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Student debt is actually a crucial asset in divorce

Imagine for a moment that you and your longtime boyfriend or girlfriend decide it's time to get married. So the two of you have your special day, and for years you live happily married. During that time, your spouse decides it is time that he or she go back to college for a graduate program. You support your spouse, and after years of studying and working hard, your spouse completes the graduate program.

Now let's say that, some years down the line, the two of you are no longer getting along. The two of you acknowledge that the relationship has run its course -- that it is irretrievably broken -- and you agree to file for divorce.

Here's the question: what happens to the student debt that your spouse accrued during graduate school? Is the debt something that can be divided between the two spouses during the divorce? Or does it stay with the person who attended school?

Every situation is unique, so it is impossible to give a blanket answer. However, in general, student debt is divisible in divorce, especially if it is considered marital property. In other words, if the student debt was accrued while the student was married, then it can be divided in divorce. The debt can still be part of property division discussions even if it wasn't accrued during marriage, but it becomes a much more difficult proposition.

Financial discussion can be tough during divorce, but remember that these discussions aren't limited merely to positive financial assets. Debts can also be a part of your negotiations.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Who Is Responsible for the Student Loans After Divorce?," Charlie Wells, April 13, 2014

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