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Well, it depends on what question you are asking. Chapter 7 is designed to give a person a new start. It is designed for people who have consumer debts, credit cards and medical debt. However you must attend credit counseling before you are able to file to see if there is any other kind of debt consolidation program that may help. You are also requried to go to Debt Education Counseling after the bankruptcy is discharged to make sure you don’t get yourself back into the same predicament.

Bankruptcy Chapter 7 can be the answer, if you qualify. You have to pass a test. Not like a test at school, but the “means” test. The “means” test has two parts. First, it looks at your annual income to see if it is below the state median income. If you are below, you pass the first part of the test. The second part of the test looks at your regular monthly expenses versus your income to see if you have any disposable income at the end of the month to give to the creditors to pay them back. If at the end of the month, you have money left over, then you may be a candidate for a Chapter 13 repayment plan. If you have very little at the end of the month left over, you can qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge.

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Chapter 7 is the answer if you are trying to protect assets with low value. Can I protect my home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy? This depends on the amount of equity in the home and whether you can keep current with your payments. When you file a bankruptcy, the trustee has the right to sell items to pay off the creditors. However you are also given some exemptions which is some property that you can keep. If the house has very little equity you would probably be able to reaffirm the mortgage debt and keep the home. If you have significant equity in the home it becomes harder to keep it. Deciding what exemptions apply whether Federal or State becomes very difficult and an attorney can be very helpful in trying to protect as much as you have while still discharging the debts you cannot pay.

Bottomline you need to have very little income left over at the end of the month and assets with very little value in order to obtain a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you would like to know if you are a good candidate, make an appointment to talk to one of our attorneys.

First, it is required by law. In accordance with Title 11 US Code Section 109(h)1, in order to be a debtor and file a Bankruptcy Petition a person must have in the 180 days before filing the petition completed received a certificate of compliance that they have completed pre-filing counseling with an approved agency. A debtor is also required to complete pre-discharge debtor education after you file. Both are required before the filer’s debts can be discharged however the pre-filing counseling must be completed before filing.

Second, avoid filing. Only credit counseling organizations and debtor education course providers that have been approved by the U.S. Trustee Program can provide these Certificates of Completion. Not all programs are the same. Many are just a rubber stamp to move you along to the filing however this provision was made a part of the law for a very important reason that people miss. If you attend credit counseling from a good program, they may be able to help you and you will NOT have to file for bankruptcy at all. Credit counseling agencies are designed to try to work with creditors to consolidate your debt. If you fit as a candidate for a credit counseling program, you will make one monthly payment and the credit counseling agency will pay something to each of your creditors until they are paid off. They will also work to try to stop the bleeding of the interest accumulation. Credit counseling agencies do a thorough budget process to find out if you have any disposable income to be part of the debt program. If not, you may need to resort to a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 however many people do fit the program.

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Third, financial health. Although, being part of a debt consolidation program does appear on your credit report, it is not considered to have the same negative effects as filing a bankruptcy. If you are not a candidate for a credit counseling program and you do need to file a Bankruptcy petition, the hope is with completion of these programs you will be able to avoid being in these situations again. If you qualify for a Chapter 7 and you discharge all your debts, the worst thing that can happen is to be right back in the same spot a few years later. The pre-discharge debtor education helps people identify the reasons that they ended up in this spot. It gives great tips for financial health and budgeting processes that can help individuals stay on track. All of this information, if strongly considered, can get you going and staying on the right path.

Bottomline don’t discount the reasons why the law made this a requirement. If you want to find out more information about what would be considered a good credit counseling program as well as more information about Bankruptcy in general, make an appointment to talk to one of our attorneys.

Consumers in Pennsylvania who are in need of debt relief assistance may benefit from filing for bankruptcy, but they should understand the two primary forms of consumer bankruptcy – Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 – to make the right decision for their needs.

When facing serious debt problems, many consumers can feel stuck and as though they have nowhere to turn. They can be afraid to answer their phone, read their email or get their physical mail for fear of being hounded by yet another debt collector.

The thought of filing for bankruptcy can be hard for some Pennsylvania residents to swallow in part because it can be difficult to know which type of bankruptcy to file for. Understanding how a Chapter 7 bankruptcy works and how a Chapter 13 bankruptcy works can help a person make the right choice for their situation.

Bankruptcy basics

Both types of consumer bankruptcies, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, allow debtors to retain some assets as both plans identify a threshold for exemptions and items valued below the set level may be kept out of the bankruptcy process.

Another important point to understand is that both bankruptcy plans will evaluate a consumer’s income and expenses. Any money left after basic living expenses are paid may be deemed to be discretionary income.

Consumers should also be aware that some debts are not dischargeable via bankruptcy. Credit Karma explains these include spousal and child support, and some taxes.

Chapter 7 overview

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a person’s nonexempt assets may be seized and used to repay creditors. Debt relief from this type of bankruptcy is achieved relatively quickly once the filing has been made, often within a few months. Any debt included in a Chapter 7 plan is discharged.

Chapter 13 overview

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not automatically discharge all included debts. Instead, it is more like a structured repayment plan in which the debtor makes monthly payments to a trustee for 36 to 60 months. Those payments are used to repay at least some of the money owed to creditors.

A person must have sufficient disposable income to qualify for this type of plan. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy may also give a homeowner the ability to avoid losing their home, but it is important for them to know that their mortgage would not be part of their bankruptcy plan. They must be able to catch up on any past due amounts and remain current with mortgage payments going forward while they are also making their Chapter 13 monthly payments.

Legal help is recommended

People who need guidance on how to get the right level of help for their debt relief needs should contact an attorney who is experienced in consumer bankruptcy. This will allow Pennsylvania residents to make educated choices that are in their best interests.

During the divorce process, information is gathered not only on assets, but also on debt. Marital debt is debt that is accumulated during the divorce, regardless of the name of on the account. This means that if you have a charge happy spouse, you may be liable to share in the debt created by their spending spree. The balances of the credit cards and debts as of the date of the separation of the divorce is the date to look at for purposes of debt distribution. Since divorce often takes awhile, you will want to gather this information as soon as you separate. You will also want to keep track and gather proof of every payment you make on this debt since you separated so that you can seek credit for this payment when you get divorced. If your overall marital estate is primarily distribution of debt, you may want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney. Any debt that is discharged in bankruptcy does not get considered in the divorce if it is discharged prior to the divorce going through since it no longer exists. It is always wise to consult a bankruptcy attorney when there are high debts in divorce and few assets to determine not only whether to file bankruptcy or if you qualify but when to file it.

When you are getting divorced, most debt, with a few exceptions, accumulated during the divorce is marital debt regardless of the name on the debt. The first step in approaching your debt is to find out what you have. I recommend that you start by obtaining your free credit report. You can obtain one from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. It may be a good idea to stagger it every three or four months so you can pull one from each throughout the year. Review your credit report to obtain balances, or identify accounts you either did not know about or forgot about. You should also have a title clerk do a search on your real estate to make sure there are no unknown liens on your house.

Next, compile an organized binder with a list of all your debts and start organizing your statements. You will want to obtain the statements of balances as of the date of your separation. You will also then want to start saving copies of cancelled checks and statements after your date of separation so that you can seek credit for payment of marital debt where it is allowed. In addition, you want to save the statements to show you did not increase the marital debt.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to pay all the debt, you may want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney who can not only help you determine if it is a good idea, but may also be able to guide you in recovering money from creditors.

As it relates to individuals considering bankruptcy the two most frequently used types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 provides for the liquidation of assets to satisfy debts owed. All nonexempt assets are gathered by a trustee and sold to pay off debts. Certain assets may be exempted from liquidation depending on federal or state laws. The individual filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will need to include a schedule of exempt property with their bankruptcy petition. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies involve a situation where all the property of the individual is exempt or there are no assets. In that scenario, the trustee makes a report to the court that there are “no assets” for liquidation and no distribution is made to creditors.

Chapter 13 allows an individual to keep their property and provides a three to five year time frame to make payments. This plan is available to individuals with regular income to support the payments. The length of the term for repayment is based on the income of the individual with the longer term being reserved for individuals earning less or demonstrating other “cause” for extension. The benefit of Chapter 13 is the individual is able to retain their property, and potentially have a longer period for repayment and lower monthly payments over the term. Payments are made to a trustee and then the trustee is responsible for distribution to creditors. Both types of bankruptcy generally result in a stay meaning attempts at debt collection stop. Bankruptcy will affect your credit and will be reflected on your credit report for seven to ten years however it may be the best route to a fresh financial start if truly plagued with debt.

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Financial obligations in the context of a divorce can create a strain on the party ordered to pay. If a party is simply unable to keep up with all their obligations they may consider filing for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy filing generally results in an automatic stay meaning the party filing for bankruptcy is protected from creditors seeking payment from them until the bankruptcy is resolved however there are exceptions to this general rule. 11 U.S.C § 362 (b) provides that the filing of a bankruptcy petition does not operate as a stay for any proceeding regarding the establishment or modification of an order for domestic support obligations, concerning child custody or visitation, or for the dissolution of a marriage (including decree with court order or property settlement agreement except to the extent that such proceeding seeks to determine the division of property that is property of the estate). Accordingly, a party may not seek to dismiss all their obligations in a family law matter by filing for bankruptcy. Pennsylvania case law reiterates this point. In Schulze v. Schulze, 15 B.R. 106 (1981), the court held that “there can be no doubt that the state court action as it pertains to divorce and the custody of the minor children should not be stayed.”

Another component of filing for bankruptcy is the potential for certain debts to be discharged, meaning the obligation no longer needs to be fulfilled. 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(15) provides that a debtor cannot discharge a debt to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor that is incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree, or other order of a court of record. This statute is interpreted to mean that a party cannot discharge an obligation to provide support. A party used to be able to discharge an obligation to split assets and/or debts under a property settlement agreement or order on equitable distribution. In Deichert v. Deichert, 402 Pa. Super. 415 (1991), the court discusses which marital obligations are dischargeable or non-dischargeable in bankruptcy and concludes the court is to look at the intent of the parties and/or the effect/function of the obligation since debts under property settlement are dischargeable but support obligations are not. However, amendments to the bankruptcy law in 2005 provided that any order arising under any family law docket including equitable distribution is no longer dischargeable.