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Will My Student Loans Affect My Pennsylvania Divorce Proceedings?

Published: Sep 18, 2018 in Divorce
A Couple Fighting

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

The last thing you need when going through a divorce is additional stress. Unfortunately, student loans are a stressful topic themselves. Your student loan debt can add another layer of complexity to a process that is already full of difficult questions. How your student loans will affect the proceedings is something you need to be aware of when considering your divorce. The effect your student debt will have on your divorce depends on several factors, such as when you incurred the debt and what the loaned money was used for.

A divorce lawyer can significantly ease the tension brought on by handling a divorce. For help with dividing your assets or with any other aspect of your Pennsylvania divorce case, contact Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC. Speak with one of our attorneys about any questions you may have regarding potential outcomes of your divorce. Our team can handle the legal issues during the proceedings; your priority should be making sure your life is in order.

Reach out via our online form, or call us at (412) 471-5100 to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.

Student Debt Acquired Before Your Marriage is Your Responsibility

If you took out the student loans in question before you were married, then the law treats them the same as any other debt. It is considered “separate property,” and it is, therefore, your responsibility in the divorce. This does not mean, however, that student loan debt becomes joint debt simply because it was incurred over the course of your marriage. Pennsylvania has seen two landmark court decisions in recent years that have influenced the way student loan debt is treated during a divorce.

You May Only Share Responsibility for Debt Used to Cover Joint Expenses

In the 2000 court case Hicks v. Kubit, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the only percentage of student loan debt that is divisible in a divorce is the amount that was used for both parties’ living expenses. Any debt that was used to pay for expenses that were solely yours, such as tuition or textbooks, remains your responsibility, even in a divorce. This reasoning was followed and upheld in the 2014 case Sashko v. Sashko. In Sashko, a wife was assigned to repay the entirety of her student loan debt, because she was unable to effectively show what benefit her husband received from her education.

Equitable Distribution Does Not Mean Splitting Student Loans 50/50

When it comes to dividing assets during a divorce, Pennsylvania law typically observes a standard of “equitable distribution.” This means that possessions and debt are distributed among the parties in the way the court decides is fair, rather than in the way that is most even.

When deciding the most just way to apportion your debt, the court may examine such factors as:

  • The income level of both you and your spouse
  • The ability of the spouse who is in debt to pay the debt back by themselves in a reasonable amount of time
  • The amount of support the spouse who was not in debt provided to the spouse who is, such as working an extra job
  • The amount of benefit the spouse who is not in debt received from the in-debt spouse’s education or degree

Based on these factors, if the court finds that you reaped most of the benefit from your debts, you may be assigned sole responsibility for paying them back.

Talk to a Divorce Attorney About How Your Student Loans Impact Your Divorce

A divorce lawyer is one of your best resources when trying to untangle complex subjects, such as debt and separation. If you have questions about what constitutes a benefit, what support could mean, or any other aspect of your student debt during a divorce, contact Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC today. You can’t move on if you don’t know what to expect. Free, confidential consultations are available; schedule yours today by calling (412) 471-5100 right away.