belonging to the spouse who studied. However, the situation can vary greatly for student loans acquired during the marriage. As California is a community property state, all debt accumulated during the marriage is generally considered marital debt to be divided equally between the spouses in divorce. However, there is an exception in state law that governs the treatment of student loans.

In general, student loan debt is assigned to the spouse who studied and took out the loans, absent an agreement to the contrary or evidence that both spouses benefited from the loans and the education they made possible. When people divorce less than 10 years after the loans were taken out, there is a presumption that both spouses did not benefit from them; the opposite is true for loans taken out 10 or more years before the divorce. In both cases, this presumption can be rebutted in court.

When people decide to divorce, student loan debt may weigh heavily on their mind as a concern during property division. A family law attorney can provide advice and strong representation to advocate for a fair split of marital assets and liabilities.