Thursday, April 5, 2012

What does it mean if someone listed me in their bankruptcy as a Co-Debtor?

When a joint obligor on a promissory note or other debt files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy code requires that notice of the bankruptcy case is provided to the creditor and all co-debtors who are also obligated to pay the debt. If you receive notice that a co-borrower or co-debtor on a particular debt has filed for bankruptcy, it means that the debtor is complying with this particular requirement of the statute. In order for any actual or contingent obligation to be dischargable in bankruptcy, the creditor (the individual or business which is owed money by the debtor) must receive notice of the bankruptcy case, and have the right to object to the discharge of the debt, if appropriate legal grounds exist to object.

The reason that the code requires that all co-borrowers receive notice is because whenever there is a joint debt, the individual co-borrowers have “contingent, unliquidated claims” against all the other borrowers. Put another way, if Danny and Alice borrow $5,000.00 jointly, and Danny doesn’t pay , the lender can sue Alice and force her to repay all of the $5,000.00. Alice can then sue Danny and force him to contribute to the payment of the judgment obtained against Alice. However, in the event Danny files for bankruptcy, neither the original lender, nor Alice can sue Danny in an attempt to collect the balance even if the lender seeks to collect against Alice.

In this case, Alice would be best served to speak to a bankruptcy attorney, because she has a very limited time to do what she can to protect her claim, if anything. Alice’s right to collect any money from Danny is very fact specific, and the whole story will determine whether Danny’s “contingent” debt to Alice can similarly be discharged. If you find yourself owing a joint debt with someone who has recently filed for bankruptcy , contact Attorney Matthew P. Trask to discuss your rights and obligations.

To read more about co-debtors and bankruptcy, see our post What happens to my Cosigner if I file for Bankruptcy.


  1. I co-signed a loan for my son and he has since filed bankruptcy but neglected to list me as a co-signer. Am I responsible for repaying this debt?

    1. Yes. Co-signing for a debt is an agreement to pay said debt. If the primary debtor does not pay, then the cosignor is responsible.


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