Filing your taxes separately in a community property state (CA is 1 of 9 states) might be financially advantageous with a properly developed Income Driven Repayment (IDR) strategy.
A practical approach might be to run through an example. Let’s assume the following about a married couple living in CA (or LA, AZ, TX, WA, ID, NV, NW or WI):
Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) = $250,000
Federal Student Loans = $600,000
The standard approach might be to file taxes jointly resulting in an AGI = $330,000. The PAYE payment (this strategy applies to those in IBR or PAYE, but not REPAYE) with 2 in family is $2,540/month.
An alternative approach is to file separately so that each spouse reports ½ the total AGI, or $165,000 AGI per spouse. This would result in a PAYE payment of $1,165/month. This is a saving of approximately $1,375/month or over $300,000 over the life of the loan.
This is because community property states attribute 50% of household income to each spouse regardless of who generated the income. Knowing this can save you tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of $$$.
Please let me know if you have any questions.