At the conclusion of almost all consumer bankruptcy cases the debtor will receive an order from the court that discharges the debtor’s personal obligation to pay certain debts. This discharge is a court injunction prohibiting creditors from taking collection action to collect on discharged debts. Violation of this injunction may result in a contempt of court charge and serious penalties.
But what if you have a debt that you want to pay even after it is discharged?
The Bankruptcy Code provides, “Nothing contained in. . . this section prevents a debtor from voluntarily repaying any debt.” 11 U.S.C. § 524(f). You are free to make voluntary payments on all or part of your discharged debts. These payments do not invalidate the discharge order and do not create a new legal obligation. The creditor is still prohibited from contacting you in any way and cannot take any collection action against you, including sending you a bill or even encouraging your continued payments. In this case the term “voluntary” means free from creditor influence or inducement.
Any payments you make on a discharged debt are the result of a moral obligation as the legal obligation to pay the debt has been discharged by the bankruptcy court. In a Chapter 7 case, you are free to pay whomever you want. “Debtors who file under [Chapter 7] can dispose of their post-petition earnings as they choose, including voluntary repayment of debts otherwise dischargeable in bankruptcy.” In re Hellums, 772 F.2d 379, 381 (7th Cir. 1985).
If you are interested in making voluntary repayments after your discharge, discuss the matter with your bankruptcy attorney. While there are generally few down-sides to voluntary repayment, your bankruptcy attorney can discuss the pros and cons with you and help you reach the right decision for you and your family.