Student loans are reaching record numbers, as more Americans go into debt for their educations. It’s no longer uncommon for students to rack up tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Most people assume that student loans incurred in one spouse’s name will remain that person’s responsibility. While this is often the case, it is not always so. An experienced Greenville, SC divorce attorney can help you understand how student loan debt may factor into your divorce.
The first thing to remember about debt, including student loan debt, is that South Carolina courts use equitable distribution. Equitable means fair, not necessarily equal. So even if just one spouse’s name is on the student loan debt, that fact alone is not decisive. When someone brings student loans into the marriage, the judge will likely declare that individual to be responsible for them. However, the Greenville, SC court will need to consider how the debt was used.
Student loan debt typically covers the cost of tuition, books, fees, room and board, and other normal educational expenses. If the entire loan amount was used for one spouse’s educational needs, the debt will likely be that spouse’s obligation. However, sometimes student loans are used in part for the couple’s living expenses in Greenville, SC. This is particularly true for student loan debt acquired after the marriage. If some portion of the loan paid for housing, food, or other marital expenses, the parties could share that portion.
There are other circumstances that have to be taken into consideration for divorcing Greenville, SC couples. The court will evaluate whether the other spouse supported you and the household during your time in school. If so, then it may not matter as much that some of the money was used for marital expenses. The court will consider the other spouse to have paid his or her share of the debt.
Your Greenville, SC divorce attorney also needs to know the relative income of the spouses. If you earn significantly more than the other spouse, and incurred student loan debt, it might be your responsibility. That’s because the spouses’ relative incomes is a factor in equitable distribution cases.
If the spouse co-signs the loan, then legally he or she is responsible for the debt. That means the creditor can come after both spouses for payment. The issue can become more complicated in equitable distribution cases, however. Remember, the Greenville, SC court will allocate marital debts based on what it considers to be fair. The judge could offset the shared responsibility by allocating other marital debts or assets to achieve an overall equitable result. When student loans enter the equitable distribution arena, their allocation is never decided in isolation.
Talk to your Greenville, SC family law attorney about the nature of your student loan debts. If the borrowed money was used to pay for household expenses, you should gather evidence to demonstrate this. The money may have been borrowed when one spouse was in school and the other was not working much. If the working spouse earned insufficient income, it could be that the student loan money made up the difference.
Also, be prepared to counter any argument by your spouse that he or she took care of household responsibilities. Remember, the other spouse could use this to try to offset responsibility for debts – and not just student loans. Ask a Greenville, SC divorce attorney about the state’s equitable distribution laws and how they apply in your case.
CONTACT A GREENVILLE, SC DIVORCE ATTORNEY
Student loans are stressful enough, and divorce only compounds the problem. Don’t face divorce alone. You need an experienced family law attorney who will protect your rights and advocate for your interests. Call Greenville Family Law today and let us help.