Consolidate Debt Reinherz LawIf you’re struggling to pay your bills, then filing for bankruptcy may offer the promise of a fresh financial start. But if you’re one of the 44 million people in the United States who is carrying student loan debt, the answer isn’t that easy. Federal student loans are one of the few types of debts that bankruptcy will not discharge: it can only be eliminated if you are able to successfully establish that you will never be able to repay your loans.

This is known as “undue hardship,” which the courts assess through an evaluation called The Brunner Test. The Brunner Test requires that you meet three requirements:

  • That paying back your student loans would put you in an untenable position in terms of paying your other basic living expenses.
  • That you anticipate the situation that has made repayment a hardship will impact you for the majority of the time you have available to repay your loan.
  • That you can show that you have made a significant effort to repay your loans until the situation that was the catalyst for your hardship.

Unfortunately, what you interpret as a relentless problem may not fit the definition of undue hardship. To get that debt discharged you need to file for an adversary proceeding that will make the determination. The types of situations that tend to qualify for discharge of student debt include those where the debtor is clearly never going to be able to earn any income in the future: if your situation is not that dire, you are well advised to work with a bankruptcy attorney who can help you find another solution. Possibilities include:

  • Look into whether you qualify for an income-driven repayment plan that will allow you to lower your payment to as little as 10 percent of your discretionary income.
  • Take advantage of student loan forbearance or deferment programs. These may be available for federal student loans as long as you are not in default. Deferment postpones your monthly payments without accruing interest. If you are not available for deferment, you may be able to pause your loan payments for up to 12 months under the forbearance options, on which interest will accrue.
  • If you work for a government agency or nonprofit, consider applying for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

To discuss which options are best for your particular situation, contact our office to set up an appointment to speak with one of our bankruptcy attorneys.

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