We have all heard the same, quintessential horror story that has been regurgitated all over the media in recent months: a poor, unsuspecting former student gets the surprise of his or her life when he or she is suddenly arrested and tossed into jail for not paying his or her student loans accumulated decades ago. 1stThe media does a great job of fear mongering and painting a picture that just about anyone who misses a student loan payment will be subject to arrest. Rest assured, however, that although delinquent student loan debtors can be arrested for failing to pay their student loans, such arrests generally only occur after serious missteps, violations of court orders, and/or failures to seek legal counsel.
Take the recent case of the Texas debtor who was arrested for failing to pay his student loan from a staggering near 30 years ago. 2 At first blush, it appears to be a huge social injustice, but upon closer analysis, the writing may, unfortunately, have been on the wall. The debtor was sued in November 2006 for the nonpayment of more than $2,600 in unpaid federal student loan debt. 3 Despite the debtor’s obligation to show up in court, he elected not to do so and the presiding judge ultimately ordered him to pay the full balance on April 17, 2007. 4 The debtor was contacted on several occasions after the fact, yet continued to flagrantly refuse to pay the judgment and/or show up in court, thereby committing a criminal offense. 5 In response, the presiding judge issued a warrant for the debtor’s arrest. 6 As a result, the debtor was arrested for violating a court order – not for failing to pay his student loans. 7 Although it took many years to effectively execute the arrest warrant, which can happen, it should, therefore, have come as no surprise to the debtor that he would eventually be arrested. However, this “catch me if you can” scenario is entirely avoidable if you heed the following advice:
First of all, communication is key. It is imperative that you communicate with your lenders. For instance, if you relocate to another address, you should notify your lenders as soon as possible to avoid any miscommunications. Just because you don’t hear from a lender, does not mean that the lender – or your loan for that matter – does not exist. Ignorance is most assuredly not bliss in these situations.
Second, take legal threats seriously. Although some threats can be mere smoke and mirrors, you certainly don’t want to play a game of chicken with a lender or debt collector. It is not worth the stress or the possible negative consequences of doing so.
Third, never ignore a court order. If you receive a summons to go to court, you must go to court. There is really no way to get around it. If you do not show up, a default judgment may be levied against you and your wages may be subject to garnishment. Refusing to go to court may even result in a judicial finding of contempt and an arrest warrant may be issued on your behalf.
Fourth, try not to panic. There are more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans across the country, so, if at all possible, take comfort in the fact that there are other fish to fry out there and your student loan is probably not top priority.8
Last, but not least, contact McCarthy Law PLC at (855) 976-5777 right away if you are plagued with private student loan debt and need relief in making your payments. We offer free consultations to determine how to best assist you. Don’t place yourself in a predicament like the Texas debtor – call today!
1 See, e.g., Katie Lobosco, Man arrested by U.S. Marshals for unpaid student loan, CNN Money (Feb. 17, 2016, 4:31 PM), available at https://money.cnn.com/2016/02/16/pf/college/arrested-student-loan-marshals/index.html (last visited Feb. 26, 2016); see also, e.g., Phillipa Webb, Loan lands teacher in jail, Cook Island News (Jan. 22, 2016), available at https://www.cookislandsnews.com/national/crime/item/56164-loan-lands-teacher-in-jail/56164-loan-lands-teacher-in-jail (last visited Feb. 26, 2016).
2 Man arrested by U.S. Marshals for unpaid student loan, supra note 1.
3 See Mandi Woodruff, U.S. Marshals didn’t really arrest a man for missed student loan payments, Yahoo! Finance (Feb. 16, 2016, 4:20 PM), available at https://finance.yahoo.com/news/paul-aker-us-marshal-student-loan-debt-arrest-212047386.html (last visited Feb. 26, 2016).
7 Id. (emphasis added).
8 Man arrested by U.S. Marshals for unpaid student loan, supra note 1.
Kevin Fallon McCarthy
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