There's much more to be said about this topic than can be said on a Web page. Any decision to file for bankruptcy versus other alternatives requires a thorough, systematic review by you or someone you hire of your income, debts, and property. Chapter 1 will walk you through a self-analysis of your situation and explain your options in plain English.
The rest of the book offers step-by-step discussions of exempt property, keeping your home, and how to prepare and file your bankruptcy forms. The book includes line-by-line instructions for the official bankruptcy forms, complete with filled-in examples.
Throughout the book, you are alerted to situations that are particularly troublesome and should not be handled without an attorney. See Amazon. This website supplements the information in the book by providing quick access to local county-by-county information and services. If you just need help with preparing the forms, you can hire a bankruptcy petition preparer. If you want legal advice and analysis of the details of your specific situation, you can hire a Ohio bankruptcy lawyer to advise you.
You'll find listings in the Lawyers section of this site. These listings are not endorsements. They are simply designed to help you quickly connect with service providers in your area. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire professional help, this site will help you become a smarter, better-informed consumer and help you steer clear of shoddy services. This site will point you to numerous books, articles and services that can help you figure out whether it makes sense for you to file for bankruptcy.
However, this website cannot answer whether you, specifically, should or should not file for bankruptcy. If you have questions about whether bankruptcy is right for you, you may want to seek credit counseling from a reputable agency or consult a lawyer. A free or low cost consultation with an experienced credit counsellor or attorney can help you identify the relevant factors of your specific financial situation that ultimately determine whether bankruptcy is an appropriate, financially prudent option at this point in your life.
Chapter 7 allows you to eliminate most unsecured debts in a matter of months in return for giving up all "non-exempt" property -- if you have any. Most people who file for Chapter 7, have no available non-exempt property or equity. Whatever they still own by the time they file is either protected by exemption laws , or pledged to a secured creditor as collateral for a debt, and therefore not available to pay off unsecured creditors.
Chapter 13 takes 3 to 5 years. Instead of giving up property, you repay a portion of your debts and live within a strict budget that is monitored closely by the bankruptcy court trustee. If you can't make the required monthly payments, your Chapter 13 bankruptcy fails and your debts will remain unless you convert to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 is commonly used by people who are behind on secured debt payments e. Under the new bankruptcy law, which took effect in October , a mathematical formula called the "means test" establishes an initial determination of the kind of bankruptcy you qualify for: Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or either.
This formula takes into account:.
If your annual income is less than the Ohio median income for your household size, then you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, assuming you meet other qualifications. If your income is higher than the state median, you must first complete a long list of expense deductions to estimate what your 'disposable income' will be over the next five years.
The result of this calculation determines whether you can file for Chapter 7, or are left with Chapter 13 as your only option. Although this form is rather long and complicated, the free, online Bankruptcy Means Test Calculator on this website can do the math for you and tell you how you would fare under the means test. This calculator is free and anonymous; you do not need to disclose your name, your email address, or any other identifiable personal information.
Ohio Median Income If your average monthly income for the past six months is below the state median for your size household, you meet the requirements of the "means test" section b 2 of the bankruptcy code to qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Median Income standards effective May 1, through October 31, Median Income standards effective November 1, Source: U. Trustee, U. Department of Justice for bankruptcy cases filed on or after November 1, The means test is but one of several hoops you must jump through. Even if your income is low, a judge can prevent you from filing Chapter 7 if it appears that you have enough income to repay a substantial portion of your debts in a 3-year Chapter 13 plan.
If you have lived in Ohio for at least 91 of the past days six months , you may file at the court described below. If you've moved recently, you may have to file at the court that served your old zip code. Most of your interactions including the filing of your forms can be done by mail. However, you will need to go the courthouse, in person, at least once for a meeting with the bankruptcy trustee.
See the list below for more information about your court, including addresses and maps to the courthouse s. Check the court website for updates to this information before relying on it. Maps: Google ; Yahoo. Phone: Maps: Google ; Yahoo. Nathaniel R. Most bankruptcy court websites make some effort to help non-lawyers and provide important information in plain English. Surfing the Web is fine, but not all that efficient. To get up to speed faster, you can buy a step-by-step book that lays out the bankruptcy process and includes worksheets and forms.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to get some free bankruptcy help and information from the court, specifically for people filing bankruptcy without an attorney. An increasing number of courts offer such materials and you'll find links to those resources on the bankruptcy court page. Most bankruptcy courts used to offer little or no real help to non-attorneys.
There were a few happy exceptions to this general rule, but only a few. Even so, this information goes only so far. Court clerks still can't answer most questions or offer advice, but most now do offer some sort of self-service packet or people filing without an attorney, or who are at least curious about what is involved, before they decide to hire an attorney.
This approach helps you make the most of your time with the attorney, and helps you evaluate whether the attorney really knows bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy is a specialized area of law. If you hire a lawyer, you want want one who really knows the subject and is familiar with local bankruptcy court rules and customs. Chapters 1 through 5 of How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Before you file for bankruptcy, you must participate in a credit counseling session and get a certificate proving that you have done so. If you are planning to file jointly with your spouse, you can both attend the same counseling session, but each of you must get a separate certificate.
Many critics of the new bankruptcy law see the credit counseling requirement as just another bureaucratic obstacle for already-desperate debtors. Perhaps so.
But try to make the most of this minute session by getting as much free information as you can. Use it as a way to get a second opinion about your financial situation, to gauge whether bankruptcy is, indeed, the right choice for your situation.
However, by law, a credit counselor cannot actually advise you whether you should file for bankruptcy. So far since the credit counseling requirement began in October , counselors are reporting that of the vast majority of the debtors they're seeing are in such dire financial shape that bankruptcy is the only realistic option left for them. Chapters 1 and 6 of How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
In addition to providing this information, you're required to make decisions about what you plan to do about your secured debts that is, debts that are secured by property you own. With some diligence, you can prepare all these forms yourself Bankruptcy rules can be unforgiving, and became more so since the passage of the law.
At 42, Glenn was the oldest member of the astronaut corps and would likely be close to 50 by the time the lunar landings took place. Anna emphasizes her practice in the areas of divorce, family law and estate planning. I've done my fair share of seo efforts but could never get my domain anywhere near the first few pages of search results. March 5, He always answered any question I had within a 24 hour period. Throughout the book, you are alerted to situations that are particularly troublesome and should not be handled without an attorney.
There was a time when incomplete filings could be easily amended once the errors were called to the filers attention. Under the new law, it's extra important to have all your ducks in a row before you file -- and there are quite a few ducks You must be willing to take the time to read a good step-by-step instruction manual and follow the instructions carefully. If you prefer not to handle it yourself, you can find listings of local bankruptcy lawyers on this website, in the yellow pages and on online lawyer directories, such as the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys NACBA.
In a few areas you may also find businesses run by non-lawyers, known as Bankruptcy Petition Preparers BPPs , who can fill out your forms but not offer legal advice. Chapter 6 of How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Bankruptcy Forms :: Local Filing Requirements As mentioned in the previous section, at some point in the bankruptcy process, you may decide to hire someone to help you.
If you just want help with the mechanical task of completing the forms and do not need legal advice, you can hire a Bankruptcy Petition Preparer BPP. If you have questions about how to interpret a particular form, or want an opinion about how bankruptcy law, state exemption laws or federal tax laws apply to your particular situation, you may want to hire a bankruptcy lawyer , at least for an initial consultation.
A good bankruptcy lawyer should be able to advise you on strategies to maximize the economic benefit of your bankruptcy filing, and be familiar with the local practices of the court. On the other hand, if your bankruptcy is a simple matter of too much unsecured credit card debt, and all of your assets are exempt, you may not need all that much help to get through your bankruptcy.
When you go for credit counseling, ask your counselor whether your situation seems routine, and what risks you face in fling for bankruptcy -- in your particular case. They're prohibited by law from giving you advice about whether you should file, but you may be able to get a pretty good sense of whether your case is simple or unusual, and whether your situation is so dire that bankruptcy is your best remaining alternative.