Student loan debt continues to be a problem plaguing families across the nation. Education is not getting any cheaper, but several individuals need it for their desired jobs. Atlanta is no stranger to this issue. Recent studies show that it has the second highest amount of debt in the nation, behind only Washington, D.C.

Student loan debt also presents an issue to upcoming divorcees. Many separating couples are unsure of how to divide the debt amongst them. As Georgia is an equitable distribution state, marital property division aims for fairness for both parties rather than complete equality. Here are some factors to take into consideration to help you determine if you still have to pay for your ex’s student debt:

The timing

If your ex obtained their degree before marriage, then the court could consider it to be separate property and give the debt to your ex. If your ex went to college during your marriage, then you might be eligible to receive some of the debt depending on the other factors. If you married in the middle of your ex’s college education, only debt made after the marriage would apply to you.

The usage

While student loans their own category of debt, the details can vary. Students might need it to cover their living conditions or purchase books and special equipment. If the loans were directed more towards your ex’s school-related fees or materials, then the court will likely charge the debt to your ex. However, if it was used for purposes that involve you such as rent or food, it can count as marital debt.

The financial status

As with most property division cases, most of this hinges on the financial situations of both parties. The court will examine how large the student loan debt is and how it affects each spouse. If the degree obtained resulted in a well-paying job for your ex that benefited your entire family, then the court will likely divide the debt between the two of you. However, if the loan debt proves highly detrimental to the family or you do not have a good paying job to combat your ex’s debts, then they could assign more of the debt to your ex.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, many couples are unaware that student loan debt can be a shared asset and do not create any pre- or postnuptial agreements that could prevent charges to the spouse who did not incur the debts to begin with. If you did not do either of these, it is important to look over these debts and examine how it can impact your marital and separate finances to help you obtain the best workable outcome as you settle into your new post-divorce life.