Student Loan Dischargability in Bankruptcy

 

Clients frequently inquire as to whether their private and government backed student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy. Sadly for them, it is almost impossible to discharge federal student loans in bankruptcy given certain changes in the way they are structured today.  

The so called Brunner Test (named after the seminal case on the topic), which contains the standards used in bankruptcy courts to determine whether a student loan can be discharged, specifies that in order for discharge to occur, all of the following must be true:

  1. based on current income and expenses, the debtor cannot maintain a “minimal” standard of living for herself or her dependents if forced to repay the loans;
  2. additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period for the student loans; and,
  3. the debtor has heretofore made a good faith effort to repay the loans.

Yes, you can try to prove undue hardship, under these tests, but it is now, for all practical purposes, almost impossible to do and this is why. First, under the various special repayment schemes: income based repayment, pay as you go, income sensitive repayment; you can have a zero dollar ($0) monthly payment assuming your income is low enough.  At the end of the term of these programs (20 to 25 years), any remaining student loan balance will be forgiven. So how can anyone successfully argue that a zero (or very low) monthly payment with the prospect of loan forgiveness creates an undue hardship? Secondly, now that the Dept. of Education has a workable administrative process for a disability discharge, if you are declared 100% disabled by the social security admin, you can discharge your federal student loan.  Thus, people who once would have been able to show Brunner hardships because of disability no longer need to do so.  those people don’t need bankruptcy for their student loans.

So, if you have both significant private student loans and federal loans and are a good candidate for a bankruptcy hardship discharge, you include both classes of debts in the case.   (Note:  The bankruptcy must be filed (either a 7 or 13) then an adversary proceeding (2nd lawsuit) against the student loan lenders must be filed.) Assuming you can win on undue hardship, the court is likely to only discharge the private student loans because these do not have the programs discussed above attached to them.

If you are not already on one, you need to get on a specialized repayment program.  I suggest that you visit the following site to find out more information.

            https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-driven

Also, it is recommended that you discuss this issue with a seasoned bankruptcy lawyer.  I am Christopher C. Carr, Esq., a Chester County Bankruptcy Lawyer who can assist you with these and all other matters relating to bankruptcy and debt relief.. Call me at 610-380-7969 today!

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341 Meeting Readiness

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By Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com WHAT IS THE 341 MEETING OF CREDITORS? Regardless of whether you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be required to attend a “Meeting of Creditors” or a 341 hearing as attorneys call it. THIS IS A MISNOMER….IT IS NOT REALLY A HEARING! It has that name because it is held under oath (see below.) It is scheduled about 30‐45 days after your case is filed. Though it is called a “Meeting of Creditors,” creditors rarely attend. But the Trustee is there and HE represents the creditors! You, your attorney, and the trustee attend this meeting. It can seem quite intimidating if you do not know what to expect, but the 341 hearing is actually a fairly informal meeting designed to help the Trustee better understand what’s happening in your bankruptcy. A NOTE ON TIMING OF TRUSTEE PAYMENTS FOR CHAPTER 13 CLIENTS: Remember that your first payment to the Trustee is due THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER YOUR PETITION IS FILED, irrespective of when the 341 is held.  WHAT TO EXPECT:  There will be a pile of Bankruptcy Information Sheets at the front of the room. Take one and read it.  You will be asked if you did (see below.) You will sit at a desk or table with your bankruptcy lawyer and the Trustee. Other people will be in the room with you, generally other bankruptcy filers and their lawyers. You will be asked first off to state your name and address and verify your identity by providing your social security card and drivers license. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR ORIGINAL SOCIAL SECURITY CARD AND SECOND FORM OF ID, THE MEETING WILL NOT BE HELD AND EVERYONE’S TIME WILL HAVE BEEN WASTED SO DON”T LEAVE IT AT HOME OR EXPECT A COPY TO DO. BRING THAT TATTERED ORIGINAL AND IF YOU DON”T HAVE ONE ORDER IT FROM THE SS OFFICE. The meeting will be recorded. The Trustee will start a tape recorder going. You will be sworn in; i.e. raise right hand solemnly swear and affirm to tell the truth. Dress is business casual for you. Be well groomed. I will be in my “lawyer suit” as will the Trustee, but you are not expected to wear one.  Be on time.  It may appear that I am running late but that is because I have a better idea of when the 341 will start than you do! Try to relax! WHAT CAN THE TRUSTEE ASK AT THE 341 MEETING? The trustee will ask you some basic questions about your bankruptcy.  Here are some of the common questions that trustees ask during the meeting. They are in no particular order. These are not all of the questions that the Trustee could ask, and he/she will not ask every question on this list. In other words, this is a very generic list. The items that are almost always asked are highlighted.

  • Did you sign the petition and the schedules your attorney is showing you?
  • Have you read the bankruptcy information sheet?
  • Did you review the bankruptcy petition and each of the schedules and the statement of financial affairs (SOFA). Is the information correct? The answer is always an assured “YES” because you will have typically signed the documents in my office and we will have gone over all of them in detail at that time.
  • Are there any corrections that need to be made to the Schedules?  There should be none.  See my piece on the importance of full disclosure within the Bankruptcy  Petition.
  • Did you list all income, assets, and debts on the Schedules? The answer is always an assured “YES” because you will have typically signed the documents in my office and we will have gone over all of them in detail at that time.
  • Have you filed all your taxes? Are the tax returns you supplied to the trustee true, correct and complete, including all schedules and W2s? (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Are you entitled to any tax refunds?  This one is VERY popular around tax time. You and your Attorney should have discussed this one and its ramifications before the 341.
  • Have you previously filed bankruptcy? If so when?
  • Why are you filing bankruptcy?  You can be a bit creative here but see below.
  • Do you expect to receive an inheritance or property?
  • Are you a party to any law suits?
  • Do you have any domestic support obligations?
  • Have you have sold, transferred, or given away any property in the prior four years?
  • How long have you lived in Pennsylvania?
  • What do you plan to do with your house, cars, or other personal property?
  • Are you employed? What do you do?
  • How much do you earn?
  • Is your employment the same as when you filed?
  • Do you own your own home?
  • Do you own any motor vehicles? What are these?
  • Please provide appraisals for your cars and home. (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Please provide insurance declaration pages for your home if owned and cars. (Typically we will have filed these beforehand.)
  • Do you have any retirement funds (IRA, Roth IRA, 401K etc.)?
  • Does anyone owe you money?
  • Is anyone holding money for you?

GENERAL TIPS AND CAVEATS: It is normal to be a bit nervous going into the 341 but just answer the questions put to you fully and honestly and be courteous to one and all! Do not over answer, the Trustee does not need to hear your life story. All of you financial information should be properly presented in the bankruptcy petition and there is no sense in trying to hide something from the Trustee. If you are uncooperative it may motivate the Trustee to investigate or scrutinize your petition further which will only mean more time and effort for you and your attorney. Always remember that the Trustee may act friendly but he is NOT your friend.  He represents the unsecured creditors and his job is to maximize their return from the bankruptcy (not your own). He gets paid a commission on assets he recovers from Debtors for them. I am on a first name basis with the Trustee but that does not mean we are friends! The time to report undisclosed assets, that big tax refund, debts to family or friends, that new job or the 1000 shares of Google.com or that partnership you forgot about is NOT at the 341. If you wear a big diamond ring to the 341 and didn’t disclose it, expect trouble! Other than that type of thing you have nothing to worry about! Should you have concerns about such matters you should be asking me about them NOW! See my piece on the importance of full disclosure within the Bankruptcy Petition.

 

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

Not Legal Advice. Copyright © 2010, 2014 by Christopher C. Carr, Esq., All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.

Web:westchesterbankruptcyattorney.orgBlog: christophercarrlaw.wordpress.com Member: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Phi Beta Kappa & Beta Gamma Sigma.*************************************** “WE SAVE HOMES”

This is a Federally Designated Debt Relief Agency which is proud to assist individuals in need in filing for bankruptcy protection.


[1] Up to ½ hour.

Prepared 2‐25‐2014.

The “A” in Bankruptcy Alphabet is for “Alimony”

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq., Chester County Bankruptcy Lawyer

One of the most disturbing changes in the Bankruptcy Code* enacted by Congress in 2005 for persons getting divorces and contracting marital debts is Section 523 (a)  which states in effect that an alimony, support or maintenance  obligation to an ex-spouse cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, but must be paid in full, with two limited exceptions:

  1. If a divorce decree specifies that an obligation to a spouse is alimony, but the obligation is not actually in the nature of alimony, then the obligation can be discharged in bankruptcy.

For example, Joe Dentist and Mary Dentist enter into a divorce decree which states that Joe Dentist is to pay a marital debt to The Joe Dentist and Mary Dentist Professional Corporation, where both practice dentistry, and further specifies that the husband’s payment of the debt shall be treated as alimony.  Joe Dentist may nonetheless be able to have this debt discharged in bankruptcy even though the divorce decree indicates that the payment of the debt is “alimony”, because such payments can be characterized as a capital contribution to the Professional Corporation and not as alimony.

2. Also, an ex-spouse may be able to discharge an alimony obligation if it has been assigned to a third party.

For example, suppose John and Mary Jones divorce. John Jones is ordered to pay Mary Jones alimony of $1,500.00 per month. John does not pay the alimony and Mary, who needs the money, assigns the right to collect alimony to her brother, Crusher Jones, who owns a profitable Junk Yard and feels the urge to pummel John. Crusher now gives Mary the $1,500.00 each and every month. Crusher now owns the right to collect the alimony from John. But John can escape the debt (if not the pummeling).  The alimony obligation can be discharged under Section 523 since it has been voluntarily assigned by Mary.

*The United States Bankruptcy Code (Title 11 of the United States Code) states in Section 523 that:

(a) A discharge under Section 727, 1141, 1228(a), 1228(b), or 1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt . . . (5) to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor, for alimony to, maintenance for, or support of such spouse or child, in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree or other order of a court of record, determination made in accordance with State or territorial law by a governmental unit, or property settlement agreement, but not to the extent that (A) such debt is assigned to another entity, voluntarily, by operation of law, or otherwise (other than debts assigned pursuant to § 402(a)(26) of the Social Security Act, or any such debt which has been assigned to the Federal Government or to a State or any political subdivision of such State); or

(B) such debt includes a liability designation as alimony, maintenance, or support, unless such liability is actually in the nature of alimony, maintenance or support . . . .

(enphasis added).

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

I also provide Mortgage Mod Services .

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law, 2011, All Rights Reserved

For other articles on the letter A in the bankruptcy alphabet series, click here.

Other attorneys playing their “Bankruptcy A Game” include:

A is for Contract Assumption

A is for Adversary Proceeding

A is for Assets

A is for Assets

A is for Assumption

A is for Assumptions

A is for Attorney

A is for Automatic Stay

A is for Automatic Stay

A is for Automobiles

A is for Avoidance of Preferential Transfers  

A is for Avoidance

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality Chester County Bankruptcy Practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Carr, who has over 30 years if diversified experience as an attorney, concentrates his practice on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!

I also provide Debt Settlement; IRS Tax Settlement & Mortgage Mod Services NATIONALLY.

Photo Credit: Too Far North