Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief, Student Loans

How the Government Polices what Student Debtors Spend

A social worker at Sacramento County’s department of children’s protective services who filed for bankruptcy, asked the court to forgive the $137,000 she owed in student loans because paying them, she said, would make it impossible to provide for her five family members, which include her elderly mother, disabled husband, and three children.

According to lawyers for the Department of Education, her $700-per-month food budget was too high and “she cannot purposely choose to live a lifestyle that prevents her from repaying her student loans.”

The government’s scrutiny of her cash flow is not surprising. For more than a decade, the Education Department has closely examined debtors’ basic expenses in its fight to prevent student borrowers from discharging their student loans in bankruptcy- often disqualifying those who need it the most.

In some bankruptcy proceedings, courts will consider how much someone is spending, to determine how much they can reasonably pay back to their creditors in the future. However, when it comes to student loan debt, the government has additional leverage. The Education Department can deny people bankruptcy altogether if its lawyers can show that debtors are spending too much on basic items like fast food, cable television, or even their pension plans.

Government lawyers are given license to do such meticulous accounting because of a provision in the bankruptcy code. Congress passed rules in the 1970s making it nearly impossible to get rid of student loan debt in bankruptcy unless they can prove “undue hardship,” without defining the term. Instead, it is left to the courts to interpret the law. Most courts require debtors prove they cannot maintain a “minimal” standard of living while paying the debt back.  Lawyers for the Education Department generally view any sign of excessive spending as an argument that debtors don’t qualify.

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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 of 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