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How student loan debt is dealt with in divorce proceedings

Divorce proceedings in Florida tend to divide up marital debt between two former spouses. This can include mortgages, credit cards, and car and other personal loans. If student loan debt is incurred during a marriage, the equitable division is somewhat more complicated, especially if payment designations aren't defined in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

There are a few items to determine before a student loan can be considered part of the marital debt. The first being how the money was used. In circumstances where the funds only paid for basic college expenses like tuition, fees and materials, the loan could be considered separate debt and put on the onus of the spouse who took it out. On the other hand, if the loan was used to also cover living expenses, then it could be deemed a mutual debt. Another consideration is how the degree obtained from the loan helped the couple during their marriage. If it benefited both of them with, for example, a bump in salary, then it could also be deemed marital debt.

Conversely, if only one spouse benefited from the degree, the court could rule that the student loan is separate debt. There's also the matter of working arrangements at the time of the divorce. Should the mother be working thanks to the degree while the husband is out of a job at the time, the loan may be considered separate debt to be paid by the working spouse.

Either before the marriage or during, a couple could discuss these monetary matters with a financial planner if no pre- or postnuptial agreement is involved. At the time of separation, an attorney experienced in divorce law may need to be consulted to determine the best course of action.

Source: Forbes, "Are Student Loans Incurred During The Marriage Considered Marital Debt?", Jeff Landers, December 17, 2013

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