What is a nondischargeability action?
Bankruptcy allows for many debts to be discharged by the court order, but Congress determined that some debts can go through the bankruptcy process without being discharged. Some of them, like student loan debts, are nondischargeable unless the debtor files an action to show why it should be discharged, others, like debts for fraud and willful and malicious injury require a creditor to bring an action to show they should not be discharged. In these instances, a lawsuit is filed that is associated with the bankruptcy case called an adversarial proceeding. These adversarial proceedings are a full fledged federal lawsuit including complaints, answers, discovery, motions, evidence, and trial.
Having an experienced bankruptcy litigator on your side is important when faced with a nondischargeability action in your bankruptcy case to protect the fresh start that the discharge gives.
What debts are not dischargeable?
The discharge order is located in section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code and lists specific debts that are not discharged, or could be deemed not discharged in your bankruptcy:
(1) for a tax or a customs duty—
(B) with respect to which a return, or equivalent report or notice, if required—
(i) was not filed or given; or
(ii) was filed or given after the date on which such return, report, or notice was last due, under applicable law or under any extension, and after two years before the date of the filing of the petition; or
(C) with respect to which the debtor made a fraudulent return or willfully attempted in any manner to evade or defeat such tax;
(2) for money, property, services, or an extension, renewal, or refinancing of credit, to the extent obtained by—
(A) false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud, other than a statement respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s financial condition;
(B) use of a statement in writing—
(i) that is materially false;
(ii) respecting the debtor’s or an insider’s financial condition;
(iii) on which the creditor to whom the debtor is liable for such money, property, services, or credit reasonably relied; and
(iv) that the debtor caused to be made or published with intent to deceive; or
(i) for purposes of subparagraph (A)—
(I) consumer debts owed to a single creditor and aggregating more than $675 for luxury goods or services incurred by an individual debtor on or within 90 days before the order for relief under this title are presumed to be nondischargeable; and
(II) cash advances aggregating more than $950 that are extensions of consumer credit under an open end credit plan obtained by an individual debtor on or within 70 days before the order for relief under this title, are presumed to be nondischargeable; and
(ii) for purposes of this subparagraph—
(I) the terms “consumer”, “credit”, and “open end credit plan” have the same meanings as in section 103 of the Truth in Lending Act; and
(II) the term “luxury goods or services” does not include goods or services reasonably necessary for the support or maintenance of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor;
(3) neither listed nor scheduled under section 521(a)(1) of this title, with the name, if known to the debtor, of the creditor to whom such debt is owed, in time to permit—
(A) if such debt is not of a kind specified in paragraph (2), (4), or (6) of this subsection, timely filing of a proof of claim, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing; or
(B) if such debt is of a kind specified in paragraph (2), (4), or (6) of this subsection, timely filing of a proof of claim and timely request for a determination of dischargeability of such debt under one of such paragraphs, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing and request;
(4) for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity, embezzlement, or larceny;
(5) for a domestic support obligation;
(6) for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity;
(7) to the extent such debt is for a fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit, and is not compensation for actual pecuniary loss, other than a tax penalty—
(A) relating to a tax of a kind not specified in paragraph (1) of this subsection; or
(B) imposed with respect to a transaction or event that occurred before three years before the date of the filing of the petition;
(8) unless excepting such debt from discharge under this paragraph would impose an undue hardship on the debtor and the debtor’s dependents, for—
(i) an educational benefit overpayment or loan made, insured, or guaranteed by a governmental unit, or made under any program funded in whole or in part by a governmental unit or nonprofit institution; or
(ii) an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit, scholarship, or stipend; or
(B) any other educational loan that is a qualified education loan, as defined in section 221(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, incurred by a debtor who is an individual;
(9) for death or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance;
(10) that was or could have been listed or scheduled by the debtor in a prior case concerning the debtor under this title or under the Bankruptcy Act in which the debtor waived discharge, or was denied a discharge under section 727(a)(2), (3), (4), (5), (6), or (7) of this title, or under section 14c(1), (2), (3), (4), (6), or (7) of such Act;
(11) provided in any final judgment, unreviewable order, or consent order or decree entered in any court of the United States or of any State, issued by a Federal depository institutions regulatory agency, or contained in any settlement agreement entered into by the debtor, arising from any act of fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity committed with respect to any depository institution or insured credit union;
(12) for malicious or reckless failure to fulfill any commitment by the debtor to a Federal depository institutions regulatory agency to maintain the capital of an insured depository institution, except that this paragraph shall not extend any such commitment which would otherwise be terminated due to any act of such agency;
(13) for any payment of an order of restitution issued under title 18, United States Code;
(14) incurred to pay a tax to the United States that would be nondischargeable pursuant to paragraph (1);
(14A) incurred to pay a tax to a governmental unit, other than the United States, that would be nondischargeable under paragraph (1);
(14B) incurred to pay fines or penalties imposed under Federal election law;
(15) to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor and not of the kind described in paragraph (5) that is incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree or other order of a court of record, or a determination made in accordance with State or territorial law by a governmental unit;
(16) for a fee or assessment that becomes due and payable after the order for relief to a membership association with respect to the debtor’s interest in a unit that has condominium ownership, in a share of a cooperative corporation, or a lot in a homeowners association, for as long as the debtor or the trustee has a legal, equitable, or possessory ownership interest in such unit, such corporation, or such lot, but nothing in this paragraph shall except from discharge the debt of a debtor for a membership association fee or assessment for a period arising before entry of the order for relief in a pending or subsequent bankruptcy case;
(17) for a fee imposed on a prisoner by any court for the filing of a case, motion, complaint, or appeal, or for other costs and expenses assessed with respect to such filing, regardless of an assertion of poverty by the debtor under subsection (b) or (f)(2) of section 1915 of title 28 (or a similar non-Federal law), or the debtor’s status as a prisoner, as defined in section 1915(h) of title 28 (or a similar non-Federal law);
(18) owed to a pension, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or other plan established under section 401, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, under—
(A) a loan permitted under section 408(b)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or subject to section 72(p) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; or
(B) a loan from a thrift savings plan permitted under subchapter III of chapter 84 of title 5, that satisfies the requirements of section 8433(g) of such title;
but nothing in this paragraph may be construed to provide that any loan made under a governmental plan under section 414(d), or a contract or account under section 403(b), of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 constitutes a claim or a debt under this title; or
(A) is for—
(i) the violation of any of the Federal securities laws (as that term is defined in section 3(a)(47) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934), any of the State securities laws, or any regulation or order issued under such Federal or State securities laws; or
(ii) common law fraud, deceit, or manipulation in connection with the purchase or sale of any security; and
(B) results, before, on, or after the date on which the petition was filed, from—
(i) any judgment, order, consent order, or decree entered in any Federal or State judicial or administrative proceeding;
(ii) any settlement agreement entered into by the debtor; or
(iii) any court or administrative order for any damages, fine, penalty, citation, restitutionary payment, disgorgement payment, attorney fee, cost, or other payment owed by the debtor.
11 U.S.C. § 523
Nondischargeability actions are complex, the Bankruptcy Code is very specific as to what debts may or may not be exempted from discharge and require counsel who is current on decisions from bankruptcy courts, the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to get you your fresh start.
What does it cost?
An action under § 523 is federal litigation that requires a retainer. We are mindful that resources are tight and work with you to handle payments for nondischargeability actions. Sometimes a nondischargeability action is based on a contract that allows for attorney's fees to be gained from the opposing party upon success in the case. We try to be vigilant on keeping costs down and working with you to pay for the cost of fighting a nondischargeability action.