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A Discharge Does Not Wipe the Slate Completely Clean, but It Does Afford Great Relief
There are a number of prerequisites for obtaining a discharge. In a Chapter 7 liquidation case, if the debtor was in some way dishonest or uncooperative, such as by making fraudulent transfers or failing to keep adequate records prior to filing or by ignoring lawful court orders after filing, the court may deny discharge. In addition, a Chapter 7 debtor cannot have his or her debts discharged more than once every nine years. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) provides that in order to receive a discharge, an individual debtor must complete a personal financial management class.
When a discharge is granted, it protects the debtor from any further liability on the discharged debts. No legal action may be taken against the debtor to collect on discharged debts, and no collection calls or letters may be sent with regard to such debts. A discharge does not actually cancel or extinguish the debt, however; it merely extinguishes the debtor’s personal liability. Also, a discharge does not automatically discharge a co-debtor’s or guarantor’s liability.
A bankruptcy discharge also has no effect on liens. Take, for example, the situation in which the debtor owes the creditor $5,000 and the debt is secured by the debtor’s car, which is worth $3,000. If the debtor files for Chapter 7 relief and receives a discharge, the discharge does not extinguish the creditor’s security interest. In other words, the creditor can still repossess the car. However, it cannot go after the debtor for the $2,000 difference between the debt and the value of the security. That is the personal protection afforded to the debtor by the bankruptcy discharge.
A court may revoke a Chapter 7 discharge if the trustee or a creditor requests it, and if the debtor obtained the discharge through fraudulent means; acquired property that is property of the estate and knowingly failed to report the property or give it to the trustee; or made a material misstatement or failed to provide information in connection with an audit of his or her case. 11 USC §727(d).