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Rombro & Manley LLP

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Is student debt divided in divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2024 | Property Division

Divorce proceedings in California entail a legal labyrinth, especially when it comes to dividing assets and debts. Student debt, a prevalent financial burden here and throughout the country, is no exception to this legal complexity. But, is student debt divided during divorce?

Pre-marital student debt

Student loans acquired before marriage are typically regarded as separate property. In essence, if one spouse incurred student debt prior to marriage, they are usually responsible for that debt post-divorce. However, if community funds were used to reduce this debt during the marriage, reimbursement to the community estate might be considered.

Student debt incurred during marriage

Dealing with student debt accrued during marriage is more nuanced. While California law tends to attribute debt from education to the spouse who obtained the education, exceptions exist. Factors such as the benefit to the community from the education or its impact on the need for spousal support can influence whether and how the debt is divided.

Several factors weigh into the division of student debt. This includes who incurred the debt, how the education benefited the marriage and the earning potential gained from the education. Courts have discretion in these matters and may also consider the financial stability of each party.


Understanding the nuances of student debt division is crucial in a California divorce, especially if one or both spouses have significant student loan debt, which is increasingly common among Millennial and Generation Z couples. While pre-marital debt typically remains separate, debt incurred during marriage is subject to various considerations that could cause student loan debt to be divided between the spouses.