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Student loans as marital debt

When Florida couples divorce, it may be very difficult to determine who gets what. Courts take into account many different factors to determine the fair and equitable division of marital property; however, the same applies to debts such as student loans, which may be classified as separate or marital debt depending on the circumstances.

A student loan is separate debt under certain conditions. If incurred before marriage, it is usually considered to be personal debt. If a couple divorces soon after one spouse earned their degree, then the debt would typically belong to the graduate. While some states consider professional degrees to be marital property and therefore divide the debt between the divorcees, Florida is not one of those states.

Debt incurred during the marriage could be a more complex matter. Generally, if the student loan went toward living expenses, then it would be considered a joint debt, but it would be separate debt if the loan covered educational expenses, such as tuition. If one spouse earned a degree that provided noticeable income that benefited both spouses, then the student loan is more likely to be considered joint debt. However, the court may still decide to classify the loan as separate if a former spouse is unable to make payments towards the other's student loans, given their financial situation.

Before marriage, a couple may file a prenuptial agreement to allocate who is responsible for which debts. A couple may also form a postnuptial agreement if new loans are taken out during their marriage. If neither agreements have been filed before the couple splits, an attorney may help them discuss their debts and obligations.

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

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