Student Loan Debt Affecting American Marriages

divorce counselMoney is an issue that divorce counsel tackles often. Between negotiating pre-nups, dividing existing assets, and establishing alimony, money is a huge presence in divorce mediation proceedings. Studies in the recent past have shown that the risk of divorce drops by 13% for people who have attended college, but an alarming number of divorces have begun to cite stress from student loan debt as a key factor in the ending of the marriage. A study from debt management group Student Loan Hero (note: slight bias alert) reported that 13% of divorcees surveyed specifically put blame on student loan debt for ending their marriage.

Millennials, in particular, have been hit hard by mounting student loan debt, causing them to have statistically low rates of home ownership, salaries, vacations — and marriages. Those who do enter into marriages with their debt may find themselves becoming over-stressed with the pressure of squirreling away money specifically for huge monthly loan payments after the expenses of marriage ceremonies, honeymoons, and attempting to begin married life. Studies have found that happy couples in previous generations talk about money much less on average than their younger counterparts.

The American Psychological Association published a few pages of marriage advice specifically to avoid fighting about finances. They include three key questions for partners to ask each other:

  1. What did your parents teach you about money?
  2. What are your financial goals?
  3. What are your fears about money?

In addition to these important questions, young couples considering marriage should talk openly with each other about their financial situations. This includes student loan debt, credit scores, and significant monthly expenses. Agreements should be made about how to jointly handle expenses and save money, including cutting down some expected wedding costs to start the marriage off on a stable note. The reality is that back-breaking student debt isn’t going to resolve itself anytime soon, so those who choose to take on this debt need to prepare to possibly share it with another person in the future.

Perhaps loan stress brings out a side of you or your partner that truly makes you both want to end your marriage, but be careful about simply succumbing to stress and putting off communicating until it is too late. As your divorce counsel may also point out, you are still saddled with your student loan debt even after your marriage is dissolved.