Eligibility can turn on 1) who is filing the bankruptcy, 2) the kinds and amounts of debts, 3) the amount of income, and 4) the amount of expenses.

1) Who is filing the bankruptcy:

If you are a human being (or a human being and his or her spouse), you can file either a Chapter 7 or 13 case.

If you are a part owner of a partnership or corporation, that partnership or corporation cannot file a Chapter 13 case. But it can file a Chapter 7 one. And it can do so whether or not you also file one individually.

2) The kinds and amounts of debts:

If you have “primarily consumer debts” (more than 50% by dollar amount), then you have to pass the “means test” to be allowed to be in a Chapter 7 case. (More about that below.)

Chapter 7 has no restriction on the amount of debt allowed. In contrast, Chapter 13 is restricted to cases with a maximum of $360,475 in unsecured debts and $1,081,400 in secured debts.

3) Amount of income:

The “means test” in Chapter 7 is quickly satisfied if your income is no more than the published “median income” for your family size and state.

Chapter 13 requires “regular income,” which is defined in somewhat circular fashion to be income “sufficiently stable and regular” to enable you to “make payments under a [Chapter 13] plan.” Also, if the income is less than the “median income” applicable to your family size and state, then the plan will generally last three years; if the income is at the applicable “median income” amount or more, the plan will last five years.

4) The amount of expenses:

In Chapter 7, if you are not below “median income,” then you enter into a largely mathematical test involving your expenses to see if you pass the “means test” and are eligible for filing a Chapter 7 case.

In Chapter 13, a similar calculation largely determines the amount you must pay monthly into your plan to satisfy the requirements of Chapter 13.


Choosing between Chapter 7 and 13 can often be very simple and obvious. But there are at least a dozen major differences among them, ones that you may well not be aware of. So when you come in to see me or another attorney, be clear about your goals but also open-minded about how to reach them. You may well have tools available that you were not aware of.

Very few people who want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy need to take the means test all the way to its limit. But if you do, you better have some iron-clad “special circumstances” to defeat your “presumption of abuse.”

The means test triggers whether or not your case is presumed to be an abuse of Chapter 7. Each step of the means test gives you a way to avoid this presumption of abuse. So, you avoid the presumption IF ANY of the following apply to you:

1. your income is no more than the median family income for your state and your size of family;

2. your income is more than the applicable median family income, but, after subtracting a list of allowable expenses, your remaining monthly disposable income is less than $117 per month; or

3. your income is more that the applicable median family income, your remaining monthly disposable income is between $117 and $197 per month, AND when you multiply your specific monthly disposable income amount by 60, this total is less than 25% of your “non-priority unsecured debts” (debts not secured by collateral, excluding special “priority debts”—certain taxes, support payments, etc.).

(See my last few blogs about these earlier parts of the means test.)

A large percentage of people who want to file Chapter 7 avoid the presumption of abuse on the first step—having sufficiently low income. Many others do so because their monthly disposable income is low enough at the second step, or their monthly disposable income is low enough in comparison to the amount of their debt.

BUT, if after all this you still have a presumption of abuse, your case will either be dismissed (thrown out) or else changed into a Chapter 13 case (requiring payments to your creditors). Your last chance to avoid this is if you can show “special circumstances.” The Bankruptcy Code lays out this law as follows:

[T]he presumption of abuse may only be rebutted by demonstrating special circumstances, such as a serious medical condition or a call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces, to the extent such special circumstances… justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income for which there is no reasonable alternative.

So when pushed to the limit, a test that is supposed to be an objective way to decide who qualifies to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy comes down to a very subjective question about whether any “special circumstances” apply.

To be fair, much of the means test IS objective, in the sense that it involves a whole lot of number-crunching to see if you can escape that dreaded “presumption of abuse.” But when a lot of those numbers—such as the allowed expense amounts, or the above-mentioned $117 and $195 amounts—appear arbitrary or do not accurately reflect your honest reality, then that “objectivity” has gotten away from the purpose for which it was supposedly intended.

Regardless, if you want to file a Chapter 7 case and, after going through all the steps of the means test, you are among that small minority of people still with a presumption of abuse, how likely are you going to be saved by the remaining subjective step in the process? Will you be able to persuade the judge that your “special circumstances” defeat the presumption of abuse?

This is a prime example of when you want a very experienced and conscientious bankruptcy attorney at your side. Why? Because the ambiguousness of the law, as you saw in the excerpt above, means that your attorney will need to 1) know how the local bankruptcy judges are interpreting this law, 2) carefully apply that to the details of your case when advising you about your options before filing your case, and then 3) if necessary be persuasive in making your case for “special circumstances” in court.  

The means test is supposed to be an objective way to decide who qualifies to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. So what’s so objective about whether your “monthly disposable income” is less than $117 or more than $195? Sounds pretty arbitrary to me.

Before getting to this step of the means test, let me bring you back to its beginning.  I can’t emphasize enough that many, many people qualify for Chapter 7 strictly based on their income.  As I explained a few blogs ago, if your income is no more than the published median income for your state and family size, you skip the rest of the means test. You’re presumed to qualify for Chapter 7.

So if and only if your income is more than the median, you take the next step of the means test—deducting expenses from your monthly income. These allowed expenses are based on a terribly complicated set of rules I discussed in my last blog. After deducting these expenses, that leaves you with your “monthly disposable income,” a very important amount.

This brings us to those $117 and $195 “monthly disposable income” amounts mentioned above. And here’s where the “objective” rules get quite arbitrary. Catch this:

1) IF your “monthly disposable income” is $117 or less, then you are presumed not to be abusing the system to be filing a Chapter 7 case. In other words, you’ve passed the means test.

2) IF your “monthly disposable income” is more than $195, then you are presumed to be abusing the system to be filing under Chapter 7.

3) IF your “monthly disposable income” is between $117 and $195, then whether or not you are presumed to be abusing the system depends on one more step. You ARE presumed to be IF you multiply that specific “monthly disposable income” by 60, and the resulting amount is enough to pay at least 25% of your “non-priority unsecured debts.” (Priority debts are a category of special debts like certain taxes, support arrearage, and such.) If that resulting amount pays less than 25% of that set of debts, then you are presumed not to be abusing the system to be filing under Chapter 7.

So where do those critical two numbers—come from? Notice they amount to a difference of only $78 per month between being presumed to be able to file a Chapter 7 case and being presumed not to be able to.

Well, let’s take it a step further. Multiply the monthly amounts of $117 and $195 both by 60 months (the length of a maximum-length Chapter 13 case) and you get close to $7,025 and $11,725, respectively. (These used to be $6,000 and $10,000 when the law passed in 2005, and has been adjusted for inflation. The current amounts are good until April 1, 2013.) The effect of this set of rules is that:

1) if you theoretically CAN’T pay at least $7,025 to your “non-priority unsecured creditors” within 5 years of monthly payments (60 months), than it’s OK for you to be in a Chapter 7 case and write off those creditors;

2) if you theoretically CAN pay $11,725 or more to those creditors within 5 years, than it’s NOT OK for you to be in a Chapter 7 case, and instead you should be in a Chapter 13 case paying your disposable income to those creditors; and

3) if you theoretically can pay somewhere in between those two amounts in 5 years, then whether you should be in a one Chapter or the other turns on whether or not the total to be paid to the creditors would amount to at least 25% of the “non-priority unsecured debts.”

So where do these decisive $117/$195 and $7,025/$11,725 amounts come from? As far as I can tell, they are totally arbitrary.  Some creditor lobbyist or Congressional staff person likely just pulled a couple numbers out of his or her head. I can’t see any principled reason to pick those amounts to determine whether a person should or shouldn’t be allowed to file a Chapter 7 case.

Sensible or not (and the means test is anything but!), the law is the law: if your income is over the median then the amount of your monthly disposable income determines whether you are presumed to be abusing the bankruptcy system by filing a Chapter 7 case.

I will finish this series on the means test with one last blog. Because, even if you have too much disposable income resulting in a presumption of abuse, you might STILL be able to stay in Chapter 7 by defeating that presumption through “special circumstances.”

What happens if you make too much money so that you are over “median income,” but you still want to file a Chapter 7 case?  You get to go through the “black box” that is the expenses side of the means test.

In the last couple of blogs I’ve covered the first part of the means test, the income part. That part says that if your income is no more than the medium amount for your state and your size of family, you can skip the rest of the means test and qualify for Chapter 7. But if your income is over the applicable median income amount, then you have to go through the convoluted expenses part of the means test to see whether you can still do a Chapter 7 case.

As much as I want in these blogs to help you understand how bankruptcy works, there is a limit to what can be effectively conveyed within the limitations of a blog. Much of the expenses part of the means test goes over that limit. So in this blog we will avoid that nitty-gritty. But here’s what you should know.

The concept behind the means test is pretty straightforward: debtors who have the means to pay a meaningful amount to their creditors over a reasonable period of time should be required to do so. But putting that concept into law resulted in maddeningly complicated and unclear rules. Not surprisingly, trying to apply those rules to real life has been challenging.

The expense rules got really complicated by trying to be objective. Congress assumed that it couldn’t trust debtors to list their anticipated expenses because they’d just show they had no money left over for their creditors. For a more objective standard, Congress could have picked between either the actual expenses a debtor in fact pays for food, clothing, etc., or else used some standard amount for expenses.

Well, Congress chose…  BOTH—a mix between actual and standard expenses. So now for some expenses we must use standard amounts, based on Internal Revenue Service tables. But this gets complicated quickly because some of those expense standards are national, some vary by state, and some even vary among specific metropolitan areas within a state. Then some other “necessary” expenses can be the actual amounts expected to be spent. And there are even some expenses which are partly standard and partly actual (certain components of transportation expenses). Add in deductions for secured debt payments (vehicle, mortgage) and priority debts (income taxes, accrued child support), and trying to figure out when they can and can’t be claimed, and you get an idea why I’m not going to get any deeper into this “black box.”

I WILL tell you in my next blog what happens at the other end of this “black box” of expenses—what happens if you have some disposable income after deducting expenses.

I’ll close today by emphasizing that the expense rules are not clear how they are to be applied to many common situations. The result is that different courts have interpreted these rules in inconsistent ways, requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve these disputes one at a time.

So this is a prime example of why you want to have an attorney who fully understands these often confounding rules, and is also on top of the pertinent local and national court interpretations of these rules. There’s a lot riding on it—whether or not you qualify for Chapter 7, and how much and how long you have to pay into a Chapter 13 case. In other words, what’s potentially at stake is years of your life, and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.

Waiting just one day to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case can make qualifying for it much easier—or much harder!

How could such a small delay make such a big difference?

One of the main goals behind the huge amendment to the bankruptcy law in 2005 was to force more people to pay a portion of their debts through Chapter 13 payment plans instead of writing them off in a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy.” And the primary tool that is supposed to accomplish this is the means test. The rationale behind this test was that instead of allowing judges to make judgment calls about who was or was not abusing the bankruptcy system, a rigid financial test would ferret out who had the “means” to pay a meaningful amount to their creditors in a Chapter 13 case.

But in real life rigid rules can have unintended consequences. An experienced and conscientious lawyer will work to turn these consequences to your advantage, and avoid their disadvantages. Here’s an idea how this plays out with the means test.

In my last blog I explained the first part of the means test, which essentially compares the income you received during the six FULL CALENDAR months before filing bankruptcy to a standard median income amount for your state and your family size. If your income is at or under the applicable median income, then you get to file a Chapter 7 case (except in very unusual circumstances, which I’m not going to get into here). If your income is higher than the median amount, you may still be able to file a Chapter 7 case but you have to jump through a whole bunch of extra hoops to do so. And there’s a risk that you will be forced to go through a Chapter 13 payment plan.  So you can see that having income below the median income amount makes your case much simpler and less risky.

But how can filing the case a day earlier or later matter so much? Because of the means test’s fixation on those six prior full calendar months. And because the means test includes ALL income during that precise period (other than social security).  Virtually all money that comes into your hands during that period is counted, not just taxable income. 

So imagine that you received some irregular chunk of money, say an income tax refund, a few catch-up child support payments, or an insurance settlement or reimbursement.  Not a huge amount, say $3,000, received on July 15 of last year. Your only other income is from your job, where make a $42,000 salary, or $3,500 gross per month. Let’s say that the median annual income for your state and family size is $43,000.

So now we’re getting close to the end of January, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork is ready to file, and you’re anxious to get it filed so that you get protection from your aggressive creditors. BUT, if your case is filed on or before January 31, then the last six full calendar month period will be from July 1 through December 31 of last year, which includes that $3,000 extra money you received in mid-July. Your work income of 6 times $3,500 equals $21,000, plus that $3,000 totals $24,000 received during that 6-month period. Multiply that by 2 to make that an annual amount, and that equals $48,000, higher than the $42,000 median income. So you’d have failed the income portion of the means test.

But if you just wait to file until February 1, then the applicable 6-month period jumps forward by 1 full month to the period from August 1 of last year through January 31 of this year. Now that new period does NOT include the $3,000 you received in mid-July. So now your income during the 6-month period is $21,000, multiplied by 2 is $42,000. So now you’re under the $43,000 median income amount. You’ve passed the income portion of the means test, and you get to skip the awkward and risky expenses part of the means test. So you’re much more likely to breeze through your Chapter 7 case. Hooray!

Last thing: what if that $3,000 chunk of money was not conveniently received almost 6 months ago, but rather only a 2 or 3 months ago, and you’re desperate to file your case? You need to stop a garnishment or foreclosure and simply can’t wait another few months to file. Well if you file now, then you will be over the median income, and will need to go through the expenses part of the means test. You may still be saved there, or there may even be other ways of qualifying for Chapter 7. More about those in my next blog or two. But if you are concerned about this now, please call to set up a consultation with me right away. This blog should make clear that careful pre-bankruptcy planning is critical. The sooner we start, the more likely time will be on your side.

Are you among the large majority of people whose income easily qualifies them for Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy”? You can find out right here and now.

As you’ve likely heard, a few years ago Congress passed a major set of changes to the bankruptcy laws intended to make it harder for some people to file Chapter 7.  The idea was that those who have the means to pay a meaningful amount of their debt to their creditors in a three-to-five-year Chapter 13 payment plan ought to do so. So they shouldn’t be able to just write off all their debts in a Chapter 7 case. At least that’s the theory behind the means test.

In practice, for many people it’s quite an easy hurdle to step right over.  Most people who want to file a straight bankruptcy can still do so.

The means test is truly an odd one. It has two parts. The income part—the one I’m addressing here today—is relatively easy to figure out.

But the second part, involving living expenses, is one of the most complicated formulas imaginable. This law was worded so poorly that more than six years after it became effective there’s still a lot of debate about how it’s supposed to work. Fortunately, most people don’t need to get to that part of the test, and we won’t here.

That’s because if you pass the income part of the test, you can totally skip the expenses part.

So, the income part of the means test compares your income to a published “median income” for a household of your size in your state. If your income is no more than that median, then right away you’ve passed the test—you get to file a Chapter 7 case.

But even this easy part of the test has its quirkiness.

1. It is NOT based on your taxable income for the previous calendar year, or anything that simple. Instead it is based on the precise amount of income you received during the six full calendar months before your case is filed. So, for example, if your case is filed on January 25, 2012, we look at every dollar you received during the six-month period from July 1 through December 31, 2011. Then take that six-month total and divide it by six to come up with a monthly average.

2.The income included for this purpose is not just your “taxable income,” but rather every bit of income you’ve gotten from all sources during that period of time, including irregular ones like child and spousal support payments, insurance settlements, unemployment benefits, and bonuses. The exception: exclude all social security income.

Then multiply your six-month average monthly income by 12 to come up with your annual income. The last step is to compare that amount to the median income for your state and your size of family. You can find that median income in the table that you can access through this website. (This median income information gets updated every few months, so make sure you’re using the current table.)

If your income, as calculated in this precise way, is no more than the median income applicable to your state and family size, then you can file a Chapter 7 case. Congratulations—you’ve cleared the means test hurdle!

If your income is MORE than the applicable median amount, don’t despair. You may well still be able to file a Chapter 7 case. More on that in my next blog.  

It will be just a little bit easier or a little bit harder to qualify to file a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” as of November 1, 2011. Whether it’ll be easier or harder for you depends on the state where you reside and on your family size.

What changes on November 1? The bankruptcy system looks to the U.S. Census to calculate each state’s median income, as applicable to each size of family. Median income is the amount at which half of the state’s families have incomes higher and half have lower. If your income is below your state’s median income for your size of family, then in almost all situations you can file a Chapter 7 case. But if your income is above that median income amount and you still want to file a Chapter 7 case, then you have to fill out a long and rather complicated form about your allowed expenses to determine whether or not filing a Chapter 7 case would be “abusive.” So if you want to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s a lot easier if you’re below the median.

On November 1, new median income amounts become applicable. Some people were predicting these amounts would be lower because of the faltering economy. But in many states the income figures went up instead of down. For example, among single-person families, 31 of the states’ median incomes went up and only 19 went down. Remember, if the median income goes up, that makes it a little more likely that your income will fall below that median, and you’ll have smoother sailing qualifying for Chapter 7.

So, if your income is close to the applicable median amount, and the median is increasing for your family size in your state on November 1, then you have a better chance at falling under the median if you file on or after that date. But if the applicable median is decreasing, then you have a better chance of falling under the median if you file your bankruptcy before then, by no later than October 31.

I’m about to give you the two lists of median income amounts—the one applicable through October 1, and the other starting November 1. But before you start comparing those annual income amounts to your income, please understand that the meaning of “income” in this context is quite different than conventional meanings of that word. “Income” here is calculated using a six-calendar-month look back period that is doubled and then divided by 12 for an average monthly income. It includes all sources of income from all family members other than social security, not just taxable income.

Because of this and many other sorts of complications, yon truly need to consult with a bankruptcy attorney about whether this November 1 median income changes matter to you, and whether you should try to file before then or instead after. But to get you started, here are the two median income lists: the one to use until October 31, 2011, and the other to use after that.

You may want the fast fresh start of a Chapter 7 case, but sometimes your circumstances scream out for a Chapter 13 instead.  It’s true—for some people Chapter 13 provides tremendous tools not available under Chapter 7. Now all you have to do is qualify for it.

Qualifying for Chapter 13 is completely different than qualifying for Chapter 7. You 1) can’t have too much debt, and 2) must be “an individual with regular income.”


Too Much Debt

There is no limit how much debt you can have if you file a Chapter 7 case. But under Chapter 13 there IS a strict maximum debt amount. The idea is that Chapter 13 is a relatively straightforward and efficient procedure designed for relatively simple situations. If there’s a huge amount of debt, the theory is that you need a more complicated procedure, Chapter 11, which is arguably ten times more elaborate (and about that many times more expensive!).  

So Congress has come up, rather arbitrarily, with a strict debt maximum to qualify for Chapter 13. Actually, there are two separate maximums, one for unsecured debt and another for secured debt. You’re thrown out of Chapter 13 if you exceed either amount.

The current maximums are $1,081,400 for secured debt and $360,475 in unsecured debts. Those same numbers apply whether you are filing by yourself or with a spouse.

These amounts may sound like way beyond what most consumers would owe, and in fact they do not cause most people a problem. But these limits are problematic more than you might think. Consider if you owed a normal amount of debt and then were hit with a catastrophic medical emergency and/or very serious ongoing condition that quickly exhausted your medical insurance. A few hundred thousand dollars of medical debts can add up faster than you can believe.  

Other potentially troublesome situations, particularly for the unsecured debt limit, include if you’ve owned a business, or are involved in serious litigation. Or if you own real estate, especially more than just your primary residence, the secured debt limit can also be reached quickly, especially in certain part of the country.


“Individual with Regular Income”

First, corporations and partnerships can file Chapter 7s, but not 13s—you must be an “individual.”

Second, the Bankruptcy Code defines—not very helpfully, mind you—“individual with regular income” as someone “whose income is sufficiently stable and regular to enable such individual to make payments under a plan under Chapter 13.”  That’s sounds like a circular definition—your income is regular enough to qualify to do a Chapter 13 case if your income is regular enough to do a Chapter 13 case!? Such an ambiguous definition gives bankruptcy judges a great deal of discretion about how they enforce this requirement. Some are pretty flexible, letting you at least try. Others look more closely at your recent income history and have to be pursuaded that your income is consistent enough to meet this hurdle. This is one of those areas where it pays to have a good attorney in your corner, one who has experience with your judge and the expertise to present your circumstances in the best light.

Not everyone who wants to file a Chapter 7 “straight bankruptcy” can do so. But most can. There is probably no topic that causes more confusion among people thinking about filing bankruptcy –do they qualify? Let me set the story straight.

1. Inaccurate publicity:  

People think it’s difficult to qualify for filing bankruptcy because of lingering public memory of a major amendment of the bankruptcy code six years ago.  This “reform” was intended to make filing bankruptcy, and especially Chapter 7, more difficult, and its proponents were happy to proclaim this intent. This has stayed in the public’s mind even though the law actually did not make it harder for most people to file whichever Chapter they wanted.

2. Confusion breeds fear:  

If you don’t think that it makes sense that a law which went into effect in the middle of the last decade continues to sow such misinformation, bear two things in mind. First, this set of amendments to the Bankruptcy Code was one of the most confusing, self-contradictory, and convoluted pieces of legislation ever to pass through Congress. (And that’s saying a lot!) Second, sorting out this sweeping set of statutory contradictions and ambiguities through the court system takes many years. Some of the important issues are just now making it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Others won’t be resolved for years. In an environment where the law is not reasonably clear, even common sense suggests “erring on the side of caution.” Add a dose of misinformation, and it’s easy to see why people assume the worst.

3. The new “Means Test” does not even apply to many bankruptcy filers:  

The “means test,” the main new hoop to jump through to qualify for Chapter 7, has complications, but a large percent of filers avoid it altogether. If your annualized income during the six full calendar months before filing the bankruptcy—counting income from virtually every source other than social security—is less than the published median family income in your state for your size of family, then you qualify for Chapter 7, without needing to apply the “means test.” A large percentage of people filing bankruptcy have relatively low income, at least for a time, and so they dodge the “means test.”

4. The “Means Test” is often easy:  

Even if your income IS higher than the applicable median, most of the time the expenses that you are allowed to subtract from your income enables you to pass the “means test” successfully. You end up showing you have no meaningful amount of “disposable income.”

5. Chapter 13 is often the preferred option anyway:  

The point of the “means test” is to require people who have enough “disposable income” to pay some (or, in rare cases, all) of their debts through a Chapter 13 case. In the relatively few times this happens, usually the amount that must be paid in the Chapter 13 case to the creditors is much less than the total debt. Plus, Chapter 13 provides advantages over Chapter 7 in many, many situations, so it may be the first choice anyway, regardless whether the person would pass or fail the “means test.”

In my last blog I said that non-citizens—legal or not—can file bankruptcy. All they need is appropriate identification. But that begs two questions: 1) Would that non-citizen receive all the benefits from that bankruptcy that a citizen would receive?  2) And would filing the bankruptcy hurt a legal non-citizen’s efforts to become a citizen, or would it increase an illegal immigrant’s risk of deportation?  

I’ll address the first of these questions now, and the second one in my next blog.

Two benefits of bankruptcy pertain here:

1. The protection of assets from the bankruptcy trustee (and thus from the creditors) through “exemptions.”

2. The granting of a discharge of debts.


The rules about what property of a debtor is exempt do not directly change with the debtor’s citizenship status, but there are potentially very important indirect effects.

Bankruptcies filed many states use that state’s own set of exemptions. So the federal bankruptcy court has to interpret that state’s definitions of those exemption definitions. Some of those definitions and the court’s interpretations of them can disqualify some immigrants. For example, Florida has a very generous homestead exemption, but In order to qualify for it, a debtor must be a permanent resident of the state with the intent to make the property in question his permanent residence. This residency requirement can be satisfied by a non-citizen only if he or she has gotten permanent resident status–a “green card”—as of the date of the filing of the bankruptcy. In a recent case, the immigrant was in the process of getting his permanent residency and in fact received that status three months after filing bankruptcy, but he was still deemed not to be a permanent resident at the time of his bankruptcy filing and so was denied a homestead exemption.


Again, the rules about what debts can be discharged and which cannot are the same regardless of citizenship. But some non-citizens have debts which were incurred in another country, leading to the question whether those debts can be discharged in their U.S. bankruptcy case.

It depends.

First, assuming that the creditor is given appropriate notice of the bankruptcy, and the debtor successfully gets a discharge of his or her debts, that creditor will no longer be able to try to collect that foreign in the U.S.  

But second, there is a good chance that the U. S. bankruptcy court’s discharge of this debt does not result in the discharge of the debt under the laws of the original country. If so, then that debt can continue to be collected according to the laws of that country, presumably against the debtor’s assets in that country, and perhaps in other countries outside the U. S. This depends on complicated international issues like treaties between the U.S. and that country, and whether they have “comity”—an agreement to respect each other’s laws—specifically in the area of bankruptcy. Otherwise, if the debtor has property outside the U. S., or intends to return to the other country, even just to visit, these issues should be investigated very closely, likely with both your U. S. bankruptcy attorney and one in the other country. In some situations, it even may be necessary to file the appropriate form of bankruptcy in the other country, assuming that exists and the debtor qualifies to do so.