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Researcher: A prenup can side-step student loan debt division

When most people get married, they are not thinking about what may happen if they get divorced. For some Lake County residents, however, marriage does end. For those who are separating, property division can become an issue. On top of the house, savings account and appliances, there are also other things to consider, such as debt. It is good to have an understanding of who will be responsible for debt once the divorce papers are signed.

Of all the debts an individual may have, student loans are among the most common. To avoid surprises related to paying that debt after a divorce, a family law researcher at George Washington University suggests that a couple be honest about the amount of student loans each has. Additionally, couples should obtain a prenuptial agreement that outlines how the student loans will be allocated in the event of divorce.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average debt for students who earn bachelor's degrees is $29,400. If that debt is acquired prior to a marriage, the individual who incurred it will be responsible when the union ends. However, if loans are taken out during the marriage, it may be considered shared property. In some areas, if a spouse obtains a degree while he or she is married, the degree itself is marital property. The spouse who earned it may then have to compensate the ex for supporting him or her during the course of education.

Any couple entering into a divorce should consult an attorney for guidance on everything from simple property division to complex valuations. The right legal advice can protect an individual from losing precious assets or incurring debt for which he or she is not responsible.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Who is responsible for student loan debt after divorce?" Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014  

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