In a divorce, are student loans a part of the debt division?
2 Answers from Attorneys
In Missouri, a trial court has broad discretion in determining how and in what manner the property and debt should be divided. There is no clear cut rule and everything is determined based on the particular facts of your case. There aren't enough details in your answer to give a specific response, so I'll try and give some general guidance.
A trial court would look at a debt and ask (1) when was it incurred? Before the marriage? During the marriage? (2) who benefited from the money that was borrowed? Student loans can be used to pay for the student's tuition, but it can also sometimes be used to pay for living expenses like groceries, pay bills, and cover costs of childcare while the student is in school. So if both spouses benefited from the loan, there might be an argument that both spouses should share in paying it back. Of course if the student finished an educational program, the student has also benefited individually as well since he/she is now presumable more employable and can generally earn a higher wage than before he/she completed the schooling. There are also other case specific questions that might need to be explored. Like, were the student loans being paid off during the marriage? What other assets were used to pay for schooling during the marriage? What were the discussions and how were the decisions made to send a spouse to school?
On top of that analysis, you also have to look at the bigger picture. What other property and debt needs to be divided? How much marital property will each spouse receive?
It depends upon who is responsible for them the parents or the child.