Can I file bankruptcy immediately?

There are several steps debtors should take prior to filing bankruptcy. Filing bankruptcy is an important decision with long-term consequences and should be considered only after you have determined you have no other recourse for solving your financial crisis. Several steps which should be done before filing are discussed below.

Steps before filing bankruptcy:

1. Determine if bankruptcy is right for you.

Before filing bankruptcy it's important to determine if bankruptcy is the right option for you. For instance, many types of debts such as child support payments, spousal support payments, federal student loans or recent tax debts are not discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you have these debts, bankruptcy may not be the best choice.

2. Determine if you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Next, before you file bankruptcy you should determine if you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Many debtors who have higher incomes and who can repay a portion of their debts will not be able to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and will have to repay a portion of their debts by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer if you have questions about your ability to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

3. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer.

Before filing bankruptcy you may also want to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer. A good bankruptcy lawyer should provide a free consultation and give you information about all of your options. A good lawyer also will not pressure you to make a decision which is not right for you.

4. Pre-bankruptcy counseling

Prior to filing bankruptcy you must also complete a pre-bankruptcy counseling course with an approved credit counseling organization. The Trustee Program provides a list of approved agencies. The course costs approximately $50 and will take 60 to 90 minutes. It can be done over the phone, online or in person.

The goal of the counseling course is to help you evaluate your financial situation, help you create a budget, and help you determine whether bankruptcy is the best choice for you. After completing the credit counseling course you must get a certificate of completion.

If you have completed the four steps above and decided bankruptcy is the right choice for you, you generally can file bankruptcy immediately.

Exceptions are listed below -

Who cannot file bankruptcy immediately?

Debtors may not file bankruptcy if they have obtained a discharge of their debts under Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the last eight years, or a Chapter 13 case within the last six years. Other debtors cannot file bankruptcy if they have received a dismissal in the past 180 days because they were found to have filed a fraudulent case or abused the bankruptcy system, they requested a dismissal after a creditor asked for relief from the automatic stay, or they violated a court order.

The court may dismiss your case for a variety of reasons. For example, if the court concludes you were concealing assets, you lied on your petition or you were trying to avoid repaying your creditors, your case could be dismissed.

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