Divorce and Student Loans

by Jennifer J. Riley

Student loan debt can be a crushing financial burden for many Americans, and it can be even more difficult to manage when you’re going through a divorce. If you and your spouse have student loans, you’re likely wondering how they will be addressed in the divorce.

How Student Loans Are Divided in a Divorce

The way student loans are divided in a divorce depends on many factors.  When you schedule a free consultation, please be ready to answer the following questions: 

  • In whose name are the loans?
  • Were the loans taken out (in whole or in part) before or during the marriage?
  • Did you or your spouse use the loan proceeds for any purposes other than tuition/books and related expenses?
  • What are the outstanding balances of the student loans?
  • Did the loan balances increase or decrease during the marriage?
  • Did you or your spouse pay any of the balances during the marriage?

Your answer to these questions will help your lawyer inform you whether the loans are considered ‘marital’ and subject to distribution in the divorce. 

What to Do If You or Your Spouse Have Student Loans and Are Getting Divorced

If you or your spouse have student loans, schedule a free consultation with an attorney. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights and options. 

Divorce can be a difficult time, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are resources available to help you through the process, including financial counseling and legal assistance, and our attorneys can help you along the path.

How to Divorce a Narcissist!

As a divorce lawyer, I have often read that “divorcing a narcissist is more difficult than being married to one.”   I have never heard my clients say that, though!  It is not a surprise that many clients report being married to narcissists.  Our clients who are married to narcissists are often already receiving psychological counseling before seeing a divorce lawyer.  They are protecting their mental health in preparation for the divorce because they know, from painful experience, what might be coming next. Your divorce lawyer is not a psychologist and cannot pretend to be one. They are your advocate and they are in your corner.  But, when you are recovering from a marriage to a narcissist, it is advisable to have many professionals in your corner – especially a therapist well trained in the impact of narcissism on partners and the trauma many people report suffering as a result. 

There are many resources available to you if you think you are married to a narcissist. First, make sure you tell your divorce lawyer.  It will help us know best how to help guide you in the event your narcissistic spouse exhibits some of these behaviors and attempts to sabotage your divorce or attempts to harm you:  violence, threats, gaslighting, or blaming you, or any of the other common behaviors we see. Second, please consider psychological counseling, before and during the divorce.  This will help you build a strong, supportive team through the divorce process. Finally, take good care of yourself.  You will undoubtedly feel pressure to ‘give in’ during the divorce when your narcissist spouse feels the power shift back to you.  Do what you know is best for you and for your children. What is “best” for you can only be decided by you, with advice from your divorce lawyer and, if you choose, with some guidance from a therapist.  Take time to think about how you want your post-divorce life to look as you regain the power and control to redesign your life, free of the pain associated with being married to a narcissist.

You survived a marriage to a narcissist – you will certainly thrive in the divorce!

“The Best Views Come After the Hardest Climbs”

I take to the woods when I need a dose of nature to balance life.  While I’m a pretty experienced hiker, my friend, Karen, is a much better hiker than I am (read: less afraid of falling down the side of the mountain!)  She’s the kind of hiker who sees hawks where I see tree limbs, who can spot animals as soon as she hears the crackling of a branch, and who knows her way back out of the woods (and without whom, I would certainly not). 

I am really good at climbing up hills and rocks, but fairly terrible at making my way back down. I feel like there is less ability to balance on the hike back down, and you need to have faith that the rocks and branches will support you.

Karen and I took a new hike recently in Skippack.  It was absolutely beautiful and the views overlooking the woods and creek were well worth the climb.  However, this meant the path was full of sections where we had to “make our way back down.”  By the time we had to hike back down, it had started to rain a bit. The rocks were slick, the leaves were slicker, and I tried to hide my discomfort as we started on our way. 

I did not say a word to Karen about my fears.  Karen forged the path ahead of us and, once she made it down the rocks first, turned to me with her hand out and offered me support.  She did not say a word to me, either — no direction, no judgement; she just held her hand out, offering support when I needed it most.    

This is part of what your divorce attorney should do for you.  There will be ups and downs along your path. There will be days you feel like you can climb the mountain, and other days when you’re afraid of what the path back down will bring.  As your lawyers, our job is to turn to you and offer support — not judgment — when you need it most.  You know how to navigate the woods and the path ahead of you.  Making your way through this process is hard work.  But remember — the best views come after the hardest climbs.

The Split – Who knows what you might find on the other side?

“Can there ever be the good divorce?  A laying down of arms.  Sanguine recognition that not all divorce is failure.  Simply some marriages are finite.  Why do we place so much weight on the idea that things must last?
Surely what constitutes a successful relationship is knowing when it is over.  Being brave enough to call time.  The desire of two people who have spent their lives together, good lives together, who are not willing to throw it all away for a few months of pain. 
Isn’t that what also constitutes a good divorce?  One where memories are left to exist untainted, where children are guided through the storm, where two people can say we did it well, we took care of one another even if the marriage is no more.
Be brave. Don’t be afraid.  Who knows what you might find on the other side?”

—The Split
Mark Johnson/Sister Pictures/BBCW/SundanceTV

So begins the final episode of the final season of The Split, a British drama that explores the concept of a “good divorce.” As a divorce lawyer, I tend to avoid television shows that focus on divorce, often because many shows try to find humor in divorce, or try to make this incredibly complex process ‘simple.’  As our divorce and family law clients know too well, this process is never simple. But The Split, in its emotionally poignant, relatable, and touching way, demonstrates that there can be a “good divorce.”

What a “good divorce” means is open to interpretation.  On The Split, we follow the lives of a beautiful, loving, intact couple who, through a series of life transitions over the three few seasons, find their marriage fractured.  We share in the characters’ love, their confusion, their regret, their confidence, their fear, and their transformation.  Some days, we want them to reconcile; others, we want them to leave. Anyone grappling with the decision whether to divorce, or whether to leave a partner, knows the repeating cycle of the painful back-and-forth only too well.  As viewers of The Split, we share in their confusion and their disappointment. 

I recommend this beautiful show for anyone contemplating divorce or anyone who has been through a divorce.  I recommend this show to fellow divorce lawyers who strive to offer clients a “good divorce.”  I recommend this show to anyone searching for the definition of a “good divorce,” or striving to design a “good divorce” for themselves and their children. 

“Be brave. Don’t be afraid.  Who knows what you might find on the other side?”

—The Split

Watch the show on Hulu.

Surviving the Holidays: Do’s and Do Not’s for the Newly Divorced or Separated

The holiday season is here, and it may feel like you’re going through it “alone” after a divorce or separation. Whether you have children or are child-free, newly divorced, or grieving a loss, here are some recommendations to help you make it through these times while going through big life transitions. 


  1. Take care of yourself emotionally
  2. Plan Ahead
  3. Create new traditions
  4. Focus on your Children
  5. Take time for yourself
  6. Remember it will get easier

Do not:

  1. Judge yourself
  2. Cancel the holidays all-together
  3. Let sad memories get you down
  4. Isolate from your loved ones
  5. Think you’re going through it alone
Relaxed woman sitting at the window sill and drinking tea

We’re here to help you through the process during this holiday season.

Call the Law Offices of Jennifer J. Riley for a free consultation.

Fault or No-Fault: What does it matter? – An explanation of your divorce options in Pennsylvania

If you are thinking about a divorce and Google “Divorce in Pennsylvania”, you will likely find an endless amount of information, which can be overwhelming.  By offering free consultations, we try to help make the process less mysterious.  Read on here, and we will help clear up as much of the confusion as possible!

What does “fault” or “no-fault” mean?  At one time, “fault” was a part of the divorce process.  It is not very common now because Pennsylvania is a “no fault” state – meaning, you can be divorced for any reason of your choice. 

To have a “fault based” divorce, you must give a reason, such as:

  • Your spouse has committed willful and malicious desertion for 1+ year;
  • Your spouse has endangered your life through cruel and barbarous treatment;
  • Your spouse entered into marriage with you while still married to another individual (bigamy);
  • Your spouse has been sentenced to prison for 2+ years;
  • Your life is intolerable and burdensome because of your spouse’s indignities;
  • Your spouse cheated on you and committed adultery.

The above 6 reasons/options might seem common but the reality is that these reasons are rarely, if hardly ever, used or followed in our local county courts. Instead, the most common divorce is the No-Fault Divorce” (even when fault is the reason why!)

Typically, making the decision to proceed under the No-Fault statute will result in a faster divorce process (which usually means less expensive!) This is because, under a no-fault divorce, you can obtain “grounds” (essentially, permission) to divorce after 90 days from the date of service of the divorce complaint, and/or after one (1) year of living separate and apart.  The waiting period will depend on whether or not you and your spouse are both in agreement to get a divorce and move on, or whether one spouse wants to hold out and try to repair the relationship.

It is important to hire an attorney who is well versed in the applicable laws and available options in our local counties. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jennifer J. Riley are available to guide you through the initial stages of the divorce process in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties.  We help you protect what matters most.   

Contact the Attorneys at the Law Offices of Jennifer J. Riley TODAY to schedule your free consultation.

Collaborative Divorce

For more than 30 years, people all over the United States and around the world have turned to the Collaborative Process as a peaceful, efficient, and effective way to divorce. Despite its growing popularity, Collaborative Practice remains much less well known than other divorce processes, such as litigation and mediation. So, what is Collaborative Practice, and how can you tell if it’s the right for you?

What is Collaborative Practice?

There are two features of Collaborative Practice that distinguish it from other ways you could divorce. First, when you choose Collaborative Practice, you and your spouse not only choose your own Collaborative Attorneys but may also invite other Collaboratively-trained professionals to join your Collaborative Team. Many Collaborative Teams include a Financial Advisor and a Divorce Coach, who serve as neutral advisors to both spouses, providing valuable support to help you create better, more efficient divorce resolutions.  Some Teams also include other Collaboratively-trained professionals, such as a Child/Parenting Specialist, Mortgage Advisor, Special Needs Consultant, or others with special expertise in an area of need. Whether your Team includes only you and your spouse and your Collaborative Attorneys, or other specialized Team members, building the right Team for your divorce is one of the most important steps you will take during the Collaborative Process.

The second hallmark of Collaborative Process is the Participation Agreement. Choosing Collaborative Practice means committing to resolving your divorce without adversarial litigation. The Process begins with you and your spouse, and both Collaborative Attorneys, signing a formal, legally binding Participation Agreement that commits all of you to the Collaborative Process. The cornerstone of the Participation Agreement is the “Disqualification” provision, which will prohibit the Collaborative Attorneys from representing either you or your spouse in any adversarial litigation. Knowing that going to court would mean starting over with new attorneys serves as a powerful incentive to both you and your spouse to resolve your divorce Collaboratively.

Is Collaborative Practice right for you?

If you and your spouse are committed to resolving your divorce peacefully and would benefit from the support and expertise of a Collaborative Team, then choosing Collaborative Practice may be right for you. Our Collaboratively-trained attorneys, Josh Kershenbaum and Stacy Forchetti, can answer your questions and help connect you with other Collaborative professionals in the region. Contact us today!