If you’re like a lot of Americans who went to college in their early twenties, then you probably also accrued a large amount of student loan debt as well. At the time it was fine. You were hopeful that you could get a good job and have it paid off in a relatively short amount of time.

But then life happened. Perhaps you got married, then you had a child, your car needed to be replaced and you bought a house. Now your college debt is catching up to you, along with all of your other debts. You may find yourself in need of relief, perhaps even considering Chapter 7 bankruptcy as a way to wipe the slate clean and start over fresh.

But this predicament raises an important question: can Chapter 7 bankruptcy expunge student loan debt? If you’re like many people here in Lisle, as well as across the nation, you may believe that simply putting your student debt on a bankruptcy schedule is enough — that the debt will be expunged like much of your other debt. But if you believe this, you will be shocked to learn that this isn’t necessarily how it works.

Let’s take a look.

Most people are surprised to learn that student loan debt works differently than medical debt or a mortgage when it comes to debt relief because it is exempt from bankruptcy discharge. This change to the law came after several amendments to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code back in 1978 — changes that continued through 2011, according to FinAid.

It’s worth noting, however, that student loan debt can be discharged only after meeting strict criteria.

In order to expunge student loan debt, a person must be able to show the courts that paying back the loan would put undue hardship on them financially. A person must also demonstrate that they have been putting good-faith efforts into making payments but are simply too poor or that their other debt is too persistent for them to meet their repayment obligations for the loan.

As many bankruptcy experts will agree, getting student loan debt discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy is rare and quite difficult to do without the help of a skilled lawyer. Getting legal counsel on this issue will help you determine if you still want to try though or if there is better way of getting the debt relief you require.

Source: Fox Business, “Does Dad’s Bankruptcy Erase Student Loan Debt?” Justin Harelik, Bankrate.com, April 30, 2014