DIVIDING STUDENT LOAN DEBTS IN DIVORCE CASES

If you are involved in a divorce and one spouse has student loan debt acquired during the marriage, you may be curious about how a divorce court will deal with distributing the debt.

If the student loan debt was acquired during the marriage it is considered marital debt. Marital debt is ordinarily divided between the parties in a divorce case. However, not all student loan debt will be divided between the parties in a divorce case.

In Hicks v. Kubit, 2000 Pa. Super. 221, the court was asked to determine whether a student loan taken by one spouse during the marriage was marital debt and whether the debt should be divided between the spouses. Prior to the marriage, Wife had borrowed $11,875.00 to pay for her education at the University of Pittsburgh. During the marriage she borrowed an additional $30,776.00 of which $13,000.00 was deposited into the parties’ joint account to cover living expenses. The trial court found that the $13,000 borrowed by Wife used for joint purposes was marital debt and divided the debt 60% to Husband and 40% to Wife. The $11,875 borrowed prior to the marriage and the balance of the $30,776.00 borrowed during the marriage and used to pay for Wife’s education was determined not to be marital.

On appeal the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Only the portion of the student loan debt used for living expenses by both spouses was to be divided between the parties. The portion of the debt used for Wife’s education was not divided between the parties and was Wife’s sole responsibility. So while the Court did agree that the student loan debt taken during the marriage was in fact marital debt, the Court did not divide the entire student loan debt between the parties. It is important to note that even if the debt is characterization “marital” this does not necessary mean that both parties will be responsible for the debt. Instead the divorce court must look at the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the debt along with all other relevant factors. Since Wife was the only party who benefited from her education, the portion of martial debt for her education was her sole responsibility.

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