Student Loans

My Old Private and Federal Student Loans Have Surfaced and I Might be Getting Sued

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

I support my disabled wife and our child, and make ends meet with little to spare, but have no real debt other than student loans.

I have large student loan debts of my own, both private and public. I have been unable to pay any of them, so they are all in default and have been for some years now – most are approaching statute of limitations. However I have a recently requested a validation from a servicing company when I didn’t recognize the servicer that shows payments I know I did not make, and although it has my social security number and address it has a different but similar name than mine.

Also I believe based on third hand information that one of the servicers is trying to sue me (a distant relative who lives in a former home may have received official papers addressed to me – they are being served in the state of Washington even though I now reside in other states and really have no long term fixed abode instead getting my mail forwarded from a mail forwarding company.)

If I had the money I would consider hiring an attorney, but I don’t think I can afford that, nor to return to Washington to defend myself in a lawsuit.

Is there any way that I can contest these payments that I did not make that are resetting the statute of limitations?

If lawsuit papers are delivered to a wrong address how can I determine if I am in fact being sued – how can I know without being served?

And if I haven’t been properly been served or the service has the wrong name should I file an answer to the suit should I even be able to find it ( I can probably look up the likely courts and find a way to find such a case)?

And can a summary judgement be entered against me if I am not served appropriately under state law – and which state law would apply and would it be federal law and court?

If a judgement is won in Washington could it carry over to other states where I am employed, or effect my bank account in Washington state?



Dear JJ,

I am not a lawyer and can’t provide you with legal advice. For that you’d need a lawyer who is licensed in the state you live in. However, I can give you my general impressions from my experience.

The Statute of Limitations (SOL) is a tricky beast. It’s not so clear cut and the time and issues across state lines make it even trickier. For example, which state law will apply and can you make an argument for a friendlier state to prevail?

If you are improperly served, sued, and lose out of default from the lack of representation then the suit will still exist and probably a judgment as well. The position you were improperly served is one to make to reverse the decision or case but you would have to make that argument to the court either by yourself or with legal representation.

You raise a very interesting point about questionable payments extending the statute of limitations. I would be surprised to see that happen, but not shocked. Collectors rarely surprise me anymore with tricks to keep the clock running. But then again there are plenty of collection suits filed on debts that have exceeded the SOL. An expired debt can still result in a lawsuit and you’d have to raise the SOL issues as a defense.

The fact you may be in the process of being sued over these old debts is an opportunity to enter into settlement talks with the lender. Many good settlements result from these suits when you are being represented by someone who is experienced with these cases.

You are correct in noting you can typically look up case information online these days or you can call the courthouse of the county you used to live in and ask them if they can look to see if a case has been filed.

Your federal loans have no SOL so you should think about getting those out of default. To check on the status of your federal loans you can login to the National Student Loan Data System.

If your old federal loans are eligible to be consolidated I would suggest considering a Direct Consolidation Loan. For more information and details on how to consolidate these loans, for free, click here. Because your federal loans may be defaulted you may be required to make “three consecutive monthly payments” and opt to repay the consolidated loans under one of the income driven repayment options. This can give you a payment of as low as $0 a month based on your income and that would be considered not in default.

So it sounds as if you have two distinct buckets of loans to deal with, the federal and private. As I’ve shown you there is an easy process to deal with the federal loans. The private loans, which are subject to the SOL, are tougher to deal with and if they are suing you then I can’t stress strongly enough that there is no substitute for representation by a competent attorney who is licensed in your state.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


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