THE BLOG
08/19/2013 08:43 am ET Updated Oct 19, 2013

My Life Partner is Swallowed Up in Student Loan Debt

Huffington Post Reader Question

Dear Steve,

Hello and thank you for your time and generosity.

My partner of 12 years is drowning in debt, all defaulted school loans. Partner because we have decided not to get married due to his debt as I wish to keep our finances, identities, etc. separate due to his incredible debt burden. He is an attorney (graduated 6 years ago) who has only been able to find temporary work so his income, although OK, is sporadic. He defaulted on all of his loans over the course of 2 years when he was heavily unemployed. What was once approximately $190,000 in debt has risen to approximately $260,000 -- from what we can tell.

The truth is, we don't even know how much debt he has in collections or who owns it. It has been sold off so many times to various collection agencies, we can't even track it all down to add up the total damage.

We settled one collection for 20k two years ago (because he was sued), and as soon as it was settled, the same agency called with another collection -- The collection agent we spoke with would only give us information on the one specific debt they were calling to collect on, and would never tell us if there were others with their agency -- so there was no opportunity to consolidate or work out a plan based on the total amount owed.

He received one bill last week for 220,000 -- and there are at least 7 other agencies seeking repayment on debts ranging in value.

To be clear, these are ALL student loans... none of this is credit card debt or other irresponsible spending. The other issue is this: at one time we tried to negotiate payment plans with each lender (and eventually collection agency), but no one would take into account the entire amount of his debt. They each wanted him to pay the maximum amount for the debt they owned. So it became a question of, who do we pay since we can't pay them all? At any rate, we have totally given up. We're just waiting for him to be sued...

Do you think we can get his debt discharged? We haven't tried bankruptcy (we would LOVE to) because his "good faith effort" to repay his loans ended a couple years ago...

If you think there is a chance, can you recommend a bankruptcy lawyer in New York City?

Thank you for any info you can provide!

Jaclyn

Don't miss my free my weekday email newsletter with the latest tips and advice on how to beat debt and do better financially. Subscribe now. - Click Here

Dear Jaclyn,

Thank you so much for reaching out to me for assistance.

Being an attorney can be a wonderful occupation but many would be surprised to discover how low the average salary is and that many with expensive law degrees do suffer from low employment.

At this point the bigger issue seems to be the struggles and debt your partner has dealt with has probably issued a hard blow to his confidence and self-esteem. This only continues to drag him down at a time when hope and a positive outlook for the future are in order.

Debt is not a reason to avoid the joining together of two loving people. When you get married the individual debt remains individual. And even in community property states, debt before the marriage is not joint debt. I've watched far too many couples trash beautiful relationships because of the fear and worry over their debt. Don't make that mistake.

The debt is just a part of your lives. Don't let it define you.

What I don't know from your question is if this is federal or private student loan debt. It's important but there are options either way.

On the federal side, since all his debt is student loans there is no other consumer debt to clear off the books to make the payments more manageable. He also does not seem to have any disability so that leaves us with a couple of options. One would be that of an income based repayment program. His payment could be as low as $0 a month. Read my guide for more details.

But there is a good chance this is private student loan debt. In that case there are some options to stop the collections activity for the next five years and potentially discharge part of the debt or enter into a reasonable repayment plan if you are sued.

You can find links for help here.

Get Out of Debt Guy - Twitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you'd like to ask, just click here and ask away.

If you'd like to stay posted on all the latest get out of debt news and scam alerts, subscribe to my free newsletter.