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Bankruptcy Cases in the News

Bankruptcy Cases in the News

In a recent case, local Bankruptcy Court Judge Walter Shapero granted the Trustee’s Motion to dismiss a debtors’ case under 11 USC 707 (b)(3). The reason was that the debtors with “some belt tightening” should not have been in a Chapter 7 but had sufficient income to pay a dividend to unsecured creditors and so would have to elect to dismiss or proceed in a Chapter 13.

The case is Meletios Golematis, Case No.: 11-52238 out of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan. The case turned upon whether the debtors were sufficiently needy – although technically qualified – for Chapter 7 relief. In other words, it was not alleged that the Debtors were dishonest or did anything wrong but argued whether they had an ability to repay some unsecured non-priority creditors going forward. The Court framed the inquiry as follows.

Authority to dismiss a case under Chapter 7 for abuse is derived from §707 (b)(1), which provides in part:

“After notice and hearing, the court, on its own motion or on a motion by the United States trustee, trustee (or bankruptcy administrator, if any), or any party in interest, may dismiss a case filed by an individual debtor under this chapter whose debts are primarily consumer debts, or, with the debtor’s consent, convert such a case to a case under Chapter 11 or 13 of this title, if it finds that the granting of relief would be an abuse of the provisions of this chapter.”

Under §707 (b)(3)(B), when bad faith is not a factor, courts examine the totality of the circumstances in determining whether the debtor’s financial situation constitutes abuse warranting dismissal. The UST carries the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence the applicability of this ground for dismissal. In the Sixth Circuit a totality of the circumstances inquiry under §707 (b)(3)(B) involves an analysis of whether the debtor displays a lack of honesty or want of need, either of which alone may provide sufficient justification for dismissal. In re Krohn, 886 F.2d 123, 126 (6th Cir. 1989) In this case, the UST does not allege that Debtors display a lack of honesty. Instead, the UST questions whether Debtors are in need of relief under Chapter 7.

In determining whether a debtor is sufficiently needy to justify granting relief under Chapter 7, this Court analyzes whether the debtor has an ability to repay its unsecured non-priority creditors. Krohn, 886 F.2d at 126.

The case offers an excellent guide to lawyers and lay-people contemplating bankruptcies as to what are reasonable and necessary expenses for: private school tuition, children’s activities and sports, 401(K) contributions, home maintenance and overall abilities to fund a Chapter 13 plan. If you have these types of expenses you might wish to give this case a read to see how they are viewed locally – a genuine family expense or temporary luxury to be forgone for a while.

Again, the goal is equitable treatment to debtors and creditors. This is the way to a debtor’s fresh start and bankruptcy discharge. This case points out that it is not equitable to schedule unreasonably high costs of living to the creditors who would otherwise enjoy a little dividend on the debt owed to them.

[Guy Vining, a bankruptcy attorney, in metro-Detroit, maintains his office in Taylor, Michigan, where he serves the downriver communities of Monroe, South Rockwood, Gibraltar, Brownstown Township, Grosse Ile, Woodhaven, Trenton, Southgate, Riverview, Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Westland, Wayne, and Ecorse. If you or a family member of friend would like a no-obligation no cost consultation/financial analysis, just call or E-mail Guy Vining of Vining Law Group, P.L.C to schedule a meeting.]

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