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Polacheck v. Polacheck - 2013-Ohio-5788, 5 N.E.3d 1088 (Ct. App.)

Rule:

As with the division of marital property, the equitable division of marital debt is a matter subject to the exercise of a trial court's discretion. Accordingly, an appellate court reviews the trial court's decision for an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion implies that the trial court's attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable.

Facts:

Husband filed a complaint for divorce and the trial court issued temporary orders pertaining to various issues including child support and spousal support for wife. The parties were able to reach an agreement through mediation on most issues before the court, including child support, a shared parenting plan, and that wife would receive spousal support of $1,000 per month for one year.  However, the parties were unable to agree on the allocation of the student-loan debt. The trial court allocated the student-loan debt solely to wife, without any offset in the overall division of property and debts. Wife appealed.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in focusing on benefit-based reasoning when allocating sole responsibility to a wife for the student loan debt that she incurred during the marriage?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The trial court erred in focusing on benefit-based reasoning when allocating sole responsibility to a wife for the student-loan debt she incurred during the marriage, R.C. 3105.171, because the trial court failed to examine the parties' relative economic circumstances, ability to pay the debt, and any other factor the court found to be relevant and equitable; the trial court was not authorized to consider the wife's conduct involving her boyfriend when allocating the debt.

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