Divorce in Texas and throughout the U.S. can be, and often is, very messy as spouses and lawyers struggle to divide up marital assets and marital debt. Some kinds of debt, however, are more clear-cut than others. For instance, if a couple pooled finances and invested in a house, then the mortgage debt would likely be considered a marital debt.
Student loans can be a more difficult distinction to make. Division of debt, like division of assets, varies by the family law of different states. Some states operate on a 50/50 division, meaning that each spouse is entitled to half of all marital property, but most states operate on a system of equitable division. In this system, lawyers decide on what division of assets would be most equitable. The process takes a variety of factors into account.
Whether or not student loan debt counts as marital debt depends largely on the nature of the debt. For instance, if the loan benefited primarily one spouse and went toward the degree only instead of living expenses, then it is likely that the debt would be considered personal and not marital. A few states consider degrees earned during a marriage to be marital property; in these states, loan debt would generally be considered a marital debt.
There are cases in which a degree earned during the marriage generates considerable income that benefits both spouses over many years. In these instances, it’s likely that the loan debt would be considered marital, as degree earnings were essentially marital. Sometimes, couples opt for prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that deal specifically with debt. This can save a lot of legal headaches in the event of a breakup.
Essentially, there is no definite answer as to whether or not student loan debt is personal or marital. Decisions on responsibility for debt depend on individual circumstances and legal advice. A firm with family law experience can often be helpful in going over state laws pertaining to marital debt.
Source: Forbes, “Are Student Loans Incurred During The Marriage Considered Marital Debt?“, Jeff Landers, December 17, 2013