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After divorce, who must keep paying student loans?

When individuals choose to marry, they tend to pool their incomes and pay their bills out of that mutual resource. It does not matter who incurred the bill or how much income is earned by each spouse. Most of the time, all income and expenses are treated as the equal responsibility of each spouse. However, this kind of approach becomes challenging when couples choose to divorce and seek to determine an equitable distribution of marital property.

Most states insist that spouses split any assets acquired during a marriage equally, with few exceptions. However, outstanding debts are often treated differently than assets and may not need to be split equally. Suddenly, a spouse that had been sharing debt payments with his or her partner may find that he or she has no responsibility for this debt or that the debt is being treated as solely his or hers.

Credit card debts, mortgages, car debts and other accounts owed that were opened mutually and during the marriage are generally split between spouses. However, student loan debts are not always treated in this way. If a spouse incurred student loan debt prior to the marriage, he or she will likely become solely responsible for this debt again after the divorce because this kind of debt is generally treated as separate property.

However, there are some circumstances under which student loan debt will be treated as a mutual responsibility. For example, a prenuptial agreement that insists each spouse will be held mutually responsible for student loan debt may be enforced by a judge. If you have questions about how your student loan debt will be treated post-divorce, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced local attorney.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Who is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?" Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014

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