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Student loans often excluded from marital debt in Ohio divorces

Separate property is any asset or debt you don't have to split with a former spouse when a marriage ends. Marital property is divisible between parting spouses upon divorce under Ohio's equitable distribution laws. That may not mean your student loan debt will be shared.

Some Columbus spouses may not know that student loan debt, more often than not, remains the responsibility of the debt originator. In most cases, student loans do not become joint debt during divorce. Spouses may opt to change this arrangement and courts allow exceptions or trade-offs, like short-term spousal support so an ex with heavy educational debt can gain financial footing.

College debt has become a significant concern for divorcing spouses and not necessarily young spouses. Individuals of every age seek degrees to increase job prospects and update careers. The Institute for College Access and Success reported 2012 graduates with bachelor's degrees racked up an average of $29,400 in student loans.

Student loans acquired prior to marriage remain separate from marital debt. Debt from educational loans that was taken out in the course of a marriage may be divided, depending on whether one or both spouses benefited from the loan proceeds. Since divorce settlements are designed to be fair, divorcing couples and judges have some leeway in how to resolve lopsided debt.

A potential recipient of alimony could shift some of the loan debt to an ex in exchange for giving up taxable spousal support. Asset-and-debt sharing solutions also may be worked out in advance of marriage. A prenuptial agreement can spell out how debts, including student loans, are distributed in case of divorce to avoid later surprises and conflicts.

Legal counselors suggest clearing the air about finances – the extent of individual debts as well as assets -- prior to marriage, whether or not a prenuptial agreement is signed. Make no assumptions that a divorce will reduce the personal responsibility attached to educational loans.

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

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