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Can I Go to Jail for Not Paying My Student Loans?

$100 dollar bills rolled with a graduation cap set on top

n a recent news article, a former student reported the drama of being arrested outside her home for failing to pay on her student loan debt – a debt she accumulated years ago. In response, students and former students alike began having panic attacks on their social media accounts, terrified that at any minute they will be arrested because they have fallen behind on student loan payments.

Though it is possible to be arrested for outstanding student loan debt, it is extremely rare and uncommon. Typically, arrests only happen after a debtor commits serious mistakes and/or violates court orders related to the debt.

For example, the woman above was arrested for a student loan distributed to her over thirty (30) years ago. However, in 2006, she was sued on the loan for having missed payments totaling over $2,600. Rather than hiring an attorney or responding to the lawsuit, the woman chose to do nothing. As a result, the judge entered a final judgment against the woman in 2007 for the entire balance of the student loan. Thereafter, the woman ignored numerous attempts by the bank to negotiate a payment plan of the Judgment. She even ignored court orders and failed to attend required court hearings surrounding her nonpayment of the debt.

Unamused by the woman’s flagrant disrespect for the court and avoidance of her obligations, the judge issued a bench warrant for the woman’s arrest. But the offense was not for failing to pay her debt. Rather, the woman was arrested for (repeatedly) violating a court order requiring her to attend court. Due to the contempt power, a judge in almost every case has the authority to issue an arrest warrant for those who fail to appear for court when ordered by a judge.

Although arrests for student loan debt is rare, this case illustrates some important points. First, you should always communicate with your student loan lenders, particularly if you are experiencing financial hardship. Though lenders are not exactly known for being merciful, there may be forbearance or forgiveness options that you can take advantage of while you get back on your feet. At the very least, your lender will be more inclined to work with you if you keep them updated than if you simply ignore their calls and do not pay.

Second, you should never simply do nothing. The judgment would have never been entered against the woman, above, had she hired an attorney and responded to the lawsuit. She certainly would have never been arrested if she had abided by the court orders and attended court. While no one wants to be in court it sure beats jail! For this reason, you should always respond to legal documents if you are required to do so, particularly orders of the court.

$100 dollar bills rolled with a graduation cap set on top

Finally, hire an attorney if you are facing or have been threatened with legal action by creditors or debt collectors. Even if you believe you owe the debt, your attorney may be able to negotiate more favorable options on your behalf or have your case dismissed altogether. At Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing clients against collection claims and all other types of debtor defense cases, and we are here to help you!

Call us today for a free consultation at (844) 431-3851, or email us at

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