Am I Responsible For My Spouse’s Student Loan Debt?

You may not have thought much about your spouse’s student loan debt, but if you’re married and jointly own a home, you may be paying for that debt. There are two ways to go about this debt, one is to try to negotiate a lower monthly payment or to settle for an in-come-based repayment plan. The other is to try to get a reduction in the principal balance of your spouse’s student loans. The latter option will probably require you to fill out a form with the Department of Education and will have to show that you’re not making more money than your spouse.

In this situation, you might feel more inclined to take some sort of action against your spouse’s student loan debt, such as by suing for divorce or charging them for back support. But you actually have no legal right to defend these types of payments. If your spouse’s student loan debt was taken out in their name, you can’t claim to be the one responsible for it.

In 2009, Elizabeth and James Garner made the decision to divorce. Garner, who is a business attorney, has over $300,000 in outstanding student loans. Garner and his husband, James “D.J.” Garner, a physician, had been married for three years at the time of the divorce. Garner said he and his husband had been arguing over the debt and how to pay it off. Garner said he and his husband had been fighting over finances for several months before the divorce. Garner said he didn’t even know he was getting a divorce until the judge had already told him the divorce papers had been drawn up. Garner said he didn’t know his husband had a student loan debt, but he did know his husband had stopped paying his mortgage. Read more about am i responsible for my spouse’s student loans if they die and let us know what you think.

Thinking about school debt is one thing that is definitely unromantic. Even yet, if your spouse or prospective spouse attended college, there’s a high chance they’re saddled with student debt. So, “Am I liable for my spouse’s student loan debt?” you may ask.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that 45 million Americans have outstanding college debts. There’s a good possibility your significant other does, too.

The main issue is: how does this impact you personally? Do you have legal responsibility for your spouse’s student loan debt? The majority of the time, the answer is no. However, there are certain caveats, as there usually are. Even if you aren’t liable for their student debts, you will be affected in some manner.

“Am I liable for my spouse’s student loan debt?” is the issue we’re attempting to answer today. It’s also worth noting that we’re not attorneys. We’re simply a bunch of geeks that are passionate with getting individuals out of student loan debt as soon as possible. This material is meant to be used as a guideline. However, if you have any major, life-altering concerns, you should always get legal advice.

Did you sign a cosigner agreement for your spouse’s school loans?

This is the simplest question to ask and the most straightforward response.

If you cosigned on your spouse’s student loans at any point in time, whether they were federal, private, or refinanced, you are legally responsible for those debts.

Because you put your name to the contract as a cosigner, you agreed to pay back those student loans if your spouse couldn’t for whatever reason.

If your spouse dies or becomes unable to repay their debts, the lender will turn to you for repayment. It’s a good reason to think carefully before signing on the signed line about what it means to be a cosigner.

Cosigners are not required for most federal student loans. If you’re looking for a PLUS Loan and have a poor credit history, you’ll just need a cosigner. Because most individuals take out federal student loans initially, if you just have federal loans, you’re generally safe.

However, the world of private student loans is a little different. Private lenders often demand a cosigner, particularly since most students don’t yet have a lot of credit history. There’s a high possibility you’ll need a cosigner for the student loan in this instance. If it’s your spouse who borrowed the money, they’re equally responsible for repaying it if you can’t.

Was your spouse’s school loan taken out before or after you married?


Here’s another straightforward question with a straightforward response.

You are usually not held legally liable for your spouse’s school debts if they were taken out before you married.

However, if your husband took out school debts after you married, things become a little more complex. It depends on whether you reside in a community property state or not in such instance.

Do you reside in a state where communal property exists?

Here’s where it becomes a little murky as to whether or not you’re liable for your spouse’s student loan debt. To begin, we will define communal property states.

What are the different types of community property states?

You’re usually only held liable for debts that you sign yourself.

Assume you go out and purchase a Maserati as a Christmas gift for your family. Your partner may be angry with you since you spent so much money. They are not responsible for the vehicle payment, though, since they did not sign up for the loan. Technically, it’s all on you, buddy.

Things operate a little differently in community property states. Both spouses are equally liable for any debts incurred after they marry in a community property state. So, what about that pricey Maserati? If you reside in a community property state and your spouse purchases a home without your permission, you are still responsible for the loan. Best wishes.

There are now nine or so community property states that have an effect on student loan repayment:

  • Alaska is a state in the United States (couples can opt in or out of community property laws in this state)
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico is located in the United States.
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

In community property states, how do student loans work?

In community property states, couples are jointly liable for the majority of obligations acquired after marriage. However, there are certain hitches and peculiarities when it comes to student loans. Let’s see whether a spouse is liable for school debts taken out before to marriage.

If your husband took out federal student loans after you married and you reside in a community property state, you are unlikely to be held liable for those debts. Regardless of whether they were married at the time or not, and regardless of where they reside, federal student loans are usually retained with the individual who took them out as a separate debt.

When it comes to private student loans, though, things take a different turn. If your spouse took out private student loans after you married and you reside in a community property state, you may be held liable for those debts.

These instances are already uncommon. We’re talking about a few necessary ifs here:

  • If your spouse passes away, is unable to repay their debts, or if you divorce,
  • Your spouse has school debts from a private lender.
  • You reside in a state where community property exists.
  • After you were married, your spouse took out those private student debts.
  • You are still liable under the laws of your state.

It’s crucial to pay attention to the final section. In general, community property states make married spouses jointly liable for obligations incurred while they were married. However, several states have varying regulations regarding student loan debt (as if the situation wasn’t enough complicated).

Even if your spouse took out private student debts while you were married, certain states may let you off the hook. If you fall into this extremely specific category, it may be worth your time and money to hire an attorney to assist you in navigating the legal system.

You will still be affected by your spouse’s student loan debt.

Perhaps you’re feeling relieved right now. The majority of individuals will not be held liable for their spouse’s student loan debt.

But it doesn’t mean you’re free of responsibility just yet.

Even though you’re not legally liable for your spouse’s debt, you’ll still feel it in your bank account.

If your spouse has to pay a $600 monthly student loan payment, that’s $600 less for your joint home. That’s $600 less each month for a down payment on a home. That’s $600 per month less to put toward your child’s education fund or your own retirement, for example.

Even if you have separate finances, this means your partner has less money to pay to joint costs like rent or mortgage, utilities, and so on.

Then there’s the matter of obtaining shared credit. If you wish to purchase a home, for example, you’ll almost certainly need to disclose your total family income and debt. You may have a very high debt-to-income ratio if your spouse has a lot of debt. That is something that most lenders dislike. If this ratio is too high (i.e., your spouse has a lot of debt in comparison to their income), you may be given higher interest rates or be refused a mortgage outright.

Regardless of how you look at it, your spouse’s student debt affects you at the end of the day.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding Your Responsibility for Your Spouse’s Student Loan Debt


Can I exclude my husband from my student loan debt if I sign a prenup?

Most likely not. You can’t alter the laws just because you signed a prenuptial agreement. Regardless of what your prenuptial agreement states, if your state’s laws indicate your spouse is liable for your student loan debt (or vice versa), they will be.

What happens to my student debts if I pass away and my husband isn’t financially liable for the balance?

If you have federal student debts, they will usually be forgiven if you pass away. Your estate will not be pursued by the federal authorities.

However, if you die with private student debts and your spouse is not liable for them, the lender may or may not pursue your inheritance. It all depends on whether or not they provide a death discharge; some do, while others do not. They’ll go after your estate for the outstanding debt if they don’t grant a death release. This reduces the amount of money left behind for your surviving spouse and other heirs.

Before I marry my partner, how can I find out how much student loan debt he or she has?

Unfortunately, as a fiancé or fiancée, you won’t be able to get access to your would-be spouse’s bank accounts without their consent. You’ll just have to take their word for it. If you suspect they’re lying, it’s time to rethink if you truly want to marry each other.

What if my tax return is garnished by the IRS because my spouse hasn’t paid their student loans?

This is an intriguing situation. If your spouse fails to pay their student loan installments, the IRS may take a portion of your combined tax return to cover the debt. In this situation, you may submit Form 8379 (“Injured Spouse Allocation”), which enables you to retain your portion of the tax refund while your spouse’s portion is used to repay the debt.

Because the form may be complex, it’s advisable to consult with a CPA to ensure that it’s completed properly.

Is it possible for me to be held liable for my spouse’s student loan debt? If that’s the case, how can I defend myself?

The simplest solution is to attempt to pay off the debts as quickly as feasible. If you believe you may be held liable for your spouse’s student debts if they pass away, you might consider purchasing a life insurance policy that will cover the outstanding loan amount.

No one wants to think about these things, but spending a few minutes now to prepare ahead might transform a financially disastrous catastrophe into a routinely terrible occurrence.

How to pay off your spouse’s school debts as quickly as possible

You can see why, even though your spouse’s student loans are solely theirs, treating them as a joint account is still a smart idea. Helping your spouse repay their student loans quicker means more money for both of you at the end of the day.

am i responsible for my spouse's student loan debt

It’s also a healthier way of looking at money. What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours, as the old Shakespeare proverb goes.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do with a magic wand to have your spouse’s school debts paid off quicker. The greatest advise of all is to discover methods to save money and make more money, and then put the extra money toward your student loan monthly payment.

There are still things you may do to assist your spouse pay off his or her student loan debt faster:

Consider engaging one of our professional student loan planners if you need assistance assessing your alternatives for getting out of student loan debt for the least amount of money feasible. We have a lot of expertise dealing with student loan issues. Whatever your scenario is, we’ve seen it before and can assist.

Before you got married, did you know how much student loan debt your spouse had? Are you paying off your school debts individually or jointly?

Get a personalized student loan plan.

According to the National Consumer Law Center, student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt as the top form of consumer debt in the United States. While student loans can be helpful for some, not all debts are created equal. Some student loans are a good idea, while others aren’t—and it all depends on the terms of the loan, and the responsibilities of the borrower.. Read more about my spouse defaulted on student loan debt and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does student loan debt affect your spouse?

Yes, student loan debt does affect your spouse.

Should I pay my wifes student loans?

This is a difficult question to answer. You should discuss this with your wife and see what she thinks.

Will you be responsible for your spouses student loans after a divorce?

I am not responsible for my spouses student loans after a divorce.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • am i responsible for my spouse’s student loan debt
  • is spouse responsible for student loans incurred before marriage
  • applying for student loans when married
  • is a spouse responsible for student loan debt
  • is spouse responsible for student loans after divorce

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