Typically, under most circumstances, assets and debts acquired during the time that a couple is married are considered by the law to be marital assets. That applies to student loan debt just the same as any other debt, generally speaking. There are, however, special circumstances that may make one spouse’s student loan debt acquired during the marriage non-marital debt or debt that is otherwise required to be distributed unequally.
In order to win that, the spouse seeking the unequal distribution (or classification of the debt as non-marital) must show the court that special circumstances exist. So, whether you’re arguing for a 50-50 division of the student loan debt or for some other type of distribution, you need to have on your side a skilled South Florida divorce attorney with an in-depth knowledge of Florida law and what that law requires in this kind of dispute.
A.T. was a Gainesville-area man with student loan debt who was going through a divorce case with his wife, N.T. During the time that the couple was married, A.T. incurred more than $10,000 in student loan debt. When the time came for the trial court to rule on the equitable distribution of the couple’s assets and debts, the court declared that the student loan debt was the husband’s non-marital debt and that he was 100% responsible for paying that debt.
According to the trial judge, the student loans were non-marital debt because “the family would have been in a better financial position if the husband had been working rather than attending school.”
That part of the ruling did not survive on appeal. Student loans can be unequally distributed if the trial judge made “specific findings supporting the unequal distribution of a student loan debt.” As one example, if the court finds that you and your spouse had a valid pre-nuptial agreement that addressed issues like student loan debt – and said that they’re to be distributed as non-marital debts – then that could make the student loans non-marital.
The court can also look at when the loan was taken out. If the court found that your spouse took out a very large student loan shortly before filing for divorce, that would increase the chances that the judge would declare the debt to be non-marital.
Whether or not the family would have been better off wasn’t a valid basis
A conclusion that the family “would have been in a better financial position” if the husband would have been working for a living and earning a decent income instead of furthering his education isn’t one the valid bases recognized by Florida law. As a result, the issue of distribution of the student loan debts was sent back to the trial court for a new order on division of the debt.
Whether you are seeking or opposing an unequal distribution of a student loan debt (or any other debt or asset acquired during your marriage,) you need to have the right legal counsel by your side. Talk to the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have many years of providing helpful advice and thoughtful strategies in an array of equitable distribution and other family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.