My ex-husband encouraged me to drop out of college after a year, and now I’m struggling to repay my student loans. Is there anything I can do?

Question: I took out a student loan in 2006, but my ex-husband was very controlling, pushing me to give up after a year. I tried to work with the repairer to reduce the debt, but had no luck. Is there anything I can do?

To respond: Dr. Kirsten Thompson, board-certified psychiatrist and founder of Remedy Psychiatry, says that while there isn’t much legal recourse in this situation, it can be a good reminder of your personal growth and how far you’ve come. “When we think back to our past decisions, whether to tolerate an abusive partner’s order to drop out of school, or something else, and realize that we would have done things differently, had we had the opportunity again, it reminds us of how much we have grown,” says Thompson. For 24/7 access to resources and support for anyone living in an abusive relationship, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 800-799-7233 (SAFE) .

Have a question about getting out of a student loan or other debt? Email [email protected]

Meanwhile, certified family law specialist and former therapist David Glass recommends checking your dissolution judgment, as the student loan should have been assigned or divided by the court to one of the parties at the time of dissolution, in the same way that assets are transferred or divided. . “If you’re not officially divorced, there’s still time to ask the court to settle the student debt problem. If you’re divorced, but the student loan debt wasn’t included in the dissolution judgment, it can be considered “omitted,” says Glass.

It’s also important to make sure you don’t overlook the emotional impact of this situation. Financial therapist Dr. Alex Melkumian, founder of the Financial Psychology Center in Los Angeles, recommends focusing on addressing the psychological trauma associated with being in a financially abusive relationship. “The logistics of reaching a settlement on a delinquent student loan are extremely important, but so is your mental health,” Melkumian says.

But you’re certainly not alone in this scenario: about 40% of student borrowers have debt and don’t have a degree. “It is more difficult for borrowers without a diploma to repay their student debt. If you have federal student loans, you can access income-based repayment plans, which tie payments to a portion of your income and extend the payment term,” says Anna Helhoski, student loan expert at NerdWallet. These plans set the amount you pay each month at a portion of your income, which should make payments more manageable. “It’s a safety net, if you don’t have a job for example, your payment would be zero dollars and after 20 to 25 years the rest of your debt is forgiven,” says Helhoski. It’s not a perfect option, but it’s one that makes payments more manageable for most borrowers.

While you’re likely responsible for repaying your student loan, Leslie H. Tayne, financial attorney at Tayne Law Group, says you may be able to get your federal student loan balance forgiven if any of the following occur: applies: Your school closed within 120 days of your departure, your school deliberately misled you, committed misconduct, or broke the law, your school owed your loan officer money after your withdrawal and did not pay or you became totally and permanently disabled.

“If none of the above reflects your situation, you still have a few options to make sure your loan doesn’t negatively impact your life,” says Tayne. If you worked for the government or a nonprofit and made 10 years of qualifying payments under an income-based repayment plan, you may be eligible for government loan forgiveness. “You may also be eligible for partial or full Perkins loan forgiveness if you have worked 4 to 7 years in public service occupations such as law enforcement or teaching,” Tayne says.

If your monthly bill under an IDR plan is still too high, Tayne says you can ask your servicer to defer or forbear temporarily deferring payments. “With deferral, interest will stop accumulating on your balance, but with forbearance, interest will continue to accrue, increasing what you owe — so think about it as a last resort,” says Tayne. Although student loan forbearance offers a lower interest rate than a personal loan and does not affect your credit score, it is not a long-term solution and compounding accrued interest can become expensive. Like forbearance, deferment allows you to suspend payments, but the interest is paid by the government, meaning you will only owe the original loan amount at the end of the deferment period.

With a private student loan you have fewer options and unfortunately in most cases you have to become permanently disabled to have that debt forgiven. “It’s worth researching location-specific student loan assistance programs near you or applying for jobs with employers who offer student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit. says Tayne.

Sometimes borrowers can benefit from refinancing, but borrowers who are experiencing financial difficulties are unlikely to qualify for private refinancing, says Mark Kantrowitz, author of Who graduated from college? Who doesn’t?. “If they qualify, the benefit may be limited, as interest rates are based on the borrower’s and co-signer’s credit scores. A borrower who is in financial difficulty may not qualify for a lower interest rate due to a lower credit score and a lower fixed interest rate, which often requires a shorter repayment term, which increases the monthly loan payment,” says Kantrowitz.

Consulting a lawyer who specializes in debt law or student loans can also be helpful. This way you can share more details about your situation and they can provide you with more personalized and tailored advice. Normally, student loan debt incurred during marriage is attributed to the party who benefited from it. “The idea is that a college degree or higher increases a person’s earning capacity and therefore they can repay the loans. But here, because the education was never finished, no one took advantage of it. So you would have a decent argument for splitting the debt between the parties,” says Glass.

Also, you are more likely to make more money with a college degree. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities reveals that over the past decade, the median annual income of workers aged 22 to 27 with a high school diploma was $30,000 while those had a bachelor’s degree earned $44,000. In addition, the poverty rate was 3.5 times lower for those with a bachelor’s degree than for those with only a high school diploma.

Questions edited for brevity and clarity.

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