When you are going through a divorce, the financial components can be some of the most annoying aspects to deal with. The situation can get complicated, but if you do not remain vigilant, it can be incredibly costly and set yourself up for an uphill post-divorce recovery process.
The debts accrued during the course of your marriage can play a factor in the emotional health of the divorce. If you or your spouse have a lot of medical bills individually, the opposite party may look to leverage that during proceedings.
Similarly, another type of debt, student loans, can cause complications during the divorce process, due to how you or your ex-spouse’s education may have played a factor in the standard of living during the course of your marriage.
Breaking down the numbers
This is understandable, given the prevalence of student loan debt in the United States. According to the household debt and credit report of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, $1.26 trillion of the $12.29 trillion of total household indebtedness was student loans, as of the second quarter of 2016.
This breaks down by payment, and the average monthly student payment for borrowers between the ages of 20 to 30 is $351, and the median monthly student loan payment for the same demographic is $203. During the course of a year, that monthly student loan payment becomes $4,212 annually.
The amounts themselves can be a point of contention during any divorce proceeding. It is important for you to have a family law attorney who understands your unique situation and is able to represent your interests, so that you are not saddled with payments outside of your means.
It also is important to understand how prevalent the issue of student loan debt is for those going through the divorce process. Divorce can affect how you go about managing that debt, and similarly, the debt can dictate how eager you are to pursue a divorce.
According to a survey by the financial service, Student Loan Hero, 58 percent of individuals going through the divorce process who have student loans took on additional debt to help pay attorney fees and other related costs during the experience. This is juxtaposed to the 48 percent of all divorcing individuals who borrow money to pay for their divorces.
In their survey, 35 percent of the respondents with student loans delayed the divorce process because they felt that they could not afford it, in comparison to the 24 percent without student debt.
One of the more interesting factors discovered in this survey is how impactful student loans can be to the health of a marriage and how much this debt in particular can contribute to a marriage’s downfall. According to the survey, 13 percent of respondents who had student loan debt heading into their marriage state that it eventually led to the end of their marriage.
Contributions to the marriage
For some, the monthly expense of a student loan can put a severe damper in your monthly budget, affecting the rest of your spending habits, and you may have a spouse who simply is not okay with that. They expect to be able to spend the shared marital income the way they need to, and anything less than that is unacceptable.
They may feel that due to their education and what they contribute to the marital income, they deserve to be spending how they wish to spend. During the divorce process, what you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse contributed to the marital income and how you and your soon-to be ex-spouse’s educations affected it, often is examined.
Assigning a value to your education may be difficult, but when you are going through the divorce process, it is part of determining who contributed what to the marital assets and the quality of life that you both shared.
If you have a higher degree that contributes to a higher level of income, this could be a tipping point, making that advanced degree a marital asset. The counterpoint to this would be in regards to when the marriage began and when the student loan was applied for.
Trust those around you
You need to trust the aid of your family law attorney and seek additional help when needed during this challenging process. A financial advisor may have better insight as to the influence of an advanced degree on a marital estate and how it affected the standard of living during the course of the marriage.
Divorce is too significant of a life event to leave it up to chance, so having necessary help surrounding you during this difficult time will allow you to navigate some of the more difficult areas, such as student loans, with the knowledge of professionals in these areas at your disposal.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.
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