Over the past few years, there have been reports of those with student debt finding relief through the bankruptcy process. Indeed, just recently, a new case gave this relief to a 35-year-old man after a long bankruptcy battle.
The recent court win
The bankruptcy judge approved the discharge of about $100,000 worth of student debt for the man in the case, Wolfson v. DeVos. In that case, the man argued that he struggled for nine years after graduating in 2010. He ended up working full-time as a gig-driver until he had a seizure and totaled his car.
The undue hardship standard
The judge found that the man had used “considerable effort” to make a life for himself after he graduated. However, he has, nonetheless, been unemployed or underemployed since he graduated, and he has no prospect of this situation changing any time soon. Indeed, the judge found that the only reason the man was not homeless was because he was supported by his father. As such, the man’s inability to pay for the student loans would persist, and it qualified as an undue hardship. Accordingly, the judge moved to have the debt discharged.
The undue hardship standard is part of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. This law made discharging student loans exceedingly difficult and different than discharging any other type of debt. To get student loans discharged, the borrower must prove that they cannot maintain a “minimal standard of living” if they are forced to repay their student debt. In addition, borrowers must prove that their financial circumstances are not likely to improve, and the borrower made a good-faith effort to actually repay the student loan debt.
The result of the law and changing opinions
As a result of having such a large barrier to discharge, since 2005, borrowers have found it difficult to discharge student debt. Though, recently, judges, like the one in this case, increasingly loosen their interpretation of this undue hardship standard. And, the current administration seems to approve of this more expansive view as they have elected not to appeal the ruling and allow the discharge.
For Kent, Washington, residents that are struggling with debt, including student debt, this recent court decision shows that discharge is possible. But, it is complicated, and borrowers usually need help in finding their fresh financial start.