How Can My Husband Get Out of a Spousal Consolidation Loan?


Dear Steve,

My husband of 19 years was married previously. He and his ex-wife each had a student loan that she combined into one under her SSI#. These loans are from the 1990’s. When he and I married the loan servicer, Sallie Mae, would not split the loan and so payments were sent in separately.

In this time frame it had been deferred at times due to income or no income. In 2008 his ex-wife suffered a debilitating brain injury and was to our knowledge legally disabled.

The loan servicer would not discharge the loan even though paperwork and forms were filled out.

My husband has tried multiple times to get information from the servicer but they always tell us he is not on the loan. Now the loan is in default and my husband is being held responsible for the entire amount. We are now requesting the company provide us with all the information that they have concerning the loan.

I guess my question is with all the upheaval about Sallie Mae, what are our rights? Can we be held liable for the entire loan amount. Of course this also includes interest and fees. etc.

We do not have contact with the ex-wife and limited contact with her immediate family.



Dear Sarah,

Thank you for reaching out to me for help.

It is unclear from your question if these are federal or might have been private student loans way back then.

Since the lender is claiming your husband is responsible for the loan it certainly sounds as if he cosigned the loan, guaranteeing it if it went into default. Cosigners have all the liability but not a party to the loan, as an applicant is. This could explain the wall you’ve run into. Another explanation is that the consolidated loan was a spousal consolidation loan where both parties remain liable for the entire loan balance.

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I’d suggest you go to annualcreditreport.com and get a copy of all three of his credit bureau reports to see how this loan is listed. If it appears on his credit reports then it could confirm my assumption he is a cosigner on the loan. If it is not listed then I would begin to question if he was a cosigner and just assume this was a federal spousal consolidation loan.

Your husband can also try to login to the National Student Loan Data System and see if he can discover more information there.

If these are federal loans then I’d suggest you help the ex go back around for a disability discharge again. More details on that are here. In the past the government was horrible at dealing with those requests. It could explain why her attempts failed so miserably before.

But even if the attempt is successful, it would not eliminate the entire spousal consolidation loan. The Department of Education says, “If one of the two borrowers becomes totally and permanently disabled, that borrower may qualify to have the portion of the Consolidation loan that represents the underlying loans obtained by that borrower discharged. In this case, the amount of the Consolidation loan will be reduced by the amount representing the disabled borrower’s portion of the Consolidation loan. However, both borrowers remain responsible for repayment of the remaining balance on the Consolidation after discharge.” – Source

If that effort is successful then you might want to attempt a possible Direct Consolidation Loan of the old spousal consolidation loan. It is not something that is normally considered possible but read this article. That would then give your husband a shot at an income based payment or other forgiveness options.

Here is the bottom line though, more information is needed on the exact nature of the loans. If you feel like you are not getting anywhere, I would suggest you hire a local attorney in your state to represent you or try to get some further clarity through the U.S. Department of Education Ombudsman office.

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