Federal student loan debt cripples many working adults as they struggle to keep their families afloat. You may have heard that it is impossible to discharge student loans when you file bankruptcy. However, there is a way to have your federal student loan debts discharged fully or partially, and the common belief that such proceedings rarely favor the debtor may be more urban myth than fact. 

If you cannot maintain a minimum standard of living while making your student loan payments, you may qualify to have the debt discharged for imposing an undue hardship. After you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your attorney will petition the court to make this ruling during a separate adversary proceeding. You will need to show support that the loan payments will continue to cause extraordinary financial hardship as well as evidence that you have made every effort to repay the debt. If the court decides in your favor, you could have your loans discharged in part or in full, or have it restructured and made more affordable. 

While the standards for finding undue hardship may be unnecessarily high, NPR reports that most people drowning in federal student debt do not even consider addressing the loans when they file bankruptcy. A law professor’s study shows that almost half of the student loan adversary proceedings reviewed culminated with the debtor receiving at least some help. Undue hardship is not very well defined, and much of the outcome will depend on your judicial district and the judge assigned to your case. Still, depending on your particular situation, it might be worth the attempt if the result could free you from debt.