Until Debt Do Us Part: The Need for Revision of Article 2364 Reimbursement Claims for Student Loan Debts

Author:Ashley L. Gill
Position:J.D./D.C.L., 2014, Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University
Pages:1007-1037
 
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Until Debt Do Us Part: The Need for Revision of
Article 2364 Reimbursement Claims for Student Loan
Debts
INTRODUCTION
The day that you have been waiting for your entire life is finally
here. Today, you will marry your sweetheart, the love of your life,
and the answer to your every prayer. Today, your $100,000 student
loan debt is the furthest thing from your mind. However, it may be
the first thing on your mind if you and your spouse later file for
divorce.
Your divorce is bad enough in its own right. You must decide
who gets the house, the car, and custody of the children. However,
you may sustain the biggest blow when you least expect it—when
your spouse files a reimbursement claim to recover $50,000 of the
money that he or she “contributed” to your student loan debts.1 Even
though those loans ultimately secured the high-paying job that
provided the basis for you and your spouse’s elevated standard of
living, Louisiana’s community property regime makes such a claim
for reimbursement possible.2
The offending legislation lies in Louisiana Civil Code article
2364, which provides a remedy for the non-debtor spouse in the
event that he or she contributed to a separate debt during the
marriage:
If community property has been used during the existence of
the community property regime or former community
property has been used thereafter to satisfy a separate
obligation of a spouse, the other spouse is entitled to
reimbursement for one-half of the amount or value that the
property had at the time it was used.
Considering current trends in student loan debt and marriage, it
is entirely inequitable to allow one spouse to file a reimbursement
claim against the other spouse to recover half of the value of the
debt.3 This is primarily because the spouse claiming the
reimbursement benefited from the increased standard of living
during the marriage. Student loan debt is a part of most modern
marriages and thus a prospective issue at divorce.4 Due to the lack of
Copyright 2014, by ASHLEY L. GILL.
1. See discussion infra Part I.B.
2. See discussion infra Part I.B.
3. See discussion infra Part I.A.
4. See discussion infra Part I.A.
1008 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 74
jurisprudence and specific legislation available to solve this issue,
Louisiana Civil Code article 2364 must be amended to limit
reimbursement claims for student loan debt, or alternativel y, a
jurisprudential rule must be adopted in order to ensure equity5 and
reflect societal expectations.6
Part I of this Comment discusses current statistics surrounding
education, marriage, and student loan debt in the United States. It
also gives an overview of the fundamental aspects of community
property law in Louisiana. Part II presents Louisiana’s current
approach to handling reimbursement claims, as well as claims
specifically dealing with student loan debt.7 Part III explains why
student loan debt should be the exception to the general rule
allowing reimbursement claims. It explores the characteristics of
such debt that make it different and views reimbursement claims for
student loan debt through the lenses of equity and societal
expectation. Finally, Part IV proposes that Louisiana must either
establish a jurisprudential rule or enact legislation that limits
reimbursement claims for student loan debt. Adopting these
proposed solutions would ensure that Louisiana’s community
property laws reflect the current needs of society.
I. LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND STUDENT LOAN DEBT
The most convincing evidence of the need for change in
Louisiana’s treatment of student loan debt lies in statistics. People
are getting married later in life,8 are better educated when they do
marry,9 and many enter marriage with student loan debt.10 These
characteristics of many modern marriages clash with Louisiana’s
community property law, demonstrating a vital need for change.
5. See discussion infra Part III.B.
6. See discussion infra Part III.C.
7. See LA. CIV. CODE art. 2358 (2014) (providing the basis for allowing
reimbursement claims).
8. Sharon Jayson, Sooner vs. Later: Is There an Ideal Age for First
Marriage?, USA TODAY, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-11-09-
delayed-marriage_N.htm (last updated Nov. 9, 2008) [http://perma.cc/8GDH-
55NL] (archived Mar. 8, 2014) (noting that the age of first marriage has been
climbing steadily for all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups).
9. Hanna Rosin, The End of Men, ATLANTIC, July/Aug. 2010, available at
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2010/07/the-end-of-men/308135 [http:
//perma.cc/6VYD-JXYR] (archived Mar. 8, 2014).
10. See Meta Brown, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Maricar Mabutas &
Wilbert van der Klaau w, Grading Student Loans, FED. RES. BANK N.Y. (Mar. 5,
2012), http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2012/03/grading-student-loans
.html [http://perma.cc/WWH8-5UMJ] (archived Mar. 8, 2014).

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