You met in college, married and settled down in Pennsylvania. Your spouse decided to go back to school and obtain an MBA – an expensive proposition that required a series of large student loans.

And a few years later, with those student loans still having balances, you decide to divorce. So, when you sit down to discuss debts with your attorney, you tell your attorney to make sure those loans don’t go into your debt pile.

Not so fast, your attorney tells you.

A student loan brought into the marriage belongs with that spouse. But a loan taken out by either party after marriage typically is considered a marital debt.

If you co-signed the loan, you’ll be responsible for that loan until it’s paid off, even if you’re not married anymore. As an alternative, you could work with your ex as part of the divorce process to try to refinance the debt in just their name, or seek a refinanced loan that allows the co-signer to be released after a year or so. That could separate you from the student debt – if your ex qualifies for a refinanced loan.

As Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, a court otherwise will determine how to divide the remaining balance due on the student loan. Factors to be taken into account include whether a degree was earned, how the funds were used – did they pay for rent or other joint living expenses and not just tuition and books? – who was making the payments during the marriage and earning potential of both parties.

If you are divorcing, ask your attorney for all the options when it comes to student loans. You don’t want to keep paying them off if you don’t have to.