Tricked or Treated?As the Market Watch article reports: “[b]efore I married my wife two years ago, she had huge amounts of debt to her name, including large amounts of student loans. After we married, we diligently almost paid everything off, helped by my salary being three times that of my wife.” She recently asked for a divorce, saying she was taking the house and my retirement. My question is: Does the fact we paid off her debts she held before get spread evenly? Had I not paid all of her debts our net worth would be near the same with a better outcome for me. We’ve only been married a few years, and frankly I can’t help feeling taken advantage of. The only advice I can find discusses whose responsibility the student loans would be, but now it just seems that she got me to pay all of her debts, and got some new stuff, while I threw away years of my life. Please tell me there’s hope.
Florida Divorce and Student LoansIs there hope for Market Watch’s husband? I’ve written about student loans in the past. Florida is an equitable distribution state. The initial premise behind an equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities – such as student loans – is equal distribution. However, when proper justification is shown, a family court judge may make an unequal distribution. The burden is difficult. A distribution of marital debts, whether equal or unequal, must be supported by factual findings and based on substantial competent evidence. The rationale for the distribution also has to be disclosed by the judge.
As a general proposition, student loan debt incurred during the marriage is a marital liability. So, in the absence of findings supporting the unequal distribution of a student loan debt, marital student loan debts must be equitably distributed between the parties.The fact that the husband will not receive any benefit from his ex-wife’s education because of the divorce is not a factor to be considered when allocating a marital debt for student loans. In sum, absent some other justification for an unequal distribution, controlling case law in Florida will usually prohibit a family court judge from awarding student loan debt incurred during the marriage solely to one party or the other.