Marriage among college students is no longer that much of a novelty for many universities around the US. Although the percentage of such an event is still relatively small (around 11-19%), the fact remains that undergrads are ready to commit to married life despite many unrealized challenges in the foreseeable future.
It is hardly surprising that many marriages between young people go down in flames when faced with financial insecurity and a horrendous study/work/life imbalance. According to onlinedivorce.com research, 30-40% of unions entered into between the ages of 18-22 ended after just a few years.
But the complexities of life in a student marriage are nothing compared to the divorce process. So, what can one expect from the financial side of the matter?
Student loan repayment
One of the most burning questions of a divorce during the college years is who will pay the student’s loan after the marriage collapses. If you think that your ex-spouse will clear the debt after you graduate, think again. All states treat the issue according to their family laws and established statutes that concern marriage dissolution procedures. In the State of New York, for example, the court usually takes into consideration the time when the loan was acquired.
Why is it important? Loans are debts, or financial liabilities, and are subject to division either as separate or community property. Separate property is what belonged to a spouse before marriage and stays with him or her after the divorce. Simply put, if you incurred the debt before you got married, the responsibility to repay it lies solely on you and cannot be placed on your ex-spouse.
On the other hand, if a spouse acquired the loan during the marriage, the case becomes more complicated. The court has to determine the nature of needs that were covered by this money. If both spouses benefited from the loan, then the judge will divide it between them in a way which he or she deems fair.
The burden of legal fees
The already difficult financial situation in which most students live during their college years can become even more complicated in the event of a divorce. The services of a lawyer alone will cost a significant amount of money and can bankrupt even wealthy people, let alone financially strapped students.
Being the most substantial part of expenses, attorney’s help is not the only thing to worry about. When the couple decides to end their relationship, they must file a petition for marriage dissolution, which also costs a pretty penny. The minimal fee charged to the petitioner in New York is $335. And each additional motion will add to the overall sum.
Most likely, married students are living together and renting housing off-campus. Rent in places near universities is quite high, as landlords understand that not everyone can live in student residences because of insufficient accommodations.
Moreover, in the middle of the semester, it is difficult to find any kind of housing, since all the vacant places become occupied at the start of the school year. The only way out is to continue to rent housing alone or, by some miracle, find a roommate. In any case, additional expenses associated with housing may not be affordable.
A few solutions to the problem or how to reduce divorce costs
- Sign a prenuptial or post-nuptial marriage contract.
The tradition of signing a prenuptial agreement has a long history. Back in Ancient Greece and Rome, before starting a family, a man and woman drew up an agreement where they determined their property rights.
In the US and Europe, marriage contracts have existed for more than a hundred years, and at least 70% of married couples sign some form of it. A marriage contract can be concluded before a marriage (prenuptial) or at any time during the marriage (post-nuptial).
No matter how much you want to believe in eternal love, life works in different ways. Think of a marriage contract as a fallback option. This step can save you from many difficulties in the event of a divorce in the future.
- Settle the issues amicably outside court.
Divorce can be done quickly and with minimal financial expenses if it is uncontested. It is much more effective to jointly discuss how property and debts will be divided and to file for divorce with a ready-made agreement.
If spouses cannot resolve their issues peacefully, the divorce will be long, expensive, and nerve-racking. So it is better for the couple to pull themselves together, suppress their seething passions, and negotiate the terms of their separation instead of giving money to a lawyer.
- Opt for mediation.
Mediation serves as an alternative way to resolve conflicts and is a special kind of conciliation procedure. It is a flexible, informal, time-saving procedure that allows the parties to resolve their differences in good faith. With the help of a professional mediator, the spouses reach an agreement without resorting to legal proceedings.
Although the mediation process is also not free, the cost of such an alternative is still much less than a full-fledged contested divorce involving lawyers.
In general, marriage at a young age does not necessarily mean irresponsible behavior, or a whim. But in the event of a failed relationship and divorce, dealing with the financial side of the issue is just as difficult as with the emotional one. A truly irresponsible act is letting things slide, without thinking about the possible twists of fate or preparing for them properly.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius