Student loan debt is a major concern for many people in California. The cost of attending university in the United States has grown significantly over the years. As a result, many people face student loan burdens that may total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. When people decide to divorce, the division of their largest assets may be some of the most contentious issues that arise. The financial effects of the end of a marriage can linger for years into the future. The same holds true for the division of large marital liabilities such as student loan debt.
People who obtained their student loan debt before marriage will, in most cases, leave the marriage with their obligation to pay off their loans intact. Most premarital property is generally considered to remain separate property. However, as California is a community property state, dividing student loan debt can be more confusing when the obligation was acquired after the marriage began. In some cases, the student loan debt can be considered a marital liability to be divided with other assets and debts between the partners.
California law carves out some exceptions for student loan debt. There is a presumption that, in many cases, student loans should be assigned in a divorce to the spouse who obtained the education. However, the debt can still be divided between both spouses equally if it is shown that the student loans benefited both partners. In most cases, if the divorce takes place less than 10 years after the loans were acquired, they are considered separate debt; the opposite is true for loans acquired over 10 years before divorce.
People with student loans may be very concerned with how this significant financial issue will be handled in property division. A family law attorney can provide advice and representation throughout the divorce process.