Since California is a community property state, debts and assets acquired during a marriage are generally considered shared marital property. This means if that marriage ends in divorce, those debts and assets will in general be equally divided between the two by a judge. This might include student loans.
If the student loans date from before the marriage, most likely, they will be considered the property of the person who took them out. But if they were acquired after marriage, they will probably be considered the responsibility of both spouses. Furthermore, if the couple consolidated their student loans to lower the interest rate, which was possible prior to 2006, then they will each be responsible for this debt. If one spouse fails to pay it, the other spouse will be expected to do so.
Couples should talk about their student loans and how much they owe prior to marriage. They may want to sign a prenuptial agreement that outlines how they will deal with such debt as well as future obligations in the event of a divorce. Ultimately, how responsibility for student loan debt is shared will depend upon the specifics of the situation.
For many people facing a divorce, financial security will be a priority. People often have poorer standards of living after their marriage ends, and if they are saddled with too much debt, this can contribute. Some people might be able to negotiate an amicable agreement for property division and division of debt. Having more input into how this is divided might leave a person more satisfied with the final agreement, but people should also beware of pitfalls. For example, one person might tend to give up too much because they feel guilty about the divorce or want the process to end quickly.