Securing a successful and stable career often starts with earning the right degree. But the cost of higher education is out of most people’s reach in Ohio, so taking out student loans is sometimes unavoidable. Those student loans can be a point of uncertainty during divorce, and how they are dealt with during property division is largely up to just one or two factors.

Approximately 45 million adults in America have at least some student loan debt. Since that debt can take years to pay off, and the average person divorces for the first time at age 30, there are a lot of couples facing the issue of student loans and divorce. Student loans are clearly only one person’s responsibility if they were taken out before marriage in his or her name. Like with other assets, acquiring it before marriage on one’s own makes it separate property.

Things are a little more complicated when someone takes out a student loan while already married. If only that person’s name is on the loan, then he or she is generally the one who is legally responsible for paying it back even though it is marital property. If a couple divides their debt so that the spouse whose name is not on the loan takes on that debt, the ex could still be on the hook for missed or late payments. It might be easier to divide debt in a way that minimizes this risk.

Paying off debt is not always easy. When dealing with property division, couples should be sure that they understand how much debt they have, whether it is marital property and the implications of how they divide it. Understanding Ohio family law can be helpful for doing this, so it might be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney early on in the process.