Illinois residents whose spouses have student loan debt and who are getting a divorce might be responsible for a portion of that debt. If it was acquired prior to marriage, then the debt will belong to the person who incurred it. If one person received the student loan after getting married, then it may be considered shared marital debt.
Prior to 2006, couples were allowed to consolidate their student loan debts. If a couple did so, they may both be responsible for the debt, and if one does not pay their share, the other person might still have to pay it.
Couples may have signed a prenuptial agreement that makes a plan for how they will deal with any debt in the case of divorce. Even if couples do not want to draw up a prenup, they should have a frank conversation before getting married about how much student loan debt they are carrying. Ultimately, how much student loan debt a person will be liable for after divorce will depend upon decisions about property division made during the divorce process.
Either the couples themselves or a judge will make these decisions. It may be possible for a couple to reach an agreement that satisfies both of them instead of going before a judge. However, if one spouse is difficult to work with or bullying the other spouse, this may not be possible. People might also want to discuss how they can protect themselves financially with their attorney. For example, they might not think about the financial implications of keeping the home. Even if they can afford the mortgage payments, they might not have calculated the cost of taxes, upkeep, insurance and utilities. People should also be careful about making emotional decisions such as drawing out the divorce process because they are angry at their spouse.