Brunner Test

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The three-part Brunner test begins by reviewing the debtor’s current financial condition. While the second Brunner prong focuses on expectations for the future and the third prong examines past conduct, this initial test examines the debtor’s circumstances at the time of trial. The debtor must be unable to maintain a “minimal” standard of living for herself and her dependents and still repay the student loan.

The most common test is the Brunner test which requires a showing that 1) the debtor cannot maintain, based on current income and expenses, a “minimal” standard of living for the debtor and the debtor’s dependents if forced to repay the student loans; 2) additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans; and 3) the debtor has made good faith efforts to repay the loans. (Brunner v. New York State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., 831 F. 2d 395 (2d Cir. 1987). Most, but not all, courts use this test. A lot has changed since this 1987 court decision and some courts have begun to question whether they should use a different standard. For now, all federal courts of appeal except the First and Eighth Circuits have adopted the Brunner test.

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