Legal Experts Weigh in on Student Loan Debt and Divorce

These days, many couples have obtained a secondary education and, as a result, have accumulated substantial debt from student loans. What these couples fail to realize is that educational debt makes marriage tougher for some, and it can lead to some surprises for those who decide to divorce. Young couples, in particular, are more likely to encounter these problems. Legal experts clarify how student loan debt is treated when a marriage ends to minimize the element of surprise for young divorcing couples.

Plaguing the Current Generation

College students have been accumulating loan debt at an exponential pace over the past decade. In 2011, the total student loan debt balance for those under the age of 30 surpassed $300 billion. Undergrad students who borrowed money and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2012 graduated with an average of $30,000 in educational debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Those who earned an advanced degree owed even more.

Debt Acquired Before Marriage

A common misconception about dividing debt in a divorce is the belief that educational debt acquired before marriage becomes shared marital debt once a couple marries. Educational debt acquired before marriage is considered separate property and the responsibility of that spouse who borrowed the money, according to legal experts. It remains as such following a divorce.

Debt Incurred During a Marriage

Student loan debt incurred during the marriage isn’t necessarily treated the same way. How this debt is handled in a divorce depends on the jurisdiction and whether a prenuptial agreement was formulated. Texas is a community property state that assumes assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses.

As with any other divorce issue, a definitive answer about property division can only be given based on specific circumstances and with the assistance of a McAllen divorce attorney.

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