By Ryan C. Wood
There are a number of requirements that must be met for proposed chapter 13 plans to be confirmed or approved by the bankruptcy court. See Section 1325 of the Bankruptcy Code for all of the requirements. The focus of this article is Section 1325(a)(6) which provides the court shall confirm a plan if, “the debtor will be able to make all payments under the plan and to comply with the plan.” The proposed chapter 13 plan must be feasible or possible. More or less the bankruptcy filer must be able to make the payments proposed in the chapter 13 plan for the entire life of the plan. Usually the plan will last three to five years depending upon the circumstances. So can a third party help make a chapter 13 plan payment each month for the entirety of the plan? The answer is yes under most circumstances.
Yes, A Third Party Can Help Make A Chapter 13 Plan Payment
This issue does not really come up too often for most bankruptcy lawyers. Most courts generally allow third party help, but it is disfavored for a number of reasons. See In re: Schwalb, 347 B.R. 726, 759 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2006. In Schwalb the court held that a debtor may rely on contributions from family and is not prohibited, but disfavored. Of course if the bankruptcy filer can get it done themselves that is much more favorable than having to rely on a third party for money each month. There has to be a firm commitment from the third party to make the contribution each month into the chapter 13 plan. If a third party contribution seems like it is speculative or will only be occasional then the chapter 13 plan can be considered not possible or feasible. The amount of the monthly contribution must be certain too. How can a court confirm or trustee recommend confirmation if the amount of the monthly contribution by the third party is not listed or known? There are a number of factors to consider: (1) the contributor’s relationship to the debtor and motivation in making the contributions; (2) the contributor’s long and undisputed history of making the contributions otherwise providing support for the debtor; (3) the commitment of the contributor to make the contribution in a specific amount for the duration of the chapter 13 plan; and (4) the financial stability of the contributor to make the proposed contribution. The bankruptcy filer and their bankruptcy attorney have the burden of proof in providing evidence to support confirmation of the proposed chapter 13 plan.
Why Would Someone Need Help With Their Monthly Chapter 13 Plan Payment?
The basic problem is the debtor or person filing bankruptcy does not have enough income after paying normal living expenses to meet their obligation under the bankruptcy code to creditors when filing chapter 13 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filer may only have $100.00 left over each month, but they have taxes that must be paid back in the chapter 13 plan or mortgage arrears that must be paid back in the chapter 13 plan. To pay the unpaid taxes or mortgage arrears the bankruptcy filer, for example, would have to pay $300.00 each month to fund the plan and make it feasible. Again, the bankruptcy filer cannot afford the plan payment, so they obtain third party assistance from a friend or family member. The friend or family member pays the additional $200 a month to make the plan possible or feasible and meet the requirements of Section 1325(a)(6).
Are There Limits To Third Party Help In Chapter 13?
How these issues are dealt with is different from circuit to circuit, district to district and division to division. But generally speaking most jurisdictions allow third party help under most circumstances. In a recent case with third party help proposed, In re Carolyn Deutsh, 2015 Bankr. Lexis, 1368, the Bankruptcy Court actually denied confirmation of the debtor’s chapter 13 plan for not being feasible. What went wrong here? In this case the third party contributor was the debtor’s boyfriend. So, they are not married and the boyfriend is a new boyfriend who says he “intends to contribute only for so long as he is financially able” according to the declaration filed in the case. Okay, can that be relied upon? The bankruptcy court said no. The third party needs to have some sort of tie to the debtor that is not so new it cannot be depended upon. Also the language of the declaration leaves a lot to be said. Why the declaration in Deutsh or less says “I think or guess I will help” instead of “I will contribute $700 a month toward the chapter 13 monthly plan payment for the entire duration of the chapter 13 plan.” There still could have been an issue with the third party contributor being a new boyfriend, but if the language of the declaration had been more concise about the boyfriend’s willingness to help things in the Deutsh may have been different.
The moral of the story is make sure the third party contributor to the monthly chapter 13 plan payment is committed to help, you have known them for some time and the amount they will contribute each months is listed specifically in the declaration prepared and filed with the court.