The discharge order is the ultimate goal in bankruptcy for most debtors. The discharge order permanently prevents collection of debts by creditors of dischargeable debts listed in the bankruptcy case. Most types of debts can be discharged. However, there are a few notable exceptions, which include student loans, criminal fines, child support, and income taxes. In limited cases even student loans and income taxes may be able to be discharged in bankruptcy, although discharging these types of debts requires that very specific requirements be met, which limits discharge of these debts to very few debtors.
The discharge order is signed by the bankruptcy judge at the end of the bankruptcy case. In Chapter 7 cases it is usually issued about three and a half to four months after the case is filed. In Chapter 13 cases debtors receive a discharge once the Chapter 13 plan has been completed. These plans usually last three to five years but may be shorter if the plan provides that all of the creditors are to be paid in a shorter amount of time.
The discharge order is an order of the bankruptcy court. Creditors who violate the discharge order by attempting to collect debt listed in the bankruptcy case may be sued by the debtor in the bankruptcy court. Creditors who violate the discharge order may be forced to pay actual damages, punitive damages, and the debtor’s attorney’s fees for prosecuting the case.