A discharge is a court order that forgives a debtor of certain specific debts. The discharge order prohibits a creditor from attempting to collect from a debtor a debt that has been discharged. However, not all debts are dischargeable. Parties can file written requests (adversary complaints) to have the court determine if a debt is dischargeable.
A) Creditor, Trustee, or U.S. Trustee Asks the Court to Determine if There is a Discharge
1) Some unsecured debts are not dischargeable because Congress has determined they are types of debts that should not be discharged because of public policy reasons. These debts are listed in Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code and usually require that a debtor prove the debt should not be discharged. Examples are:
- spousal and child support obligations;
- certain tax debts;
- most educational loans;
- debts related to injuries or death caused by driving while intoxicated; and
- debts arising from fraudulent conduct.
2) It is also possible for a debtor to be denied a discharge of all unsecured debts if a debtor has not been honest, forthcoming, or cooperative in the bankruptcy case. These scenarios are listed in Section 727 of the Bankruptcy Code and usually involve the U.S. Trustee, a trustee, or a creditor filing a lawsuit in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case to determine that the debtor should be totally denied a discharge.
3) Debts that are secured by real or personal property are not dischargeable. For example, a creditor may be able to seize property even after a discharge is granted because the debtor has not kept up with payments. Even though the creditor may not collect on the unsecured portion of the debt, the property can still be foreclosed upon (residence, automobile, etc.).
B) Debtor asks the court to determine if a debt can be discharged -- Some creditors have obtained court judgments, and then filed a "lien" which can be used to sell property of the debtor. In some situations, a debtor may file a motion asking the court to remove such a lien. Also, a debtor may file an adversary proceeding asking the court to rule that other debts are dischargeable.