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I owe some government-backed student loans, or criminal fines. What can I do about that?

 

Most of the time these are treated like taxes. These debts cannot be discharged, and in a Chapter 13 they have to be paid in full. In some situations, the student loans might not be paid in full in the Chapter 13 case. If that happens, you still have to pay the rest of that debt after the case is closed.

Criminal fines and restitution cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7, but you can make payment arrangements in a Chapter 13. Also, some part of those fines might actually be court costs, and not fines. Court costs can be discharged, while fines and restitution cannot.

In a Chapter 7 there is usually nothing that you can do about these kinds of debts. The only exception is if you have any extreme hardship situation, such as a permanent crippling total disability, or a disease that will be fatal within a few years. In other words, if there is no real chance that you will ever be able to pay the debt anyway, then there is a chance that you can get a "hardship discharge."