In 1995 I graduated from college with a bachelors of science. I was married and had a 2 year old. We rented an apartment and home ownership was not in our lexicon. I got divorced in 2001; somewhere in the time between graduation and divorce we ran into financial issues and filed for bankruptcy. Our student loans couldn’t be part of the bankruptcy (I had no reason why). We were making payments on our student loans, but fell behind. We were dangerously close to default and the contact for the loan said that I could consolidate the loans (I can’t even tell you who we had the loan through, what type of loan, how much it was, when it was, etc. EVERYTHING that I know, learned, did I found out on my own, often by accident) so we had one payment. Sounded like a good plan - one payment vs multiple.
I completed the paperwork and showed the husband where to sign. I wasn’t aware what I was setting up for the next 20+ years of my life by being the one to complete the paperwork and sign first. I’m the one the email, call, and treat as the only person on the account. They do not include him in anything other than saying he also owes money.
During the divorce, I had to make it part of the divorce decree that he’d pay half of the loans and complete paperwork in a timely basis. After we divorced, my ex was extremely reluctant to make payments on our loans and as a single mother, I didn’t have extra money to make the full payments on my own so I applied for forbearance repeatedly. At some point, I was on the phone with the servicer (Ed Financial) and was told about IBR and ICR and how it would lower our payments. Around that time, I found out that there was a limit to how many months of forbearance we were allowed and that we had hit the limit, meaning we couldn’t postpone payments anymore.
My ex continued to be difficult with payments, filling out/submitting paperwork. Every November I’d have a call where I’d be crying and desperate because the payment was going to be more than I/we could pay. I was told by one of the customer service staff at Ed Financial about a program that was for public service employees. I applied and was told that my loans would now be serviced by FedLoan Servicing (2013). As soon as Fedloan took over the loans the record of my payments made was cleared off of the Ed Financial/Fed gov website.
During my time with Fedloan I reached out to Senator Dick Durbin for help with getting the loans split into two accounts so that we could each pay our half and I could be free from my ex-husband's irresponsibility with money. FedLoan would not separate them and suggested we both get loans to pay off our half and pay them back on our own. Mr. Durbin was unable to help me. My ex could never get a loan for $35,000 and I couldn’t do the total amount. I learned then that our loan was not going to be separated and that my divorce decree wasn’t going to protect me as I thought it would. My ex left education after our divorce and didn’t work in public service for quite a few years - I have been a teacher in Title 1 schools since 1995.
I have always tried to do the right thing by the loans we have taken out; I’ve made multiple calls for information (which changes when I call back) about what I can do to lower payments, to get credit for payments made prior to Fedloan, how PSLF works (only had 1 person in all of the years who knew how PSLF works in a spousal consolidation), or whether our recertification was just on my income or also his (told both were correct, which they were not). Everytime I thought I had finally found a way to make this work (do-able payments, some way to not have to involve my ex, etc) it would not work and I’d be back at square one.
My ex is finally making payments on time and has learned how to complete forms and turn them in. However, the $51k is still owed (we’ve paid 50k in interest) and I am tied to that whether he helps me pay or not.
My loan is different from most in this group as it’s a Direct loan, not FFEL. I have been told that they will forgive MY portion of our loans and then he will have to make payments. If he chooses to not make payments, I am responsible for them. He can submit paperwork that shows he worked in public service, but is missing about 5 years out of the time we’ve made payments. I don’t know that they will adjust the remaining balance (his portion) for the 5 years he didn’t work in education. We’ve hit the 120 payments (both of us) but I just found out that they won’t do his half for forgiveness because of the 5 years. Even after I’ve been in public service since 1995.
I’ve stayed in teaching because of PSLF. I learned a couple of years ago that I would have to work later than I had planned because now PSLF required current public service employment at forgiveness. They turned down people who had followed all of the rules/requirements, applied for forgiveness then retired. If we can’t get the loans separated then I can’t retire.
Some of this is my fault; I have not kept very good records and I wasn’t aware of what I was signing and committing to. That’s on me. Some on my ex. Some on the servicers who clearly don’t have consistent training and/or employees that are doing their job correctly. It’s just a nightmare. I hope I can wake up at the end of this and retire.