Q&A with Dr. John Townsend: How to Deal with Adult Child Who Refuses to Pay Back a Loan

Dr. John Townsend

Question: What kinds of consequences are appropriate for a 39-year-old daughter who refuses to take responsibility for paying a college loan that her father and I co-signed in good faith?

Answer: First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I know that it can feel uncomfortable to be at odds with your adult child.

In this situation, your first decision is to approach your daughter in a vulnerable way and describe how her behavior is impacting you. You could say something like, "We love you, but we are struggling and feel a bit helpless because you aren't paying us back. And, this problem is impacting our own financial well-being. We need for you to commit to a payment plan."

If your vulnerability is not met by love and ownership from your daughter, then the second stage may be that you have set some limits, such as saying, "We are not going to be able to spend time with you as we used to. That's because your behavior leads us to not trust you, until you begin paying back on the loan."

If your daughter is unresponsive, the third stage is to either let the issue go and forgive her, but never risk finances with her again. Or, you could seek legal counsel for what your options are to get her to pay you back.

If you find it difficult to approach your daughter and have a productive conversation, I recommend reading these two resources:


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