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Students loans and divorce

Most recent college graduates in New Jersey know all about student loans. The average debt of a college graduate is almost $30,000. Students who pursue an advanced degree can have even more debt. When couples get married they often both have student loan debt that can reach tens of thousands of dollars. If a divorce becomes imminent this debt may become a factor.

Many couples have student loan debt that can reach into the thousands of dollars. But what happens to this debt at the end of a marriage? Many couples believe that this debt becomes the responsibility of both parties after marriage. But, in reality, this debt that was taken out before getting married will still be the responsibility of that person after a divorce. For many people who were used to getting help with payments while married it can be a rude awakening to face this debt while newly single. Student loans that were taken out while married can be more complicated. New Jersey equitable distribution rules require a fair, but equitable distribution of marital property (including debt) in a divorce based on several factors.

Before getting married there are steps couples can take to avoid debt surprises. First, obtain a prenuptial agreement that specifies what happens to the accrued college debt during the marriage if a divorce occurs. Second, be honest with marriage partners about the extent of debt that a person brings to a marriage.

For those who are contemplating a divorce, debt division and property division can be confusing. Consulting with a legal professional skilled in family law can be helpful in learning about divorce legal issues, including understanding the extent of debt during a marriage and after it ends. The divorce process can be complicated and having an advocate to mediate a dispute can be helpful.

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

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