Like any student loan issue, it starts with a call to the student loan servicer.When I asked about how marriage would affect my student loan payment, I proposed the following hypothetical.
She based this response on section 3 of the IBR and PAYE application form.
This particularly clever customer service representative noticed that you are able to submit information about your spouses federal student debt.
Not being fully satisfied with this answer, I then turned to google for further help based upon the information from my lender. Individual payments are then based upon the portion of debt in the name of that particular spouse.
Eventually, I found the definitive answer in the form of the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically, 34 CFR 685.221(b)(2)(ii), which states that when calculating IBR payments: The Secretary adjusts the calculated monthly payment if—Both the borrower and borrower’s spouse have eligible loans and filed a joint Federal tax return, in which case the Secretary determines— (A) Each borrower’s percentage of the couple’s total eligible loan debt; (B) The adjusted monthly payment for each borrower by multiplying the calculated payment by the percentage determined in paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(A) of this section; and (C) If the borrower’s loans are held by multiple holders, the borrower’s adjusted monthly Direct Loan payment by multiplying the payment determined in paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) of this section by the percentage of the total outstanding principal amount of the borrower’s eligible loans that are Direct Loans; Similar language for PAYE can be found at 34 C. So if your wife has twice the student debt you do, if you both are on IBR, her payment will be double yours…
meaning this previously lousy resource is now very helpful!
If you and your spouse both have student loans and both sign up for IBR or PAYE, there shouldn’t be a marriage “penalty” if the paperwork is processed correctly.
This is a pretty complicated bit of student loan rules, so it isn’t reasonable to expect them to advise you on this subject perfectly.
Perhaps that most harming source of bad information is the department of education student loan calculator.
However, given the complicated nature of this issue, it is something that is worth keeping a close eye on as your documents are processed.