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What happens to student loan debt after divorce?

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Divorce Law
Post Author Image This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.

During divorce proceedings, Alabama courts typically look at all debt accrued before and during the marriage. But how does Alabama handle student loan debt? Read The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates’s blog to learn more about what happens to student loan debt after a divorce.

What is student loan debt?

While it may seem like a simple concept, let’s discuss what student loan debt looks like. When you take out a loan to cover the cost of your education, you have to pay back the money you borrowed and any additional interest that may have accrued.

Alabama’s federal student loan debt exceeds the national average, with $23.5 billion in debt. About 12.6% of Alabama residents owe student loan debt, which is 3 out of every 25 residents. 

Even though debt seems like a simple part of a divorce, it is sometimes a complex issue. Depending on when you took out the loans, if you helped your ex-spouse pay theirs back, and if you co-signed for them, student loan debt could become a significant challenge. There are many factors at play here that an experienced divorce lawyer will understand and be able to provide you with the correct legal advice regarding your unique situation.

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How does Alabama handle debt?

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court divides property and debt fairly and equitably. Instead of a 50/50 split, the circuit court separates assets and liabilities to benefit both parties.

When deciding how to divide debt, the court will typically ask a few different questions. They may question when you took out the loans, how long your marriage was, what you used the loan for, or any other questions that affect debt division. 

Debt is likely the most significant liability that you and your former spouse will need to deal with, and it’s vital to decide early on what your plan is. You may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney who can help you sort out your finances. 

What if you had student loan debt before marriage?

If you or your ex-partner took out student loans before getting married, they would not be divided up during the divorce. All debt you acquired before getting married will remain separate property. As separate property, neither of you will be responsible for the other’s debt.

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What if you took out student loans during marriage?

Debt accumulated during your marriage, including student loan debt, is considered marital debt. Since Alabama is an equitable distribution state, the courts will look at your case and decide the fairest way to separate that debt.

The courts will consider several questions when determining the best way to divide your marital debt. We’ve already touched on a few of them, but we’ll cover the details.

How was the money used?

Suppose your former partner took out a student loan to cover education expenses. In that case, the courts may decide that it is their responsibility. However, if you used the money to cover shared living expenses, it may be considered marital debt and divided appropriately.  

What role did your former partner play?

This question aims to determine how much assistance your ex-spouse provided while you were continuing your education. If your former partner took care of the children or drove you to class, they may have less liability for the debt. 

Is there equal earning power?

Earning power refers to the money that you earn. If you make more than your ex-partner, the court may place more of the financial burden on you. Courts consider earning power to ensure that you’re able to care for yourself and any dependents you may have. 

Did one of you co-sign on a student loan?

Some private loans require co-signers. If you co-signed for your ex-partner, you might continue to be held responsible for the debt, even after the divorce. However, you may benefit from refinancing it under their name or requesting a co-signer release.

Speak to a Professional

Student loan debt is complex, and it can be challenging to deal with during a divorce. The good news is that Alabama is an equitable distribution state and will consider your case on an individual level. 

An experienced, empathetic family law attorney can help you work through the process and ensure that you are taking the proper steps. Here at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, we will help you give your family a better life. Getting a divorce can be daunting, but we will help you take the next step in building a better future. Connect with us online at or at (256) 859-7277. Move to a brighter future with clarity and confidence.

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