Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Los Angeles Bankruptcy Lawyers / Blog / Bankruptcy / Can You File for Bankruptcy on Student Loans?

Can You File for Bankruptcy on Student Loans?


Student loan debt is a significant burden for many Americans, and the question of whether it can be discharged in bankruptcy is a common concern. While bankruptcy can provide relief from various types of debt, student loans are notoriously difficult to discharge. However, it is not impossible.

The general rule is that student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, there is an exception: if the debtor can prove that repaying the loans would cause “undue hardship,” they may be able to have their student loan debt discharged. The term “undue hardship” is not clearly defined in the Bankruptcy Code, which means that courts have developed their own standards to evaluate these claims.

The Undue Hardship Test

The most widely used standard for determining undue hardship is the Brunner test, named after the case of Brunner v. New York State Higher Education Services Corp. This test requires the debtor to prove three elements:

  1. Minimal Standard of Living: The debtor cannot maintain a minimal standard of living for themselves and their dependents if forced to repay the loans.
  1. Persistence of Financial Situation: The debtor’s financial situation is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period.
  1. Good Faith Effort: The debtor has made a good faith effort to repay the loans.

Each of these elements must be met for the court to consider discharging student loan debt.

The Bankruptcy Process for Student Loans

To seek a discharge of student loans in bankruptcy, the debtor must file an adversary proceeding, which is a lawsuit within the bankruptcy case. This process involves several steps:

  1. Filing the Adversary Proceeding: The debtor files a complaint outlining their financial situation and the reasons they believe repaying the loans would cause undue hardship.
  1. Discovery and Evidence: Both parties gather evidence to support their case. This may include financial documents, testimony, and expert reports.
  1. Court Hearing: A judge reviews the evidence and hears arguments from both sides before making a decision based on the undue hardship standard.

This process can be complex and requires substantial evidence to support the claim of undue hardship.

Challenges in Discharging Student Loans

Discharging student loans in bankruptcy is challenging for several reasons:

  1. Strict Standards: The Brunner test sets a high bar for proving undue hardship, and courts are often reluctant to discharge student loan debt.
  1. Burden of Proof: The debtor bears the burden of proving that repaying the loans would cause undue hardship, which requires thorough documentation and compelling evidence.
  1. Legal Complexity: The process involves legal complexities that can be difficult to navigate without professional assistance.

Alternatives to Bankruptcy for Managing Student Loans

Given the challenges of discharging student loans in bankruptcy, it is important to consider alternative options for managing student loan debt:

  1. Income-Driven Repayment Plans: These plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income and family size, making them more affordable.
  1. Loan Forgiveness Programs: Certain programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), offer loan forgiveness after a specified period of qualifying payments and employment.
  1. Loan Consolidation: Combining multiple federal student loans into a single loan can simplify repayment and may provide access to additional repayment options.
  1. Deferment or Forbearance: Temporarily pausing or reducing your loan payments can provide short-term relief during periods of financial hardship.

Contact Wadhwani & Shanfeld

At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, our experienced bankruptcy attorneys are dedicated to helping clients find relief from overwhelming debt. If you are considering bankruptcy and want to explore your options for managing student loan debt, contact us today for a consultation. Our team is here to provide the guidance and support you need to achieve a more secure financial future.

Understanding the intricacies of bankruptcy and student loans is crucial for making informed decisions about your financial future. While discharging student loans in bankruptcy is challenging, it is not impossible, and exploring all available options with professional assistance can help you find the best path forward.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn