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Issues Surrounding Divorce and Higher Education

The division of marital assets is the most commonly disputed issue after a Pasadena divorce, but the question of how to handle student loan debts and the advanced earning potential associated with a post-secondary degree is something to consider as well.

If student loan debt is accumulated before a marriage takes place, it is the responsibility of the person who earned the degree. This is true even if the couple was together, but not married, at the time the degree earning spouse was in school.

If you earned your degree while married, the issue becomes more complicated. Often, when a couple is married, one spouse forgoes career advancement to make it possible for the other to pursue a degree that is likely to provide higher potential and thus improve the quality of life for both spouses. In this case, divorce doesn't necessarily change the expectation that the non-degree earning spouse should benefit from his or her sacrifice. This means that the non-degree earning spouse might be entitled to alimony payments or a lump sum reimbursement if he or she worked full time to help pay for the degree earning spouse's education expenses. The non-degree earning spouse could also request that he or she be given a chance to pursue similar education and training post-divorce.

When it can be shown that student loan debts were used to pay general household living expenses, the student loan debt might be considered marital debt instead of separate debt. The key, however, will still be how great of a benefit the non-degree earning spouse received in relation to the total amount of the debt. This will be dependent upon many factors, including the length of the marriage and the non-degree earning spouse's own career path.

If you have questions about how advanced degrees and student loan debt will be addressed in your divorce, the best course of action is to discuss this issue with your Pasadena divorce attorney. Since there are many variables to consider, your attorney will be able to provide advice that is specific to your unique situation.

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