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What typically happens with student loans in a divorce? Are they marital property? Do I have an alimony claim?

Lanham, MD |

At the time of our wedding, I made $36k a year and my wife made ~$100k. I enrolled in a very expensive graduate program in order to change careers and better support an eventual family. Now, my wife has decided she no longer wants to have children, and I am considering divorce. She currently makes $125k a year, while I expect to make ~$70-90k after graduating ... but I will also have $80k in student loans. I would be willing to forego all other assets or any alimony claim if she will take on a sizable chunk of that debt; perhaps half. Does this sound like the outline of a possible settlement?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. If your wife agrees in writing in a Marital Settlement Agreement (notarized), to take on the responsibility of some of this student loan debt, then the court will enforce the agreement. The court will enforce it simply because it is an agreement, however, there is nothing in Maryland divorce law which requires your wife to take on any portion of your student loan debt. Remember, this student loan debt was specifically designed to educate you, not her, and the benefits of your higher education will accrue to you, not her. Maryland courts will basically enforce anything you put in a Marital Settlement Agreement, as long as it is not criminal or against the law or against public policy. I would suggest you consult with an attorney for specific legal advice on your particular circumstances.

    Office: (410) 381-1656. This is NOT legal advice, is GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, and does NOT establish an Attorney/Client Relationship with you because you have not yet retained me, and because you have not provided me with a COMPLETE set of all the FACTS in your legal situation. Therefore my answer cannot address your specific legal situation and you should not rely upon my answer in your legal matter. This answer is provided as GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, and to assist you in beginning your own research or in finding an attorney to represent you. I am an attorney licensed in Maryland and California. If you want me to provide legal advice, then you must call for a Consultation. If you would like me to represent you, then a Retainer and a fully signed and dated Legal Services Agreement (a contract) will be required. Office: (410) 381-1656. David Mahood, Esq.


  2. My colleague is correct -- I highly doubt that a court would order your wife to pay a portion of your student loans; however, the two of you can agree to whatever marital settlement you want. As for alimony -- a number of factors go into determining how long a person should pay alimony -- and you don't post enough information here for any of us to opine as to what -- if any -- alimony you might be entitled to receive. Consult a family law attorney for more guidance.

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.


  3. I think you are better off thinking in terms of asking for alimony and using that for loan payments. Assuming you can prove the facts, you seem to have a decent argument should you go to court that you were depending on her support when you took on the debt and cannot reasonably make the payments without her assistance. And since the divorce is happening due to her changing her mind about having children (again, assuming you can prove this is the main reason), you can argue that she should carry some of the burden of that decision. Whether this works is dependent on other factors but it sounds much better based on your facts than trying to pin some liability for the loan directly on her.
    Even if you pursue settlement, I wouldn't even try to for liability on the loan - I'd ask for alimony in order to make the payments.

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