b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_292965230-min.jpgPeople who have experienced financial difficulties that have caused them to be unable to pay their debts may be concerned about the steps that creditors may take to collect what is owed. Creditors or collection agencies may contact a debtor and ask them to make payments, and some creditors may act in a harassing manner, including making threats or contacting a person’s employer. In some cases, a creditor may initiate a lawsuit attempting to collect what is owed, or they may repossess property or begin foreclosure proceedings on a debtor’s home. For debtors who are considering bankruptcy, it is important to understand the protections they can receive, including the automatic stay that will go into effect during the bankruptcy process.

What Is the Automatic Stay?

In legal terms, a “stay” is an order by a court that requires parties to temporarily stop certain actions. When a debtor files a bankruptcy petition, an automatic stay will be put in place while the case is ongoing. This stay will require creditors to cease all collection actions, including:

  • Creditor harassment - Creditors will be prohibited from contacting a debtor and asking them to pay what is owed. They cannot call a person at home or at work, send them notices in the mail, or use any other methods to attempt to recover debts.

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find a bankruptcy attorneyMaking ongoing payments to pay off debts is a reality for most Americans. For those who struggle to make these payments or are unable to do so while covering their own living expenses, consumer bankruptcy can provide some relief and allow them to receive a fresh start. While many types of debts can be discharged through bankruptcy, there are rules about how these debts are addressed, and the elimination of certain types of debts may not be possible. Student loans, which are an issue for millions of Americans, are notoriously difficult to discharge. Those who are concerned about their ability to repay these loans will want to understand how they are handled during bankruptcy and how the laws may soon be changing.

The “Undue Hardship” Rule for Discharging Student Loans

Nearly all student loans are either provided through federal programs or are backed by the federal government. These loans generally cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy in most cases. To discharge student loans, a person must prove that repaying the loans would lead to “undue hardship.” This is a difficult standard to meet, especially since bankruptcy courts do not always agree on the definition of undue hardship. Typically, to prove undue hardship, a person will need to provide evidence showing that:

  • They have made efforts to pay off a student loan in the past.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_debt-discharge-bankruptcy-lawyer.jpgA family may experience multiple different types of financial difficulties that affect their ability to pay their debts while also covering their regular expenses. For those who are struggling with overwhelming debts, bankruptcy can offer relief by eliminating debts and allowing a family to regain control of their finances. The elimination of debts during bankruptcy is known as a “discharge.” However, it is important to understand how different types of debts are addressed during the bankruptcy process, including which types of debts can or cannot be discharged.

Bankruptcy and Non-Dischargeable Debts

During bankruptcy, debts may be handled differently depending on whether they are secured or unsecured. Most types of unsecured debts, such as credit card balances, can be discharged once bankruptcy is complete, and a debtor will no longer be required to pay these amounts to creditors. Secured debts which are backed by collateral may also be discharged, but when this happens, a creditor will usually repossess the property. For example, if a person chooses to use bankruptcy to discharge the amount owed on an auto loan, the lender will most likely repossess the vehicle. 

There are certain types of debts that typically cannot be discharged during bankruptcy, including:

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