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The impact of student loan debt on marriages

| May 31, 2019 | Family Law |

Whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s, if you graduated from a private college and your parents didn’t give you a significant amount of help with tuition and room and board, you likely have student loan debt. The average American with student loan debt owes more than $34,000. That’s up 62% since a decade ago.

Student loan debt can impact people’s ability to save for large purchases like a home and make them more likely to accept a job that pays well rather than take a risk on starting a new business. It can also impact people’s marriages.

It’s been well-established that money issues are among the leading causes of marital discord. However, a recent study by the company Student Loan Hero found that one out of eight people specifically cited student loan debt as the reason for their divorce.

Most couples bring some debt into a marriage. These days, spouses may each have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt when they tie the knot. It’s always wise for couples to be honest about their assets and debts when they get married. This can help them set realistic goals for the future and avoid unpleasant surprises down the line. That includes being forthright about your student loans.

Many people are concerned that they may end up being responsible for all or part of their spouse’s student loan debt if they divorce. That’s not usually the case. If student loans were obtained before your marriage, they’re considered separate rather than marital debt. That means that each spouse leaves the marriage responsible only for their outstanding student loans. If you or your spouse obtains a student loan during your marriage, a judge could determine that both of you are responsible for it if you divorce.

If you and/or your spouse-to-be is entering the marriage with student loan debt or if either of you plans to continue your education after your marriage, it may be wise to put a prenuptial agreement in place to specify that each person’s student loan debt (and perhaps other debts) are solely their responsibility in divorce.

If you do, you should each have your own family law attorney involved in the process. Even if one person’s attorney draws up the prenup and the other reviews it, that will help ensure that both of your interests are represented and protected.

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