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Student debt and divorce

On Behalf of | May 5, 2020 | Family law

With nearly 45 million Americans having student loan debt, plenty of Indiana residents likely help comprise that total. Student debt is also likely to be addressed in divorce proceedings, given that many first divorces occur at a young age; the average age is 30. Luckily, the law is straightforward when it comes to liability for student loan debt in a divorce.

Marital property vs. separate property

Generally speaking, everything that someone acquires before getting married is that person’s separate property. This means that if a person eventually gets married and later gets a divorce, he or she would not have to give the other spouse a portion of that property. On the other hand, nearly everything that is acquired during marriage is considered marital property. In equitable distribution states like Indiana, marital property only needs to be divided “fairly,” not necessarily equally in half. One exemption to the concept of marital property is student debt.

If you sign for a loan, it’s yours

It makes sense that student loans taken out before marriage are the responsibility of the individual who borrowed the money as well as anyone else who cosigned the loan. In equitable distribution states, student loans taken out during marriage are also treated as separate property unless the spouse cosigned the loan. One rare exception would be if two spouses each had separate student debt and consolidated them during marriage although this is unlikely to be the case. This practice is in contrast to most community property states where any student loan taken out by either spouse while married would be divided equally in a divorce.

When to get help with divorce proceedings

Though the question of student debt liability can be addressed quickly, it is not always easy to decide how to apportion other debts and assets in a divorce. A licensed family law attorney may help you valuate your marital assets and determine whether a negotiated settlement is possible.