So are student loans able to be discharged? In short, probably not. Student loan debts are nondischargeable in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases unless paying the debt would cause the debtor "undue hardship." This basic rule also applies to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases.
Discharge of student loans received popularity in the 1970's. Many individuals would file for bankruptcy shortly after completing their expensive education. The goal was to discharge these student loans before they began earning money.
The wording of the exception of a "hardship discharge" and what is considered a student loan has recently been broadened so that most student loans made by nonprofit groups or the government are now considered student loans. This only applies to the actual student and not a co-signor. So a parent signing for one of their children could not have this debt discharged. In addition, this exception does not include debts to an educational institution for tuition. If the loan is nondischargeable then the petition on the loan is also not going to be discharged.
So we turn to "undue hardship." Most published court opinions agree that "undue hardship" means more than garden variety hardships that come with the costs of future payments. Several circuit courts of appeals have developed a three-prong test.
In summation, the debtor cannot maintain a minimal standard of living and his dependents are left with the debt, some additional circumstances in regard to the standard of living would extend over the life of the repayment of the loan, and the debtor has tried to the best of their ability to pay off the loan according to the plan.
The ideal debtor who will successfully discharge student loans are the low-income debtors. The debtor has the burden of proving their hardships. Any reason that makes this loan impossible for the debtor should be made known to your attorney. For example, unemployable debtors, underprivileged debtors, a total lack of available jobs suited for the debtor's skills, certain disabilities, etc. If any of these situations exist, your attorney will strive to prove any extenuating circumstances to the court to get these student loans discharged.
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