Bankruptcy Attorney FAQs

  • What does a bankruptcy attorney do?

    Bankruptcy attorneys help clients understand whether they qualify for bankruptcy and what their best options are. They also prepare and file petitions, answer questions during the proceedings, and educate clients about potential best steps for a positive bankruptcy outcome. Bankruptcy attorneys might also file motions or paperwork if creditors dispute the bankruptcy, or to stop creditors from taking collections actions forbidden by the bankruptcy.

  • What happens when you file bankruptcy?

    Bankruptcy is a formal process that individuals, married couples, or businesses can enact when they are no longer able to pay creditors. In a bankruptcy proceeding, filers are allowed to reduce debt to more manageable levels to best pay off money owed.

    Once the bankruptcy process is initiated, debt collectors can no longer seek repayments outside of the arrangements detailed in the bankruptcy settlement. Some forms of bankruptcy result in the liquidation of assets to pay back debts, while others allow filers to retain most of their possessions and investments. Many types of unsecured debt can be managed with bankruptcy filings, but not all.

  • Can you file bankruptcy on student loans?

    Under most circumstances, student loans aren't dischargeable and aren't included in bankruptcy proceedings. In rare cases, it may be possible to eliminate student loans through bankruptcy, but only if the courts determine that continuing to pay the loans would impose an undue hardship. Meeting the criteria for undue hardship is challenging, and most bankruptcy filers don't qualify.

  • What is bankruptcy fraud?

    Bankruptcy fraud is a blanket term that refers to any kind of dishonest bankruptcy proceeding, which can include:

    • Hiding assets by transferring them to another person or entity
    • Intentionally omitting assets when reporting to the court
    • Destroying or withholding required documents
    • Knowingly making false statements to bankruptcy trustees or creditors
  • How long is bankruptcy on public record?

    How long bankruptcy stays on public record depends on the kind of bankruptcy filing in question. Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on the record for 10 years as there isn't necessarily a repayment component. Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on the record for seven years as some obligations are repaid following filing based on the terms of a discharge settlement.

  • Does bankruptcy clear tax debt?

    Bankruptcy can clear tax debt, depending on the circumstances. Taxes are dischargeable under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, not Chapter 13, and only if the tax debt is:

    • Federal income tax debt related to current properly filed tax returns
    • Honestly incurred with no fraud or evasion
    • At least three years old
    • Assessed at least 240 days before bankruptcy filings

    Existing liens are not eliminated with bankruptcy.

  • Can they take my car in Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

    In many cases, it's possible to keep a vehicle following Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 Motor Vehicle Exemption allows filers who own their vehicles outright or who are up to date with payments to keep their cars. However, those behind on making car payments are required to arrange a repayment plan. Otherwise, the vehicle may be repossessed as a part of the proceedings.

  • How bad is it to file bankruptcy twice?

    Although possible, due to the damaging nature of bankruptcy, filing bankruptcy more than once isn't recommended. Filing multiple times puts a serious burden on one's credit report, making it harder to get a loan, buy a house, buy a car, or even open credit cards.

    Note that filing for bankruptcy isn't something that can be done at a filer's leisure. There are time limits following bankruptcy cases that dictate when it's permissible to file again. For example, after Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filers must wait at least eight years before filing Chapter 7 again or four years before filing Chapter 13.

  • Can anyone file bankruptcy?

    Anyone can file bankruptcy, but there are limitations regarding which form of bankruptcy is permissible. Qualifying for Chapter 7 requires a means test that evaluates income, debt levels, and income left over each month after paying basic obligations. Income over the median set by the court and monthly income that allows meaningful payments toward unsecured debt can disqualify filers from Chapter 7, which is generally the preferred form of bankruptcy due to the possibility of a full discharge. Anyone can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but the terms are less favorable. In most cases, some debts must be repaid following a successful filing. Chapter 13 is also more likely to result in asset forfeiture.

  • How will bankruptcy affect my credit score?

    Bankruptcies are noted on credit reports. How much a bankruptcy might drop a person's credit score depends on how high the score was to begin with, but generally speaking, the hit can be as much as 100 to 200 points. Often scores are already dropping because people filing for bankruptcy may have already missed payments on debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are listed on credit reports for seven years from the filing date, while Chapter 7 bankruptcies are listed for 10 years from the filing date. This is because Chapter 13 bankruptcies require at least partial payment of debts owed.

  • What are the benefits of filing for bankruptcy?

    Filing a bankruptcy petition causes an automatic stay. This legally stops creditors from taking further action to collect debt, including garnishing wages or foreclosing on property. Going through a bankruptcy successfully means that debts included in the bankruptcy are discharged and don't have to be paid back, except as provided in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Bankruptcy can help someone recover from financial duress so they can make better decisions and improve financial situations in the future. Disadvantages can include temporary lower credit scores and limitations on spending and financing.

  • What's the difference between debt settlement and bankruptcy?

    Debt settlement occurs when people negotiate with individual creditors. The creditor agrees to take a payment that's lower than what someone owes and call the debt “paid in full.” Bankruptcy is a legal process that causes debts to be dismissed after someone proves they don't currently have the means to pay their debts as owed. Typically, someone can't enter into bankruptcy and also settle some debts, because the court would see that as favoring one creditor over another.

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