My wife has a substantial student loan (in excess of $100k) which she aquired before we were married. We have a prenup and no community property.
She currently is not working and my income is not sufficient make payments on the loan. She is no longer active in the field in which she got her degree; in fact, she can no longer even work in her field because the fees to remain active were become too burdensome as her income tapered off.
It is not economically viable for her to find other work, because if she did work, her deferment would end and she would have to start repaying the loan and it would take up most if not all of the income she would be making (as she would have to find a lower paying job outside her field). And at the same time, we would suddenly have significant child care expenses, and this would not fit into our budget either.
Student loans can't be discharged, ever, as long as you are alive. My understanding is that there are income based repayments, but since she doesn't have an income, I don't see how this would work either. So we are stuck with repayments we cannot afford, and no way to get rid of them. It appears our only choice is to simply never pay them. I am not sure how anybody can force us to pay, as she has no income, our property is separate, and I have no income tax refunds coming. But, I would feel like there was an ever increasing weigh hanging over our head that could unexpectedly wipe us out at any time.
However far should I go to try to pay off my wife's student loans? I don't think legally I have any obligation to, but if I had to, I could, for example cash in my 401k and sell off the few other assets I have and possibly clear enough to pay it off, so that she could work again in the future if she wanted. I hardly see how this is prudent, considering that I am over 45k and the financial calculators I use suggest that given my current net work and ability to save, I only have a 17% of my current retirement plan lasting me until I die.
What obligation do I have (legally and/or morally), and to what extent should I consider sacrificing my future for this?