Decatur Family Law and Probate Attorney

Can my massive student loan debt be used to offset other assets?

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2024 | Divorce

Navigating a divorce in Texas becomes even more intricate when student loan debt is part of the equation. The impact on property division and financial futures can be significant, prompting couples to ponder the implications, especially for professionals with massive student loan debt.

Texas: a community property state

Understanding Texas’s status as a community property state is essential as assets and debts accrued during the marriage are generally considered joint property, irrespective of the individual named on them. Conversely, assets or debts obtained before marriage or through gifts/inheritance are usually deemed separate property.

Divorce property division

Upon divorce in Texas, though, the community property and debts undergo a just and right (equitable) division. This is not the default 50/50 split that many associate with community property states, and separate property and debts remain with their original owner.

Classifying student loan debt

The classification of student loan debt depends on many factors. If you went to school prior to the marriage, your student loan debt will likely be considered separate property. If you went to school during the marriage though, any student loan debt will be considered community property, making both spouses responsible for repayment, unless proven otherwise.

Are there exceptions?

Yes. Exceptions exist based on how the loan funds were used and whether both spouses benefited. For instance, if the funds covered household expenses benefiting both spouses, even pre-marriage debt might be considered community property. Conversely, if the funds were utilized solely for one spouse’s education-related expenses without benefit to the other spouse or marriage, it might be deemed separate property.

Another consideration is whether the education financed by the loan led to a higher income, improving the standard of living for both spouses. In such cases, the court may label the student loan debt as community property, regardless of when it was incurred, as both spouses reaped the benefits.

Can massive student loan debt offset other assets in the property division process?

The answer depends on the specific circumstances and court discretion. Generally, a court may allow offsetting if it leads to a just and right division of the community estate. However, additional factors like the nature and value of debts and assets, tax implications and future needs of each spouse come into play.

Courts may be more inclined to permit offsetting if the student loan debt is relatively low compared to high retirement savings or if both spouses have similar incomes. On the other hand, the likelihood diminishes if the student loan debt is exceptionally high with low retirement savings, or if there is a significant income disparity between spouses.