When your bankruptcy case is complete, a bankruptcy discharge is issued to you, along with a whole slew of other paperwork. It is strongly recommended to hold on to ALL your court documents received during your filing, as it is occasionally required of a debtor to provide proof of the discharged debt. If for some reason you don’t have your bankruptcy discharge letter, or never received it, here are some ways to go about getting it, as well as why it is important to hold on to the discharge paperwork:
What is Bankruptcy Discharge?
When a bankruptcy case is complete, a letter of discharge is mailed by the court to the debtor, debt collectors, as well as the debtor’s bankruptcy attorney. Essentially a bankruptcy discharge is an official document from the court absolving you of any liability of debts that were legally discharged as a result of your bankruptcy filing. Usually this includes personal loans, medical bills, credit card debt and utility bill debt; but depending on which type of bankruptcy you filed, other types of discharged debt may also include additional types of debt.
In addition to ensuring the debtor is no longer liable for the debts covered in their filing, it also means that debt collectors MUST cease any and all attempts to collect on those debts.
It is a violation of the bankruptcy discharge if a debt collector continues to try and collect money on a debt that was already discharged in a bankruptcy petition.
This also extends to any lawsuits that might be filed by creditors in an attempt to collect. A bankruptcy discharge is meant to give the person who filed bankruptcy peace of mind, knowing that the debt that was listed in the bankruptcy has been forgiven, and therefore cannot be further pursued by a debt collector.
How Do I Obtain A Discharge Letter?
Usually, the discharge is mailed by the court automatically, soon after the case is complete; but this is not always the case. If there are objections in the case, those must be addressed prior to the discharge order being issued. In order to meet the requirements of a bankruptcy discharge, a debtor must complete a series of steps that validate their case. This includes, but is not limited to, filing all necessary paperwork, paying a filing fee or submitting a fee waiver, appearing at a meeting of creditors (required of all filing), providing any requested documentation to your bankruptcy trustee, and in some cases, having to attend crediting and debt counseling courses. Once all steps are completed, the court provides a discharge letter for the debtor.
If you’ve lost your letter, it can be requested again through the court but might be susceptible to an additional fee. Typically, there is an electronic filing of your bankruptcy case that can be accessed and printed as well. You can access these records through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). An official request can also be made by written correspondence to the clerk of the bankruptcy court, or by simply appearing in person at the bankruptcy court clerk’s office. And of course you can ask your bankruptcy attorney for a copy as well, because they keep one on file once your case is closed.
While it might cost you to obtain additional copies, it is possible to do so.
It is common for people to misplace or accidentally throw away paperwork; however, make sure to safeguard your bankruptcy discharge letter once you do receive it.
Why Do I Need A Copy of My Discharge Letter?
Occasionally, creditors are guilty of discharge violation. This means that they continually attempt to collect on a debt that was specifically absolved in a bankruptcy petition, which, as mentioned previously, is a direct violation of the bankruptcy discharge. By maintaining copies of your court documents, debtors are well within their rights to file a motion of contempt of court for violation of the order of discharge, if a creditor persists on collecting on a forgiven debt.
In order to protect yourself from any unwanted letters, e-mails, or calls from debt collectors, it is important to have instant access to proof of your bankruptcy case discharge.