When a couple divorces, the court looks at the best way to divide both party’s debts as well as their assets. Just as there are community and individual assets, there can be community and individual (separate) debts. For example, if one spouse takes out a student loan to pay for their school during the marriage, the student loan would generally be considered a separate debt. In California, when divorcing, there are exceptions when the student loan can be considered a community debt. It is best to seek legal advice if you are in this situation.
Student loans are taken out for different reasons, sometimes it’s to pay for college tuition and books and sometimes it’s to support the student (or family) while pursuing an education. Often it’s a little bit of both. So trying to figure out who is responsible for paying back the loan after divorce can be complicated.
A degree is not considered community property so therefore the debt incurred while achieving it is not usually considered community debt. However, if the marriage greatly benefited from the boost in income that comes with a degree (say, for example, one party goes to law school and after passing the bar is able to get a much higher paying job), then the family court might consider the cost of that degree when dividing debts. In the absence of substantial benefit to both parties, the repayment of the loan is the responsibility of the student.
When a divorce occurs shortly after one spouse graduates from college, the court more often than not holds the former student responsible for the repayment of the loans.