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The bankruptcy discharge is a powerful debt relief remedy

When a Massachusetts resident files for personal bankruptcy, the ultimate goal is to get some or all debts discharged. The discharge relieves the debtor from any obligation to pay the discharged debt. In most cases, the discharge is entered automatically by the court at the end of the bankruptcy case. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, creditors or the trustee may file objections to the discharge. The court will rule on these objections before deciding whether or not to grant the discharge. Creditors do not have the same right to object to the discharge in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

Once the discharge is entered, it is a powerful remedy for the debtor. The discharge acts as a permanent court injunction against any attempt to collect on a discharged debt. If a creditor attempts to collect on a debt that has been discharged, the debtor can report it to the bankruptcy court. The court has the power to sanction a creditor that violates a bankruptcy discharge. The court can find the creditor in contempt of court and impose a fine.

There are some limits to the bankruptcy discharge. First, some debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy except in very narrow circumstances. These nondischargeable debts include state and federal taxes, student loans and child support obligations. Second, even when the discharge releases a debtor from a debt, a lien to secure the debt can still be enforced unless the bankruptcy court has separately ruled the lien unenforceable. In that situation the creditor cannot take action to collect the debt itself, but can still repossess or foreclose on the collateral.

The scope and effect of a bankruptcy discharge will vary depending on the nature of the debts in question. A knowledgeable personal bankruptcy attorney can help a debtor get the bankruptcy outcome that best meets their individual situation.

Source:, "The Debt Discharge in Bankruptcy FAQ," accessed April 30, 2016

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