Picking and Choosing Debts to Discharge

July 24, 2011

 There are many myths circulating regarding bankruptcy. One of the most popular myths is that a bankruptcy debtor can pick and choose which debts are included in the bankruptcy discharge. This myth is simply the result of a misunderstanding of the discharge process.

When you file bankruptcy you are required to honestly disclose all personal financial information to the best of your ability. That means listing all of your income, expenses, assets, and debts in your bankruptcy schedules. Intentionally failing to list a debt is a very serious matter and the bankruptcy court could deny your discharge if you are less than honest.

In many cases a bankruptcy debtor has a good reason for wanting to continue paying on a debt. The most common reason is to retain property used as security for a loan (e.g. a car or house loan). In bankruptcy, secured property must be paid for or returned. Fortunately, the bankruptcy code allows the debtor to continue paying the secured creditor and keep the property.

In other cases a debtor may want to continue to pay an unsecured creditor. This is normally the case when the discharge of a debt in bankruptcy will cause financial harm to a co-debtor. For instance, you may owe money to a family member that you want to repay. The bankruptcy discharges the legal obligation to pay the debt, and enjoins the creditor from seeking collection. However, while the bankruptcy prevents your family member from asking for payment, it does not prevent you from making voluntarily payments after the bankruptcy.

The same voluntary payment principle applies to medical bills, credit cards, and any other financial obligation. Voluntary payments do not alter the bankruptcy court’s discharge injunction. A discharged creditor is forever prohibited from taking any action to collect on the discharged debt, including asking for payment, sending a bill or statement, or filing a lawsuit against you.

If you need a bankruptcy attorney in Texas, but also want to continue to pay certain debts, discuss your situation with an experienced Texas bankruptcy lawyer. Your attorney can explain your obligations under the federal bankruptcy code, and can help you decide which debts you should pay.

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