During a divorce in Illinois, decisions have to be made about the division of both assets and debt, and this includes student loans. Like other forms of debt, any student loans taken before the marriage began will be the sole responsibility of the original borrower. When student loans are taken out during a marriage, however, things become a bit more complicated. In community property states, student loans are divided equally between spouses automatically, but Illinois is not one of those states.
Illinois and all other non-community property states use an equitable distribution model to decide how much of the student loan each party is responsible for paying. If all of the money was used to pay for one spouse’s tuition, fees, and other school-related costs, they will likely be responsible for paying all the debt. If some of the money went towards housing, food, and other expenses the couple had together, that portion of the debt may be split.
The court will consider some other factors when dividing up student loan debt as well, such as the earning power of each party and the support role the non-student spouse played. When one spouse earns significantly more than the other, they may be asked to take on some more responsibility for the student loan. If one spouse supported the other while in school, like providing transportation and taking care of chores, the court might consider their share of the debt already paid.
When dealing with a divorce that involves student debt, each party may be able to to protect their own financial interests with help from an attorney. They can help negotiate favorable distribution terms whether their client was the original borrower or not.