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How Marriage Can Affect Your Student Loans

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According to recent data from Experian, 40 million Americans have at least one outstanding student loan.  The average amount of debt is $29,000.00, which is an all time high.  A common question for many borrowers is “how will my student loans be affected if I get married?” 

If your loans are being repaid through income based or income contingent repayment, your repayment plan may be affected if you get married as discussed in a recent article.  You are required to provide yearly income information to your loan servicer so your payment can be reassessed.  If you file a joint tax return, your spouse’s income will be counted when reassessing your payment.  However, if you file a separate tax return, your spouse’s income will not be counted but you may lose other tax benefits of married filers.  You should speak with a tax professional to find out which tax filing status is best for your individual situation.

Another common question is whether a spouse can ever be held responsible for the other spouse’s student loans.  Federal loans contain a death discharge provision in the event a student loan borrower dies before the loan is repaid.  However, this is not the case for all private loans.  Whether there is a death discharge provision depends on the original loan contract.  If you are married at the time you take out a student loan, the loan may be determined to be a “marital debt” if you were to divorce, depending on the laws in your state.  Additionally, both spouses may be responsible for the loan if one spouse co-signed for the other.

Before getting married, it is important to have an honest conversation about each future spouse’s financial goals and debt.  High amounts of student loan debt may affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan, obtain credit, or save for retirement.  It is important to get your student loans in order before combining your finances with those of your future spouse.  If you need help navigating your loans and repayment options, our office can help.  

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Katie M. Parker

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