High levels of student loan debt are causing financial difficulties for college graduates in Georgia and throughout the country, and going through a divorce makes this kind of debt even more challenging. Any debt acquired before marriage remains the sole responsibility of the original borrower, but debt taken out during the marriage may be divided between the spouses depending on certain circumstances. Since Georgia is not a community property state, courts will use an equitable distribution model to figure out who pays what.

A major factor in equitable distribution is how the student loan money was used. If it only went toward paying for tuition and other school-related costs, it’s likely that a court will find most or all of the debt the original borrower’s responsibility. When the money is also used for shared costs like housing and living expenses, the other spouse may be asked to pay back part of the loan.

Another factor affecting debt distribution is the earning power of each spouse. A court is less likely to hold a spouse responsible for their ex-spouse’s student loans if they don’t earn a lot of money. This can play even more of a factor if the non-borrowing spouse put their career on hold to support their partner while they earned their degree. All of these factors are irrelevant if a spouse co-signed a student loan for their partner.

During a divorce, it’s the job of an attorney to help their client obtain a fair distribution of student loan debt whether or not they are the original borrower. The attorney will be available to answer any questions before the process begins so that the client knows what to expect. A lawyer may also be able to help change the terms of debt distribution after divorce if financial circumstances change.