Posts Tagged: ‘Brunner Test’

Dept. of Education’s Announcement Gives Hope to those struggling with Student Loan Debt

April 4, 2018 Posted by kingcade

With student loan debt at nearly $1.5 trillion, 40 percent of borrowers will default on their student loans by 2023, according to a recent study by Brookings Institute.  The staggering numbers have caused the Department of Education to take action and announce that it will review and potentially alter policies that make it exceedingly difficult for student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy.

The problem is that ‘undue hardship’ was never defined and the case law has never led to a standardized definition. Courts often use the “Brunner Test,” which requires you must show that you cannot maintain a basic standard of living while paying the student loans and that this difficulty would last throughout the majority of the repayment period.  You also must prove that you made a good showing of trying to repay your student loan debt.

The Department of Education’s latest actions indicate that they will broaden the “undue hardship” current definition – which is good news for student loan borrowers.   This change could also help streamline the bankruptcy process and help borrowers struggling with massive student loan debt rebuild their lives.

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Will Student Loans Be Discharged In Bankruptcy Under Trump Administration?

March 19, 2018 Posted by kingcade

For years, the fact that student loan debt stayed with bankruptcy filers kept individuals sinking in personal debt from filing for bankruptcy. That may all change with a recent statement made by the current administration.

According to the Department of Education, the possibility of borrowers having their student loans discharged in bankruptcy is becoming more of a reality. In fact, the Department is opening comments with respect to individuals requesting an undue hardship discharge of their student loan debt in bankruptcy.

Student loan balances have sky-rocketed over the past few years to an all-time high of $1.4 trillion. The average balance held is now at $34,144, which has gone up 62 percent over the past ten years.

As of September 30, 2017, approximately 4.6 million student loan borrowers were in default on their loans.  The Department of Education now has the national student loan default rate at somewhere over 11 percent. To be in default, a borrower has to have missed making monthly payments for 270 days.

Of course, the fact that the Department is opening the comment period does not guarantee a policy change, but at the least, the Department is interested in hearing what borrowers have to say.

Currently if a borrower is facing issues with student loan debts, the first steps he or she is recommended to take is to postpone payments with either a deferment or forbearance. A deferment will let the borrower put the loan on hold for a period of up to three years, allowing them to catch up on other debts. However, the borrower does have to qualify for a deferment, and if he or she does not qualify, a deferment allows the borrower to at least temporarily suspend student loan payments for a period up to one year. This allows some temporary relief in terms of the large payments student loans often incur, but remember during this time the interest on the loan will continue to accrue and be added to your total balance.

If deferment and forbearance are not options, working with the lender on an income-based repayment plan can allow the borrower to pay a percentage based on his or her income, rather than a flat rate. However, even this option requires the borrower to be at a certain income level.

Student loan discharge is not currently a complete impossibility, but it is an uphill battle. Two legal tests are currently used by courts to determine if a borrower qualifies for student loan debt forgiveness in bankruptcy. Under the Brunner test, the borrower has to be at a certain poverty level such that he or she cannot maintain a minimal standard of living for himself or his or her dependents, the financial situation is likely to persist for a significant period of the repayment period and the borrower has made good faith efforts in repaying student loans. The Totality of the Circumstances test allows courts to look at all relevant factors in the case to determine if forcing the borrower to repay back his or her student loan would be an undue hardship. Both tests require the borrower present evidence and testify in bankruptcy court to get the student loan debt discharged.

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

How To File For Bankruptcy with Student Loan Debt

December 26, 2017 Posted by kingcade

For consumers struggling with significant debt, filing for bankruptcy may be your best option to provide you with a fresh start. If your debts consist of federal student loans, it is not an easy process to get these discharged in bankruptcy; however, it is possible.

The first thing you must do is to decide whether you will file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the goal is to get unsecured debt wiped out. This means, you have little disposable income available to pay off your debts. If you choose to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your plan is to get your debts restructured in order to repay some of it. This also means you likely have some disposable income to repay part of your debt.

The most important part of your case when you have student loan debt is that you must prove “undue hardship” to the court. This means that you must prove that you cannot pay back your federal student loans. In order to prove undue hardship, you and your bankruptcy attorney must file a petition called an adversary proceeding, which is unique to bankruptcy involving student loan debt.

In most courts, The Brunner Test is used to evaluate hardship. Below are 3 factors of The Brunner test outlined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office:

  • The filer cannot maintain a basic standard of living if paying back federal student loans
  • The filer can prove the hardship will last for a large percentage of the repayment period
  • The filer honestly tried to repay the loans before filing

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Common Sense and Compassion enter the Student Loan Bankruptcy Arena

June 30, 2016 Posted by kingcade

In the case, Nightingale v. North Carolina State Educational Assistance Authority, the debtor, Alice Nightingale, 67 years old, suffered from “intractable foot pain,” hypothyroidism, obstructive sleep apnea, and chronic fatigue, all of which had worsened over the course of her chapter 13 bankruptcy. The condition prevented her from engaging in employment and from taking part in many day-to-day activities.

She was granted full disability from her teaching job by the County School Board. In a hearing in October, 2015, the court found Ms. Nightingale had established the first and third prongs of the Brunner test with evidence that she had attempted to repay the student loan, that she was “elderly” and unlikely to find future employment and that she suffered from significant medical problems. Although Ms. Nightingale’s testimony concerning her medical disabilities was credible,  the second prong of the Brunner test still needed to be satisfied.

Over the lender’s objection, the court held a second hearing in which Ms. Nightingale presented medical documents to corroborate her testimony, including letters to Ms. Nightingale’s attorney from two of her doctors, a medical report for disability eligibility, and a physician-provided list of Ms. Nightingale’s current medications.

The subsequent hearing specifically addressed the second prong of the Brunner test: whether there existed “additional, exceptional circumstances, strongly suggestive of continuing inability to repay [the debt] over an extended period of time.”

While the court agreed with the lender that Ms. Nightingale could have presented evidence of recent tests and evaluations, it found that it was not necessary that she “provide every possibly available piece of evidence that could further corroborate the unrebutted evidence in this case.”

The court concluded: “Taking into consideration the Plaintiff’s age, current living situation, inability to walk or stand for long periods of time, chronic fatigue, lack of stamina, lack of strength, diminished cognitive ability, and the likelihood that these conditions will all last for a significant period of her possible repayment period given her age and the duration of her illnesses, the Plaintiff has demonstrated that exceptional circumstances exist in this case and has met the second prong of the Brunner test.”

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

http://www.ncbrc.org/wp-content/uploads/Nightingale-Bankr-MD-NC-opinion-April-2016.pdf

The Battle for Student Loan Debt Discharge

June 8, 2016 Posted by kingcade

Section 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code outlines a debtor’s ability to discharge student loan obligations. Under this section, student loans are presumably nondischargeable. However, there is a narrow exception if a debtor is able to show that repayment of their student loans will cause an “undue hardship.”

Two courts recently entered decisions on this issue within the same week, using the same standard for “undue hardship.”  The District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Idaho issued largely opposite decisions based on similar facts.

In ECMC v. Alexandra Elizabeth Acosta-Coniff, the bankruptcy court initially held that the debtor was able to meet the undue hardship threshold and discharge her $112,000 of student loans. However, on appeal, the district court reversed the decision.

The case involved a 44-year-old single mother of two who took out more than $100,000 in student loans pursuing four degrees, including two master’s degrees and a PhD in special education. As a full-time public school teacher, the debtor argued that the student loans were an undue hardship, as she was underpaid with no prospects to increase her earnings in the near future.

The court used the test for undue hardship, where the debtor must establish:

(1) That he or she cannot maintain, based on current income and expenses, a “minimal standard of living for herself and her dependents if forced to repay the loans;

(2) that additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans; and

(3) that the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans.”

The district court denied the debtor’s discharge of the loans based on the second factor, holding that the debtor did not satisfy the burden to show that there are additional circumstances preventing her from fulfilling her payment obligations. The court reasoned that the debtor chose to earn four degrees with a general understanding of the cost versus benefit analysis and her multiple degrees enabled her to seek employment on a larger pay scale.

It reasoned that the debtor’s future ability to earn extra income was a realistic possibility, negating the need to discharge her student loans.

In Elizabeth M. McDowell v. Education Credit Management Corporation, and U.S. Department of Education, the court reached the opposite decision under the Brunner analysis.

There are essentially three criteria a debtor must meet under the Brunner analysis.

  • Continuing to pay the loan must cause the borrower to be unable to sustain a minimum standard of living;
  • The borrower’s financial situation must be unlikely to change in the future;
  • The borrower must have made a good-faith effort to pay his or her loans.

The debtor, a 43-year-old single mother of two, owed $93,000 in student loan debt for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. The debtor was steadily employed as a social worker, but had recently taken a $6,000 trip to South America to attend training for a career switch to photography. The debtor also financed the purchase of a motorcycle for her ex-husband.

At trial on the issue of undue hardship, her doctor testified that her health was deteriorating, and it was likely that she would be unable to work in the near future. Due to this fact, the court found her health condition to be an additional circumstance that would persist, or worsen, in the near future, satisfying the second requirement of the Brunner test.

The court recognized that the debtor made certain financial errors in the past, such as her trip to South America and the purchase of a motorcycle. However, the court held that she otherwise lived modestly while working full time. Ultimately, the court held that the debtor could discharge most of her loans, except for $10,000 which the court determined to be frivolous spending.

Click here to read more on this story.

For borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt, relief options are available. Many student loan borrowers are unaware that they have rights and repayment options available to them, such as postponement of loan payments, reduction of payments or even a complete discharge of the debt. It is important you contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade & Garcia website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.

Related Resources:

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=8b4f44fe-0baa-4e50-b4f8-d77adda86096

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/2014/08/13/debunking-the-student-loan-bankruptcy-myth