The following information is a general frequently asked questions page designed to answer most inquiries regarding Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings.  This information cannot be construed as legal advice.  Each case has different circumstances and there may be some items that may not be applicable to you.

1.  Who can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
    Generally, an individual or a married couple can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition if they have not filed within the past 8 years and received a discharge. 
2.  Does my spouse have to file if I file?
     No.  Married individuals can choose to file a joint petition but one spouse can file alone.
3.  If I file for bankruptcy will I lose everything I have?
     No.  In Ohio you are allowed to keep certain property (called exempt property) which the bankruptcy trustee cannot take.  Most filers keep all of the property they owned at the time of filing.
4.  How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy?
     The filing fee to the court is now set at $335.00.  This amount may be paid to the court in installments after you file.  Of course, the attorney's fee is dependent upon which attorney you choose to represent you in your bankruptcy.  These fees can vary widely.  In addition, you need to complete a computer credit counseling course at                                 .   .       The current charge for the first course is just under $15.00
5.  How much do you charge?
     My fee is currently set at $475.00 for persons living in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake and Geauga (Cleveland court) counties plus the filing fee.  The attorney fee for Summit, Medina and Portage (Akron court) counties is $575.00.
6.  Do you ever charge more?
     On rare occasions there may be an additional charge if there is unusual work required.  However, in about 95% of cases there is no additional charge.
7.  Do you charge for consultations?
      There is no charge for telephone consultations.
8.  Some attorneys say that I can pay them after I file.  Is that correct?
     You can pay them if you want to.  But, generally, any amounts you owe your attorney at the time of the filing will be discharged along with your other debts. In addition, the automatic stay also applies to your attorney so technically he/she cannot ask you for payment for a debt you had to him/her at the time of filing.
9.  I see advertising from other attorneys saying "Nothing Down" or "Payment Plan Available".  How does that work?
     Payment plans and discharges are available in Chapter 13 bankruptcies.  Chapter 7 bankruptcies are usually quick and resolve your debts in short order.  However, in a Chapter 13 you could get stuck in a 3 to 5 year payment plan costing several times what an ordinary Chapter 7 would cost.  On top of that only about 1/3 of filers eventually receive a discharge.  If you are going into a Chapter 13 just be sure you are doing so for the right reasons.
10.  What information do I need to file for bankruptcy?
     You will need the following:  a) A listing of your debts.  That would be names, addresses, amounts owed, year incurred and what they were for (the bills sent to you by the creditor or a credit report are your best source);  b)  Your most recent filed tax return;  c)  pay stubs or a payroll run for the last 60 days;  and d) credit counseling certificate.
11.  Is there an income limit to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
     There could be.  You need to pass what is called the "means test".  The amounts vary depending on whether you are single or married and have dependents.  Your attorney would help you with this.
12.  I am being sued in court by an old creditor.  Can bankruptcy help me?
      Yes.  Generally a bankruptcy filing will stop the lawsuit and the debt will be discharged.
13.  I am losing my house in foreclosure.  Will Chapter 7 bankruptcy stop the foreclosure?
      Yes, temporarily.
14.  Can I live in my house while I am in foreclosure/bankruptcy?
      Yes. You can stay in the house until the foreclosure is completed.
15.  My condominium association bills me for condominium dues and assessments every month.  Will Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminate these?
      Condominum dues and asessments up to the date of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy are dischargeable.  Dues and assessments accruing after the filing, and while the property is still in your name, are non-dischargeable and you will remain responsible for them.
16.  A collection agency is saying they are going to garnish my wages.  Can they do this?
      In order for your wages or bank account to be garnished the creditor will first need to sue you in a court and obtain a judgment.  The garnishment order comes from a court, not the creditor directly.  So, unless the creditor has a court judgment you would not need to concern yourself with a garnishment directly from a creditor.
17.  I am having my wages garnished.  Will bankruptcy stop this?
     Yes.  Bankruptcy will stop your garnishment in most circumstances.
18.  Somebody told me you can get my garnishment money back for me.  Is that true?
     Yes. Most of the time.  It depends on the circumstances.  A separate fee agreement is necessary.
19.  I own a car with a loan on it.  Can I keep my car?
     Yes. Most of the time.  Usually you would be required to sign a "reaffirmation agreement" to pay the remainder of the balance on the original terms.  You would not receive a discharge of this debt from the creditor.
20.  I own a car with a loan on it.  I hate this car.  Do I have to keep it if I file for bankruptcy?
      No.  You can give the car back to the creditor and you will owe nothing.
21.  My driver's license is suspended because of a motor vehicle accident.  They say I owe $7,000.00.  Will bankruptcy help?
    Yes.  In most cases bankruptcy will eliminate your motor vehicle judgment and allow you to reinstate your license.
22.  My driver's license is suspended and they say I owe $2,650.00 in reinstatement fees.  Will bankruptcy help?
     Yes.  Bankruptcy will eliminate your State of Ohio reinstatement fees.
23.  Somebody told me that I can get old taxes discharged.  Is that true?
     Some taxes more than 3 years old can be discharged.  This is a very complex area which cannot be answered in this faq.
24.  I want to discharge my student loans.  Can bankruptcy do that for me?
     Student loans are excepted from automatic discharge.  In order to obtain a discharge you must demonstrate that the loan "will impose an undue hardship on you and your dependents.”  To do so there is a separate lawsuit that needs to be filed in bankruptcy court called an "Adversary Proceeding".  This proceeding is not covered under my ordinary fee.  The fee would be hourly.  But don't forget the threshold is not that there is a hardship but, in addition, it must be undue.
25.  I owe my ex-wife for support alimony and child support.  Will bankruptcy discharge these debts for me?
       No.  However, if you owe money for other than support payments you may be able to discharge the debt in a Chapter 13 filing.
26.  The electric company wants to shut off my electricity due to non-payment.  Can bankruptcy help me?
      Yes.  Bankruptcy can stop utility shutoffs and eliminate the debt due to the time of filing.  But you need to be sure to act in time.
27.  My landlord has filed an eviction action against me.  Can bankruptcy stop my eviction?
      Yes.  The automatic stay applies to eviction actions so long as the housing court has not issued an order for eviction.
28.  How do I know if my attorney carries malpractice insurance?
       Ask him/her.  If your attorney does not carry malpractice insurance he must disclose this to you in writing.  Insurance should be a normal part of any attorney's business.
29.  I have a medical condition which results in new medical bills every month.  Is bankruptcy for me?
     Probably not.  If you have continuing billings from a creditor for a necessity then you should avoid filing until your condition improves, if possible.
30.  I have a bunch of tickets, court fines, penalties, and forfeitures I would like to eliminate.  Will bankruptcy help me?
31.  I don't have money to pay a fee.  How do I file bankruptcy?
      Call the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.  The number is 216-687-1900 or 888-817-3777.
32.  I need more information than is contained here.
     To learn the process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy you can go to the U.S. Courts section here:  

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