Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. This means that a married couple’s assets are split equitably, or “fairly,” in a divorce. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily mean an even 50-50 split. Some people may think that a student loan taken out during marriage would be the responsibility of both parties to the marriage. This would be true in most community property states, where all assets and debt acquired during the marriage are divided equally in a divorce. However, this is not the case in Tennessee.
In Tennessee, if a spouse takes out a student loan, the other spouse will only be liable to help repay it if he or she is a cosigner to the loan. This is more likely the scenario with private student loans from a bank. However, this type of liability is not limited to spouses, as any person who cosigns a loan will be jointly liable to pay it back with the borrower.
If a person incurs student debt before marriage, that debt is their separate property. Therefore, their spouse will have no liability for it should a divorce occur. One exception would be if both spouses had separate student debt that they consolidated into one loan during the marriage.
Many spouses going through a divorce are likely to still be carrying some amount of student debt. This is especially true considering how young some people get a divorce (the average age of a first divorce is 30). Having a lot of student debt can make the idea of hiring a family law attorney during a divorce seem scary. However, a lawyer will represent their client’s interests and can help negotiate a fair settlement.