Can I Eliminate All of My Debts by Discharging Them in Bankruptcy?

By Cara O'Neill, Attorney
Find out more about debt that you can (and can’t) get rid of by filing for bankruptcy.

It depends. Although bankruptcy efficiently discharges (wipes out) many types of debt, it doesn’t get rid of all obligations. Here are examples of dischargeable debt:

  • credit card balances
  • personal loans, such as payday loans
  • medical bills
  • past-due utility bills
  • book club or gym memberships
  • lease contracts for cars and equipment
  • mortgage or car loans (if the borrower returns the property to the bank), and
  • certain debts owed to the government (other than fines and penalties), such as an unemployment benefit overpayment.

You’ll likely remain responsible for the full amount of the following “nondischargeable debts”:

  • a mortgage or car payment (if the borrower keeps the house or car)
  • domestic support obligations, such as child or spousal support
  • past-due taxes, and
  • student loan obligations.

In rare cases, you might be able to get rid of some of the debt listed above. For instance, if your income tax debt is several years old (and you meet other criteria), it might be dischargeable. Filers who prove that, due to no fault of their own, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to pay student loan debt can discharge student loans.

Additionally, different bankruptcy chapters wipe out particular types of debt more readily than others. You’ll want to understand the relief afforded by both Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and find out whether you meet qualification requirements, too. To learn about the options available to you, consult with a bankruptcy attorney.

Go to the main bankruptcy FAQ page.

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