How to Prove Undue Hardship for Student Loans

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how to prove undue hardship for student loans

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Over 11 percent of Americans with student loans have defaulted on their debt. For many, their loans are so out of control that they’re out of options. If you’re in this situation, you might face wage garnishment, calls from collection agencies, and ruined credit.

One of the few ways to eliminate your student loans is through bankruptcy, but it is notoriously difficult. It can be a lengthy legal process, and you’ll have to prove that you’re facing undue hardship to succeed.

If this is a path you’re considering, here’s how to prove undue hardship for student loans.

What is undue hardship?

To qualify for student loan discharge via bankruptcy, you’ll have to prove you face undue hardship. The interpretation of “undue hardship” can vary from person to person, so a bankruptcy court might evaluate your case with the Brunner Test. Not all courts use it, but preparing for the Brunner Test will ensure you’re ready for court.

In the Brunner Test, the courts look at several different factors to determine undue hardship, including:

  • Would you be able to maintain a minimal standard of living if you had to repay the loan?
  • Are the financial difficulties you face temporary, or are they expected to continue for several years?
  • Have you made efforts to keep up with your payments before filing for bankruptcy?

The court will also consider whether you’re seeking a discharge in good faith. That means they will determine if you have tried to repay your loans and failed, or if you’re intentionally creating hardship for yourself through poor decisions.

Getting the courts to agree to eliminate your student loan debt is rare. In most cases, the court will direct you to repay your loans with the help of other federal programs, such as an income-driven repayment plan or deferment.

However, eliminating your loans is not impossible. If you’re over the age of 50, disabled, or facing significant financial difficulties, you might be more likely to qualify.

How to declare undue hardship

Filing for bankruptcy to get a lender to forgive your loans can be a complicated process. While you can file for bankruptcy on your own, you might want to consider hiring a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy. A trained law professional can help you navigate the process and prevent any misunderstandings in court.

To be eligible, you must file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Most states require you to complete a credit counseling course and obtain a certificate before you can file.

You can only qualify for student loan discharge if you file a separate action known as an adversary proceeding. Completing this process submits your request to the bankruptcy court and shows that repaying your loans would cause you and your family to endure undue hardship.

However, just submitting the action does not guarantee that the court will rule in your favor. Your creditors, including your loan servicers, can challenge your claim. That’s why it’s so important to be well-prepared ahead of your hearing.

How to prove undue hardship for student loans

The burden of proof is on you as a debtor to prove undue hardship. To succeed in convincing the court to discharge your loans, you will need to provide meticulous records.

Collect documentation to show that you would be unable to maintain a minimal standard of living. That could mean a spreadsheet showing all of your current expenses, such as rent, groceries, medication, and utilities, with copies of your credit card statements or receipts to support each line item.

Also list all of your debt and monthly payments, with screenshots of your balance and monthly statements. A detailed report of all of your expenses and payments can help your case.

If there are extenuating circumstances, such as a medical emergency, that caused you to be unable to keep up with your payments, collect documentation on that, too. For example, if you or a dependent had a serious illness like cancer, you might have had extensive medical bills or treatments that forced you to leave your job.

In that case, collect a letter from your doctors, a letter from your employer with your resignation or termination date, and copies of your medical bills. If your condition is not expected to improve, a statement from a medical professional saying you’ll be unable to work in the future can be helpful.

Finally, one of the most essential things necessary for your case is documentation that you stayed in close conversation with your lender. That’s pivotal to demonstrate you made a good faith effort to repay your loans, a key factor the court considers.

Bring copies of your monthly loan statements and screenshots or records of any payments you made. If you communicated with your loan servicer via email, print a copy of every communication. For phone conversations, keep a running list of every call, including the name of the representative you spoke to, date, and time.

Potential outcomes after proving undue hardship

If a court approves your request for undue hardship, there are three different possible outcomes:

  1. Your loans might be fully discharged, and you will no longer be responsible for the debt.
  2. Only a portion of your loans might be eliminated, and you’ll have to pay back the rest.
  3. You are responsible for the full amount, but they will lower your interest rate.

The court will provide you with information on how to proceed and what the new terms will be.

However, the court might not approve your request and could eliminate all of your debt except for your student loans in bankruptcy. In that case, you’re responsible for your entire loan balance. If that happens, you can contact your loan servicer to discuss an alternative payment plan or temporary forbearance to help you get back on your feet.

Downsides of bankruptcy

While you might be able to get your loans discharged if you can prove undue hardship, filing for bankruptcy is a major decision with long-lasting consequences.

Ironically, filing for bankruptcy is expensive. Research found that the average cost to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection is over $1,500, reported CNN. Just submitting the paperwork can cost hundreds, and hiring a lawyer can add to the cost substantially.

Beyond the cost, there are substantial drawbacks to bankruptcy. One of the biggest is the impact it has on your credit score. Bankruptcy remains on your credit report for seven to 10 years; depending on the type of bankruptcy you file for, you could lose your property or assets.

If you need a line of credit after having your debt discharged, you might have trouble finding a company to approve you. Or, if you do find a lender, your interest rates will be sky high. Your poor credit can impact you in other ways, too. It can hurt your chances of a landlord approving you to lease an apartment or even affect your job search.

What to do instead of declaring undue hardship

Although eliminating your loans through bankruptcy is possible as long as you can prove undue hardship, you should only consider it if your finances are in desperate need of a reset.

If you’re in default and are so overwhelmed you’re considering bankruptcy, consider rehabilitating your loans first to potentially get a lower monthly payment and your loans into good standing.

Although knowing how to prove undue hardship for student loans is important, filing for bankruptcy is a major financial decision. Make sure you are prepared for it and have exhausted all other options.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.