Date of Award:

2005

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Jean M. Lown

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the incidence of repeat filers in Utah and estimate the extent that repeat filers may be abusing the bankruptcy system. This study sought to develop a profile of repeat filers . Demographic and financial variables were examined to detem1ine their association with abuser/nonabuser status. In this study, abuse of bankruptcy was characterized only by the timing and number of filings over 20 years. Debtors with three filings in a 2-year period or less and debtors with four or more total filings were classified as abusers. Nonabusers were defined as debtors who filed only once as well as debtors who had two or three scattered filings over the 20-year period.

About I I% of the total sample appeared to be abusing the bankruptcy system by filing repeatedly. The majority (76.2%) of the I 997 cases filed by abusers were dismissed while only 23.8% received a discharge of their unsecured debts. Only five (2.9%) of the I 71 abusers who filed chapter I 3 in I 997 completed their payment plan and received a discharge of their debts. The logistic regression model found chapter (7 versus 13), filing status, unsecured debt, and monthly income to be the most significant variables in estimating abuse. Males and females filing alone were nearly 50% less likely than joint filers to be abusers. Chapter 13 debtors are nearly five times as likely to be abusers when compared to chapter 7 debtors. Filers who had unsecured debt levels above the median were less likely to be abusers, and filers who had incomes above the median were almost twice as likely to be abusers.

Realistic repayment plans that pay careful attention to construction of budgets and a financial counselor to work with debtors who miss payments is one approach to combating abuse by repeat filing. Judges may need to discipline attorneys who file cases repeatedly. Perhaps a new Code is not what we need to combat abusers; instead, closer monitoring of cases by trustees, more responsible attorneys, and more responsible lending are needed.

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