Can you file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas?
Many people in Texas choose to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to eliminate credit card debt, medical bills, payday loans, dischargeable income taxes, and other unsecured debt. Sometimes, they file a Chapter 7 to stop a lawsuit, stop creditor harassment, or to just obtain a fresh financial start. No matter what their reason is for filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, they have to first be eligible. Despite what you may have heard about the changes to bankruptcy law, most people in Texas who need bankruptcy protection are still eligible.
So how do you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
The vast majority of debtors in Texas qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. But, whether you are able to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy as compared to a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy depends on your income, your necessary living expenses, and of course your debts. These basic requirements to file a “personal” or “consumer” Chapter 7 Bankruptcy requires taking the bankruptcy means test. If you haven’t heard about the most recent changes to the Bankruptcy Code, the bankruptcy law now has a means test in order to determine your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy means test is applied to all Chapter 7 debtors to make certain that they aren’t “abusing” the system.
The bankruptcy means test is based on the Texas median household income in your specific area. The test looks at all of your income for the preceding 6 months before the date of filing. It determines your average monthly income, and multiplies that amount by twelve. The median income is actually broken down to your specific Texas area zip code. That amount is then compared to the median income in the state of Texas for a household of similar size. This specific median income is based on the findings of the latest US Census Bureau report. If you are over the median income, then a second set of tests are conducted to determine what disposable income you have, if any, at the end of the month. The bankruptcy means test is the primary factor which determines eligibility to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
If you want to take the bankruptcy means test to see if you are eligible to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in your Texas area: CLICK HERE
If your income exceeds the Texas state median, or if you take the Bankruptcy means test and your household income is greater than the Texas median income for a household of your size, then your creditors, the court, or the bankruptcy trustee could request that the Bankruptcy Court dismiss your case for “abuse." This could be a problem unless you can demonstrate that your monthly expenses above the median income justify the filing of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Although the word “abuse” sounds quite harsh and intimidating, it doesn’t always mean that you can’t file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It simply means that you must go on to the second part of the means test in which the allowable expenses are then deducted from your monthly income based on the guidelines and standards of the IRS. Any amount that is left over, if any, after the allowable expenses, will determine your disposable income.
If the U.S. Trustee attempts to dismiss your case for abuse, because you have to much disposable income, you can usually defend against that action by illustrating what your special circumstances are, and how they apply in your case. Any such special circumstances would have to increase your expenses, or decrease your income to a level that would allow you to pass the means test. Special circumstances can be considered such as being called to active duty in the military, a serious medical condition, special medical care for a dependant, or extraordinary child care expenses.
Just because you show these special circumstances does not automatically mean that can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. You will have to establish support for the special circumstances by providing documentation for the expense(s) as well as a detailed explanation as to why the expense(s) are reasonable and necessary.
Despite the bankruptcy means test, many people in the Texas area seeking to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy will qualify. However, in addition to the means test, there are several other basic factors that will affect your eligibility to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy:
- Only individuals can file a “consumer” Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
- In order to file a “consumer” Chapter 7 Bankruptcy you must be an individual or married couple filing jointly. You can also be a small business owner such as a sole proprietor or a member of a business partnership and you can include business debts for which you may be liable in your consumer bankruptcy. You cannot however, file a consumer bankruptcy for a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or a partnership.
- You cannot file Bankruptcy if you have had a previous discharge prohibiting your filing
- You are prohibited from filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy if you received a previous bankruptcy discharge in another Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the previous eight (8) years, or you received a discharge in a previous Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in the previous six (6) years.
- You cannot file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy if you have been barred by a prior bankruptcy dismissal
- If you had a previous bankruptcy filing that was dismissed within the last 180 days and requested that your case be dismissed after one of your creditors filed a motion to lift stay, or if the Bankruptcy Court determined that you case was fraudulent, or was filed as an “abuse” of the bankruptcy system, or you violated an order of the court order, you are prohibited from filing for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy until such time passes.
- You cannot file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy if you have not taken the Pre Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Course
- In order to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you are required to take a Credit Counseling Debtor Education course approved by the Office of the U.S Trustee before the filing of your Chapter 7 case. This pre-filing requirement must be completed with an approved provider as opposed to just any credit counseling company. Upon completion you will receive a “Credit Counseling Certificate” which evidences your completion of the course.
There are other important requirements to of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy such as providing tax returns, check stubs from employment, and careful review of the types of debts to be included and potentially discharged.
While most people seeking to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Texas might be eligible, it is important to obtain advice from an experienced Texas Bankruptcy Lawyer to explore all of your debt relief options. If you are above the median income or fail the means test by a very minimal amount then we can look much more closely at your case to determine if chapter 7 Bankruptcy is an option for you. If you are above the median income and you fail the means test then a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy could be an option for you.
If you live in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin and are interested in filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, contact the Texas Bankruptcy Attorneys at The Law Offices Of R.J.Atkinson,LLC for a free initial consultation and a free bankruptcy means test to see if you are eligible to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. We would like to help you to obtain a fresh start.
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