What is Chapter 7?
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you file court papers asking that certain unpaid debts be wiped out. Most debts are wiped out after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including credit card debt, medical bills, and civil judgments.
Bankruptcy also stops wage garnishment and harassment by collection agencies. Studies show that in 96% of cases, people who file for Chapter 7 get to keep all their property. Most of the cases where property is taken by the court involve real estate or tax refunds.
What debts do not get wiped out?
Filing for bankruptcy is not a good idea for everyone. It is a serious step and you need to understand the costs of filing. It's important to understand that the following debts cannot be canceled in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
- Student loans in most cases
- Loans on a car that you still own and want to keep
- Unpaid child support or alimony payments
- Unpaid fines
- Most tax debts
- Debts due to fraud, theft, or embezzlement
- Damages to another person caused by drunk driving or conduct done on purpose
- Debts from a property settlement in a divorce
- Some other types of debts
These debts must still be listed on the bankruptcy papers filed with the court, but they can’t be wiped out.
What else is important to know?
- Bankruptcy doesn't release you from large credit card debts that happened right before the bankruptcy was filed
- You cannot erase debts that you get after filing for bankruptcy
- You will unlikely be able keep valuable property, such as a vacation home, an RV, or expensive jewelry
- Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years
- You can only get a Chapter 7 discharge once in an eight-year period
- You may be able to protect your income and property without filing bankruptcy
How much does bankruptcy cost?
There are three things a debtor may need to pay for. They're all required by the bankruptcy court.
- $335 filing fee
- Around $10-$20 for online pre-bankruptcy course
- Around $10-$20 for online post-bankruptcy course
If debtors earn less than a certain amount, they may qualify for a fee waiver and you won't have to pay anything.