The new bankruptcy law is in effect, and the climate has drastically changed for people who are considering bankruptcy. In this article we will touch on some of the details of the new law, and explain exactly how these new changes will affect you.
First, let’s touch on the new counseling requirements. According to the new law, you must complete credit counseling with an agency approved by the United States Trustee’s office before you can file for bankruptcy under either Chapter 13 or Chapter 7. Because this counseling is to decide whether you need to file for bankruptcy, or if an informal payment plan would be a better alternative for your situation. The counseling is mandatory for everyone, even for people who know for certain that a repayment plan is not what they want.
However, you are required only to join in the counseling; you do not have to go with any repayment plans the agency recommends.
But if you are given a plan, you will have to present the plan to the court with a certificate showing that you attended the counseling before you can file for bankruptcy. Once your bankruptcy case is over, you will have to attend another counseling session focused on learning personal financial management skills to complete your bankruptcy and erase your debts.
Another major change that comes with the new law effects many people who want to file chapter 7 bankruptcy. Under the old law, most people filing could choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, and most people chose Chapter 7. Because of the new law, many filers with higher incomes will be prohibited from using Chapter 7.
The first step in determining whether or not you can file for Chapter 7 is to compare your current monthly income to the median income for a family of your size in the state you live in. In the context of the new law, your current monthly income is not your income at the time you file, but your average income over the last six months before you file.
Once you have determined your income, measure it against the median income in your state. If your income is equal to or less than the median, you can file for Chapter 7. If it is more than the median, you must pass a requirement of the new law called the means test. The means test requires you to determine your amount of “disposable income” by subtracting different variables from your current monthly income.
If your current monthly income after subtracting these amounts is under $100, you pass the means test, and will be able to file for Chapter 7. If you income is more than $166.66, you will be prohibited from using Chapter 7. Those in the middle of these incomes will be able to file for chapter 7, but will be required to still pay a percentage of their debt.
Yet another important change caused by the new law is that lawyers may be harder to find, and possibly more expensive. The new law has added many complex requirements to the process of filing for bankruptcy that will make it more time consuming for lawyers to represent their clients in bankruptcy cases. The end result being that attorney fees for representation will increase. Also, the amount of time that lawyers must put into the new regulations has increased and it is likely that it may be harder to find a lawyer that solely specialized in bankruptcy in the future. Many experts are predicting that the stress of these new requirements may drive some bankruptcy lawyers out of the field completely.
Now that you know many of the changes the new bankruptcy laws hold for your situation, be aware and file with care.
Word count: 615