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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bankruptcy and ASD

What does bankruptcy have to do with autism spectrum disorder? As we have seen, the demands of autism parenting may cut into family income and the costs of therapy are high. Last month, CNN reported: :`The burden on families affected by autism is enormous,' said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks. `Immediately parents are faced with bills that are not being covered so they turn to second mortgages or home equity lines of credit, then they turn to credit cards and other family members and at that point they are out of options.'"

But what of adults with autism?  They often have a hard time finding and keeping a job, so they may have to file bankruptcy themselves.  The Baltimore Sun reports:
A Baltimore County woman had about $340,000 in student loan debt discharged by a federal bankruptcy judge this month because Asperger's syndrome prevents her from holding a job.
Carol Todd of Nottingham pursued college degrees "as a stepping stone toward a measure of liberation … and perhaps to help her achieve something closer to a normal life," according to the May 17 opinion of Judge Robert A. Gordon, a bankruptcy judge for the District of Maryland. Asperger's is an autism-spectrum disorder that is typified by problems with social interaction.

But the debt Todd racked up ended up complicating her life, Gordon said. He took a rare judicial step by deciding that the loans Todd took on were an "undue hardship."

"It's very difficult to discharge a student loan," said Lawrence D. Coppel, a Baltimore attorney and founder of Maryland's Bankruptcy Bar Association.
"The courts have applied a very strict standard to that exception," said Coppel. "Most of the decisions that are published deny the discharge and refuse to find a hardship exception, even in cases where there's clearly hardship — so the decision by Judge Gordon … is unique."
Todd, who was 63 at the time of her student loan discharge trial in Nov. 2010, received a GED at 39 and began pursuing higher education.