From Cars to ERs, Bankruptcy Questions Answered

Few conversations load in more emotion than those about finances. Wynn at Law, LLC, knows that the tensions and fears only escalate when the topic is bankruptcy. Knotted in the dialogue are important things like transportation, child support, student loans, and medical care.

A beater with a heater

In our section of Wisconsin, a car is less of a luxury and more of a necessity since only the larger metros have public transportation. Finding/Keeping a job is contingent (usually) on have reliable wheels.

Discharging some debt in bankruptcy might free up enough income so you can pay cash for something more substantial than a ‘beater with a heater.’ Most people will need a loan. Because there is a waiting period before you can file for bankruptcy again (see previous article) and you should have a better debt to income ratio to help raise your credit score, you can likely find a lender willing to lend you money for a car after a bankruptcy. Set your expectations accordingly: It’s probably going to be at a much higher interest rate.

Take care of the kids

Child Support is off the table in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The obligation will not be discharged.

However, freeing up some income may make it easier to make on-time child support payments. This is critical since your on-time payments will avoid arrears and costly interest. The arrears and interest can build and lead into the same financial situation that contributed to bankruptcy to begin with.

Student loans are nearly untouchable

Just like child support, student loans are off the table in a bankruptcy filing. Well, usually that’s the case. To get a student loan all or partially discharged, you have to prove undue hardship.

The standard for undue hardship is tough. The American Bankruptcy Law Journal notes that less than 0.1 percent of student loan borrowers declaring bankruptcy try to get student loan debt discharged. Of that fraction, only 2 in 5 succeed. Just 4 in 10,000 people who filed for bankruptcy and sought to have their loans discharged received even a partial discharge.

Will my doctor dump me after I discharge his bill?

Unexpected medical bills are right up there with job loss when it comes to the reasons for filing bankruptcy. Yet at the same time, we spend years building a relationship with our primary healthcare providers. They might be annoyed by having most if not all their outstanding bills discharged.

There is an odd dichotomy here.  On one hand, yes, they can drop you unless you’re seeing the provider for emergency care. (The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act is federal law. It requires anyone coming to an ER to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or how much money they have… or have discharged.) On the other hand, a doctor or nurse practitioner likely has no idea of your billing account and large healthcare facilities are very accustom to bankruptcy filings. They understand that any new services will be paid for and no changes are made when it comes to your care. For smaller offices, like a local dentist, he/she may actually understand your situation – and it’s not that uncommon – because you have built that relationship. Most of Wynn at Law LLC clients are able to continue seeing their regular providers without issue.


Image by Gaj  Rudolf, used with permission.

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