Can Husband's paycheck be garnished for my student loan debt?

by Candice
(Taylor, MI)

I have roughly $5,000 in debt for a small student loan that is almost 3 years old. I received a phone call yesterday from an attorney, saying that they would want me to pay or they would be taking our tax refund. I don't know if they can take both state and federal refunds? If we don't get a big enough refund this coming tax season, would they be able to garnish my husband's paycheck for MY student loan debt. He didn't sign anything for them, only me.

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Dec 29, 2011
Can Husband's paycheck be garnished for my student loan debt?

If your husband did not sign any of the loan paperwork then he is not legally obligated to pay your student loan debt. Therefore, his paychecks cannot be garnished. However, if you are working, your wages could be garnished.

Resolving problems with past due student loans is difficult, because you really don't have a lot of options if you cannot pay what you owe assuming your loan is federally guaranteed. If it is, you are going to end up having to pay it back one way or another and you cannot get rid of it by filing for bankruptcy.

When you are unable to pay your student loan, you should do the following right away:

* Contact your lender to let it know that you cannot pay what you owe. Explain why and ask for a deferral. -- a delay in repaying your loan. However, you must apply for a deferral no later than 8 months after missing your first loan payment. Once you've not paid the loan for 270 days, you will be considered to have defaulted on the loan and at that point a deferral will no longer be an option.

* If your request for a deferral is denied, apply for forbearance. During the forbearance period, you will have to pay interest on your loan.

Based on the information you shared with me in your question, it appears that it is too late for either a loan deferral or forbearance. Therefore, your only option is to contact the attorney who called you to find out if you can set up an affordable payment plan to repay your debt. If the attorney is unwilling to accept a payment plan or if you cannot afford to pay as much each month as the attorney requires, it's likely that he will complete the required paperwork to begin garnishing your wages. If you are not working right now, your wages will be garnished once you begin working. Alternatively, your federal tax refunds may be taken to repay what you owe. (Depending on your state, your state tax refunds may also be taken. I do not know if your state is one of those states, so you should contact your state's tax agency to find out.)

If the refund you receive next year is not enough to repay the full amount of your loan balance (which will have increased due to interest and penalties), then your refund will be taken the next year, and so on. This will go on until your student loan debt is fully repaid. Meanwhile, your unpaid student loan will be reported to the credit reporting agencies, which will badly damage your credit history and FICO score.

I am sorry I do not have any easy solutions for you. Like millions of other students with past due loans, you are saddled with debt that you cannot get rid of.

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