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Requirements for Filing Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy protection can offer valuable debt relief and a fresh financial start to Americans who are struggling financially. Because of this, there are many rules and requirements that govern who can file for bankruptcy and when. This page will outline those laws.

To ask an attorney about whether you meet bankruptcy filing requirements, please fill out this form now.

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Pre-Filing and Pre-Discharge Bankruptcy Requirements

Since the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), all people interested in filing for bankruptcy have had to jump through a few more hoops in order to begin their bankruptcy cases. These include:

  • Pre-filing credit counseling session: Before the bankruptcy court will accept your petition, you must complete a session of credit counseling with a qualified agency. This requirement is designed to make sure that bankruptcy is truly the best financial option for people interested in filing.
  • Passage of the means test: If you’re interested in filing under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you must pass a means test, which is designed to make sure that Chapter 7 protection only goes to those people who truly cannot afford to make payments in a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
  • Pre-discharge debtor education course: Before the bankruptcy court will discharge a filer’s case, the filer must complete a financial management (also called "debtor education") course. This course is designed to teach filers the skills they need to make the most of their fresh financial start and get started on the right foot after their bankruptcy case is finished.

Other Bankruptcy Requirements

In addition to the standard legal requirements, there are some less concrete concerns potential bankruptcy filers should consider, including:

  • Waiting after a previous filing: If you've for bankruptcy in the last eight years, you may be ineligible to file again; however, the specific timeline depends on which chapter of bankruptcy you filed under before and which chapter you're pursuing now.
  • Finding a bankruptcy lawyer: While you are not legally obligated to work with a bankruptcy lawyer, enlisting professional help may greatly ease your mind. A lawyer can interpret the legalese you’ll find in forms and paperwork you’re required to complete, and can help make sure your case doesn’t get thrown out for something easy to miss, like a forgotten deadline or an incorrectly filed brief.
  • Considering your current and future income: If you choose to file under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you must have a steady, dependable source of income in order to make regular payments under your court-ordered repayment plan. For this reason, it's important to have a good idea about what your income will be in the next three to five years.
  • Avoiding bankruptcy fraud: Selling or "giving away" significant assets before a bankruptcy filing, attempting to hide assets, and paying a preferred creditor (such as a family member or friend) in full before filing for bankruptcy are all considered instances of bankruptcy fraud. It's important to know the bankruptcy law (or hire a lawyer who does) to make sure your case isn’t dismissed for unintentional fraud.

Find Out Whether You Meet Bankruptcy’s Requirements

If you'd like to know for sure whether or not your financial circumstances meet the criteria needed to file for bankruptcy, speak with a bankruptcy lawyer today.

Connecting with a sponsoring bankruptcy lawyer in your area is easy. Take the first step by filling out the free case review form below.

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