Why Am I Trapped With My Ex-Husband in This Damn Spousal Consolidation Loan?


Dear Steve,

During a marriage, my then-husband and I took out several student loans. Our school tuition/books/etc. were paid by our employer, the money was used for living expenses.

We did a spousal consolidation loan a few years after that. We then divorced and the loan was never dealt with in divorce court as we had filed bankruptcy and it was on hold.

When I asked my attorney to include it at the last minute he held it over as my husband was getting married the next day and he didn’t want to hold it up.

We finally met with a judge years later and I asked to have it apportioned. She denied my request to divide up the payments without knowing what the loans were spent on. She also agreed that those records were probably not possible to find since it was living expenses of 20 years ago. Thus, nothing happened with the loan.

Fast forward to the current date, no payments have been made in some time.

My electrical engineer ex-husband is now retired at 58 years old. His income consists of his spouse’s salary, 401K, part-time under-the-table-job, and his government pension.

I have tried deferring it, getting IBRP, hired a student loan attorney explain to him that he’s still responsible for the debt (it wouldn’t even matter what a family court judge said).

He won’t sign or do ANYTHING with the loan. I can’t even rehabilitate the loan without his signature. I’ve lost a house purchase over this.

My credit is getting ruined and the balance is growing every day (it’s over 100,000 now).

ECMC (their ombudsman) contacted me and said they will start an administrative wage garnishment of my wages – ONLY MY WAGES. They won’t go after him since he’s retired.

I will be on the hook for the whole thing. I’m a single parent without an extra $1,000 per month. Why am I the only one getting punished here? HELP! What are my options? What can I do?

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Dear Melanie,

I am completely sympathetic to the mess. Unfortunately, you’ll have to thank Congress for the situation.

When laws were enacted or changed, spousal consolidation loans were skipped over and not specifically included in new federal student loan programs.

Holders of spousal consolidation loans have effectively been orphaned.

However, I remain unconvinced the regulations don’t permit it. It seems the denial of consolidating spousal consolidation loans is one of practice.

Take a look at this post and this one.

Honestly, I think to get any relief you will need to contact your Congressional representatives and/or sue the Department of Education for a clear reading of options. The current Department of Education is not sympathetic to loan forgiveness.

As it stands now, each spouse who participated is equally responsible for the entire balance and it is the position of the Department of Education that the loans are not eligible for qualifying consolidation. But from reading all the material on this subject I came away with the opinion that this stubborn position is one based more on practice than on the vague guidance available.

All I can say is at least the spousal consolidation loan died and more people are not getting trapped in these horrible loans.

And by the way, I doubt the loan would have been discharged in bankruptcy without the filing of an additional Adversary Proceeding where you sue the Department of Education to have the loan forgiven.


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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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