Florida is known as a retirement state, but it is also home to many people in their 20s and 30s, a lot of whom have large amounts of student debt and who are nowhere near retirement. Student debt is always stressful, but it can be especially worrisome to the spouses of debt holders going through an early divorce. Given that the average age at which individuals get their first divorce is 30, there is no doubt that some Floridians can count themselves in this category if they are filing for separation.

The difference between separate property and marital property

Most states, like Florida, follow the law of equitable distribution, which means that assets and debts acquired during marriage are split “fairly” in a divorce. In community property states, by contrast, assets and debts acquired during marriage are split 50-50 in a divorce. Community property states typically include student loans among debts that need to be divided 50-50 upon separation, but equitable distribution states do not treat student debt as a marital asset.

Student debt classification in Florida

In equitable distribution states, even if a spouse takes out a student loan, that debt will not belong to the other spouse unless the spouse cosigned the loan. In any state, under basic contract principles, a loan cosigner will be held jointly responsible for paying off the debt. Additionally, student loans taken out before marriage would be considered separate property not subject to division.

Notwithstanding the usual treatment of student debt, people can contract around the equitable distribution laws by signing a prenuptial agreement. For instance, couples may contractually agree that one spouse can return to school to increase his or her earning potential long-term and that the other spouse will help pay for it. If you are wondering whether to get a prenuptial agreement before marriage, a Florida-licensed family law attorney may answer your questions. If you are embarking on the separation process, a family law attorney may help you determine the value of your marital assets and debts, which may help you reach an early resolution with your ex on how to divide the marital property.