Does Bankruptcy Eliminate Debts Of Cosigners?

A question I frequently get asked is whether filing a bankruptcy case will eliminate the liability of any co-debtors or co-signers on loans or other debts owed by the party filing bankruptcy.

The answer is no unless, of course, the debtor filing bankruptcy is doing a 100% repayment plan in a Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 case.

The key for this lies in a common misconception people have about what bankruptcy does.    Bankruptcy discharges the  party filing bankruptcy from the legal obligation of paying on a given debt;  it does not eliminate the debt itself.  The debt still exists  and the party who is owed the debt cannot pursue recovery of that debt from a party discharged in bankruptcy.

The entire reason for having a co-signer on a loan or credit card application, for example,  is so that if the primary obligor defaults on the debt (such as by filing bankruptcy), the lender can recover against the co-signer.

If filing bankruptcy could discharge the debts of people other than the party filing the bankruptcy, we could all benefit by having one person in the United States file a bankruptcy case, and we’d all be discharged from our debts.   That obviously doesn’t make any sense (fun though it may be to imagine).

Do Cosigners Get Any Protection From A Bankruptcy Filing?

Generally, no.   However,  there is some protection in Chapter 13 cases for cosigners of consumer debt.

In such a Chapter 13 case, the automatic stay will stop any collections against the cosigner for the duration of the Chapter 13 case. This is typically 36-60 months if the case makes it to the end.

The term “consumer debt” means debt incurred by an individual primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose.

“Guarantor Scrabble” by House Buy Fast is licensed under CC BY 2.0