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Student loan debt after a divorce

Massachusetts divorce courts follow the principle of equitable distribution. When a couple breaks up, all marital assets are divided by the court in a manner that it deems fair, although this does not necessarily mean equal.

Marital debts are split as well. In addition to credit cards and medical expenses, many couples may have taken out student loans to finance their higher education. How this debt is treated by a court will depend upon when it was incurred.

If the student loan was incurred prior to marriage, then it will remain the sole responsibility of the borrower. However, if it was taken out during the marriage, then it is considered marital debt and subject to split, no matter which spouse was the student. Student loans that were taken out before the couple wed but were consolidated during their marriage will also be treated as marital property. While consolidation by married couples was ended by Congress in 2006, couples who were wed prior to that date and who are now divorcing may be in this position.

Financial obligations are frequently the cause of the end of a marriage. Divorcing couples have a variety of ways to deal with the resulting disputes short of having a judge make the decision. In some cases, the spouses and their respective lawyers can negotiate a settlement agreement that covers these and other applicable divorce legal issues. If they are unable to reach an accord on one or more matters, they may try to resolve them through divorce mediation guided by a neutral third party.

Source: Wise Bread, "Does Divorce Affect Your Student Loans?", Ashley Eneriz, Nov. 8, 2016

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