Chapter 12 Bankruptcy: Discharging Debts For Family Farmers and Fishermen Skip to main content

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Chapter 12 Bankruptcy: Discharging Debts For Family Farmers and Fishermen


Throughout the Chapter 12 Bankruptcy series we’ve explored how bankruptcy bound family farmers and fishermen can reap the many rewards and special rights provided by a Chapter 12 filing. This series included an introduction to the concept of Chapter 12, along with additional benefits drifting from this protection; a detailed look at how this process works for farming and fishing families; and what you can expect at a Chapter 12 hearing—from the earliest bankruptcy petition to the negotiated repayment plan. In the conclusion of this four-part series, we share the specifics behind, and results of, this type of bankruptcy discharge, along with an understanding of Chapter 12 debt relief exemptions, and the ins and outs behind what is known as the Chapter 12 “hardship discharge.”

Under Chapter 12 bankruptcy laws, if you were initially defined under the Bankruptcy Code as a family farmer or fisherman at filing, you can receive a debt discharge after completing all necessary payments under your court-sanctioned Chapter 12 repayment plan. In some cases, in order to ensure this discharge, you must also certify that all domestic support obligations due prior to making this certification have been paid.

The effect of the Chapter 12 bankruptcy discharge involves releasing you from all debts provided for by the repayment plan, with a few exceptions. This means that your farm or fishery’s financial slate is clean, and any creditors  (whether priority, secured, or unsecured), who were provided for in full or in part under your repayment plan may no longer start or continue any legal action against you to collect any discharged debt obligations.

There are a few exceptions to the Chapter 12 bankruptcy discharge. According to the Bankruptcy Code, certain categories of debts not discharged in Chapter 12 proceedings include: “debts stemming from domestic support such as alimony and child support; money obtained through filing false financial statements; debts for willful and malicious injury to person or property; debts from fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity, embezzlement or larceny, and any debts for death or personal injury caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while the debtor was intoxicated.”

Your Chapter 12 plan usually lasts three to five years and normally provides for full repayment of all priority claims. Any debts that are not discharged will need to be paid in full under your individual repayment plan. Because an added benefit of Chapter 12 bankruptcy is that payments to secured creditors can sometimes continue longer than the three-to-five-year period plan, these debts are therefore not discharged until fully paid.

Another benefit of Chapter 12 bankruptcy is the “hardship discharge.” The court may grant you a "hardship discharge" even if you’ve failed to complete all of the payments under your repayment plan. This type of discharge is available when your failure to complete payments under your individual repayment plan is due to circumstances beyond the debtor's control and through no fault of the debtor, such as injury or illness that prevents you from keeping an income. In some cases, the Chapter 12 hardship discharge falls under many of the rules and limitations applied in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

During the complex Chapter 12 process, primarily used to bail out working families who are, in this savage economy, beleaguered and bankruptcy bound, it’s always helpful to seek the assistance of a qualified bankruptcy lawyer. While the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt do not file for Chapter 12 relief, we will evaluate your unique financial situation and refer you to a Chapter 12 bankruptcy expert if needed. Call today to set up your free initial consultation. +1-919-646-2654.

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