The principal aim of the consumer bankruptcy system in the United States has been to offer individuals the opportunity for a fresh start in their financial affairs. Reduced to simplest terms, a fresh start equates with relief from bad decision-making.

As a bankruptcy judge in the Northeast region of this country, I have witnessed a wide array of bad spending decisions. Consumer bankruptcy petitions are replete with examples of poor judgment: gambling debts, excessive purchases of luxury goods, ill-advised loan guarantees,  unpaid income taxes and over-extended home mortgage loans, just to name a few. Yet Congress has weaved into the U.S. bankruptcy code and consumer protection legislation various forms of relief for consumers who failed to exercise good judgment in their spending.  With limited exceptions, all of the lapses in judgment mentioned above can be cured through discharges in bankruptcy.

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