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What Debts Can’t be Discharged?

Bankruptcy is a powerful tool for debtors who want to get a fresh start on their lives or businesses. But it still does have limits. Not all debts are subject to discharge in bankruptcy and it is important for those considering the process to understand what debts may remain before moving forward.

The scope of discharge varies depending on the type of bankruptcy, with Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 having the broadest scope. Most student loans are notoriously exempt from discharge in bankruptcy except in cases of undue hardship which, as a practical matter, is nearly impossible to show. Secured debts such as property mortgages are also usually not subject to discharge, although in some cases all or part of a second mortgage may be treated as unsecured.

Alimony and child support payments are also exempt from discharge for public policy reasons. Similarly, court ordered assessments for willful, reckless or fraudulent conduct — such as fines, civil or criminal restitution for fraud or civil judgments for malicious injury or driving under the influence — are also exempt from discharge.

Additionally, in order to qualify for discharge, a debt must be included in the bankruptcy petition, allowing the creditor to receive notice and have an opportunity to object. Debts that are omitted are not dischargeable regardless of type. That is why it important to prepare thoroughly with the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney before filing for bankruptcy.

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