Dear Bankruptcy Adviser,
I co-signed on my ex-husband’s student loans. He was ordered in our divorce to refinance them in his name, but didn’t. He filed for bankruptcy. My credit is being ruined. I have two weeks before it is charged off. Should I begin making his payments?
— Mary

Dear Mary,
This is a very common issue, one that I personally have dealt with, and there is no simple solution. After my divorce, I contacted the student loan company and asked if I could remove my ex-wife from the loan. The lender said no and added, “We no longer allow spouses to consolidate loans anymore because too many are getting divorced.” That was a rude awakening.

I will have to be blunt because this issue comes up all the time. When you co-signed for your husband’s loans, the creditor did not look into the stability of your marriage and did not have anything to do with your divorce. The creditor had nothing to do but determine that you and your husband qualified to consolidate your loans.

The family law judge does not have the power to compel a lender to lend your ex-husband money. While the divorce decree is binding on your husband, it does not provide the mechanism by which to comply with the decree. Unless the family law courts become a lender and start refinancing divorcees’ loans, there is truly nothing your husband can do to comply with this order.

Whether he is in contempt or not, lenders are not likely to absolve you of your liability simply because your marriage failed and the judge ordered your ex-husband to refinance the loans in his name only.

At this point, you need to do what is best to protect your credit and your future. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, with a few exceptions. And collection agencies love to purchase this type of debt because it can be collectible forever. You face lawsuits, bank levies and wage garnishment if you fail to pay on these loans.

You need to negotiate with the lender or collection agency to make a payment plan possible. Even though your ex-husband filed for bankruptcy, he is not off the hook, either. You may have a way to compel him to contribute to the monthly payment.

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