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Debt obligations during divorce can get complicated

When there is a divorce pending, it might seem like property division decisions may be pretty cut and dry. People may assume it is clear what is considered marital property and what is deemed separate property during a divorce. However, as many Pennsylvania couples can attest, these assumptions can get clouded where debt is concerned, especially student loan debt.

Typically, financial obligations related to education before the marriage is considered separate property. This may surprise some couples as they split and realize the true cost of paying off student loan debt may be more than the borrower can handle on their own. In that case, it may be possible or wise to seek some sort of changes to payment terms.

If student loan debt is acquired during the marriage, the rules may be a little different. The student loan debt may be considered marital property or it may be assigned to the person who took out the loans to handle. The courts can have a fair amount of discretion. Some complications may relate to the income outlook for the person who used the loans or if there is the need for some temporary support to keep payments current.

Like with many issues related to divorce, the unique circumstances may play a role in how a judge decides individual issues, such as student loan debt. It may be beneficial for anyone in Pennsylvania to be clear about what is generally considered marital or separate property. Assuming one kind of debt is always marital or always separate may lead to carrying unnecessary debt or to accepting debt repayment terms that aren't necessarily fair.

Source: online.wsj.com, "Who Is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?", Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014

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