A discharge is a permanent court order forgiving debts. Obtaining a discharge is the goal in a bankruptcy. Generally in chapter 7 (straight bankruptcy, not a payment plan) the discharge is granted about 90 days after the papers are filed. If you are not sure if you obtained a discharge, contact your lawyer or the court clerk where you filed bankrupty. If you did not obtain a discharge then your creditors are entitled to bill you.
Was The Debt Dischargeable?
Generally chapter 7 bankruptcy does not discharge several types of debt including: domestic support (child support/alimony), marital obligations (community property repayments), student loans, personal injury claims resulting from drunk driving, most criminal fines/restitution, debts for fraud/wilful misconduct, most taxes and secured debt (for example car loans or home loans) if you retain the collateral. The most common examples of dischargeable debts are credit cards and medical bills. This is not an in depth discussion of dischargeability of debt. If the debt was non-dischargeable then the creditor is entitled to bill you after bankruptcy.
Was The Creditor Included?
You need to refer to your bankruptcy papers (see schedules D, E and F) to verify the debt was listed with a valid address. If the creditor was not listed that can make the debt non-dischargeable which means the creditor is entiled to bill you. Note: in many circumstances you can amend your chapter 7 papers to list the creditor - sometimes even years after the initial filing.
What Next? Give More Notice!
If you received a discharge, and the debt was included with a valid address, and the debt was dischargeable, then you have a creditor in violation of the law. The next step is to call the creditor and orally inform him/her/it of the bankruptcy including the case number, date filed and court. Get the name and address of the person you speak to and follow up with a confirming letter including the same information. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. This usually resolves the problem.
Still Having Trouble?
If you have called and sent a confirming letter and you are still being billed, it's time to think about going to court. A creditor that wilfully violates the bankruptcy discharge can be held in contempt, ordered to pay damages including attorney fees or both. Additionally, collecting on a debt discharged in bankruptcy will violate the Fair Debt Collection Pracitces Act and/or similar laws of most states. If the first 4 steps have been taken, actually going to court is very rare so you should not assume it will be necessary.
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