The New Bankruptcy Law: Assessing The Law's Impact on Women

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It is well understood that consumer bankruptcy is designed to assist someone to obtain a "fresh start," which in most cases entails discharging some, if not all, debts and obligations. Although the bankruptcy code is gender neutral, the implications of the new code may in fact have a disproportionate and unintentional effect on women. Ironically, although one aspect of the recent bankruptcy law changes purports to further empower the recipients of support obligation payments and debts (who are overwhelmingly women), other provisions of the law also make it more difficult for people to seek bankruptcy protection.

A majority of bankruptcy filers are now also women. Thus, on one hand, the new bankruptcy law seems to be beneficial to women because of some added protections that are afforded if the support obligation provider files bankruptcy while, on the other hand, other provisions of the law potentially will harm those who will find it more difficult and costly to file bankruptcy themselves, even if they are desperately in need of a fresh start.

On April 20, 2005, President Bush signed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA). Pursuant to House Report 109-031, the purpose of the bill is to improve bankruptcy law and practice by restoring personal responsibility and integrity in the bankruptcy system and ensure that the system is fair for both debtors and creditors. Although the crux of BAPCPA relates to the new implementation of a "means test" to determine if a debtor qualifies for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, other sweeping changes were made, including some...

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by: Justin H. Dion, Esquire

Massachusetts Bar Institute
September 2006

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