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Student loan debt pressures may lead to divorce

5 Ways Student Loan Debt Affects Divorcing Borrowers » Divorce and Your Debt » 5 Ways Student Loan Debt Affects Divorcing Borrowers



On your wedding day, student loan debt is probably the last thing on your mind. However, when the honeymoon glasses come off and the glare of financial reality sets in, the road to marital bliss can be bumpy, especially when you have a large amount of student loan debt.

Outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. exceeded $1.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2023, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve. Because of new policies limiting how student loan debt is reported to credit bureaus, less than 1% of all student loan debt was more than 90 days delinquent or in default.

In the past decade, outstanding student loan debt has increased by 66%.

When one or both of you has student loan debt, especially on top of substantial credit card or other loan debt, you may have to postpone marital goals like buying a home or having kids. That’s bad enough, but can tension from too much student loan debt wreck a marriage? One analysis from Business Insider says yes, confirming that more than half of Americans consider divorce because of their partner’s debt.

Here are 5 ways student loan debt affects marriage and divorce.

Student loan debt pressures may lead to divorce

Student loan debt was a contributing factor in some divorces, according to a Student Loan Hero survey. Around 13% of respondents who had student loan debt when they married blame student loan debt specifically for the breakup of their marriage.

One survey on behalf of Ally Bank found that 36% of married respondents said money is their biggest source of stress. Another survey from Bankrate found that many Americans with student loan or other debt delay financial milestones such as buying a home, having children, paying off other debt, saving for emergencies and other goals.

Some borrowers put off divorce due to the expense

Forbes reports that the average cost of divorce in the U.S. is between $15,000 and $20,000, with the median cost sitting around $7,000. A typical hourly rate for a divorce lawyer can run anywhere from $100 to $400 an hour, according to Yahoo Finance. More complicated divorces that go to trial can cost upwards of $20,000.

Respondents to the Student Loan Hero survey spent an average of $18,652 on their divorce. More than a third (35%) with student loan debt said they delayed getting a divorce because they couldn’t afford legal fees and other costs.

Student loan debt can cause problems in the bedroom

Around one-third of respondents in a separate Student Loan Hero survey reported a decrease in their sex drive due to student loan debt. “The stress brought on by this kind of debt can take a toll on mental health,” says Student Loan Hero. “And one victim of that toll could be your libido.”

Other debt-related factors that may decrease libido include depression, anxiety, resentment of a spouse’s large amount of debt or shame over your own debt.

Many borrowers take on additional debt to pay for divorce

Having a student loan debt can be worrisome enough, but 58% of divorced borrowers in the Student Loan Hero survey said they took on more debt so they could pay attorney fees and other divorce-related costs.

According to the survey, 23% of respondents borrowed $1,000 to $10,000, 13% borrowed $10,000 to $30,000 and 10% borrowed more than $30,000 to help pay for a divorce.

In some states, you may have to help pay your ex-spouse’s student loans

State laws vary, but in some community property states, you may be on the hook for student loans your spouse took out during the marriage or loans the two of you consolidated if those loans are considered marital debt.

If you live in an equitable property state, however, you may or may not have to pay the other person’s student loan debt. Consult a divorce attorney in your state to find out whether you or your spouse will be responsible for helping pay the other’s student loan debt after divorce.

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