Understanding How the Process Works
Filing for bankruptcy in Washington, D.C. is not necessarily difficult, but the process can be complex. You will need to follow certain procedures and submit specific documents in order to ensure a smooth, efficient, and successful process.
Here, we’ve provided a brief overview of how to file for bankruptcy in Washington, D.C. but we always recommend that you speak with an attorney before filing. A qualified bankruptcy lawyer will be able to help you determine whether you are eligible to file for bankruptcy, which type of bankruptcy is right for you, and can help you ensure that you follow all the required steps.
To learn how we can help you, contact Capital Justice Attorneys, LLP at (202) 760-2887 today.
Determining Your Eligibility to File for Bankruptcy
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine whether or not you are eligible to file for bankruptcy. Eligibility will further depend on which type of bankruptcy you wish to file for.
For example, if you want to file for Chapter 7, you will need to take a “means test,” which measures your income. Only people who fall below the median income level for their area can file for Chapter 7. A court will determine if you can feasibly pay back your debts, based on your income, the amount and type of debts you have, and other factors. Additionally, if you wish to file for Chapter 7, you should keep in mind that your non-exempt properties/assets will be sold off to repay your debts.
If you are not eligible to file for Chapter 7, you may decide or the court may recommend that you file for Chapter 13. In order to be eligible for this type of bankruptcy, which involves repayment of your debts over a three- or five-year period, you must have less than $394,725 in unsecured debt (credit card debt, medical debt, etc.) and less than $1,184,200 in secured debt (mortgages, auto loans, etc.). You must also have steady income.
How to File
Once you have determined that you are eligible to file for bankruptcy, you can begin the filing process.
Typically, this process involves:
- Collecting All Required Documents: This may include proof of income, tax returns, bank account statements, real estate valuations/appraisals, retirement account statements, copies of motor vehicle registration, and related documents.
- Attending Credit Counseling: Everyone who files for bankruptcy must participate in mandatory, Department of Justice-approved credit counseling courses. Depending on your situation, you may only need to take one course, or you may need to take two.
- Completing the Required Bankruptcy Forms: These forms are lengthy and numerous; you will need to fill out more than 20 separate forms detailing everything from your income to the amount you owe to items you own and more.
- Securing the Filing Fee: When you file your bankruptcy forms, you will need to pay a fee. For Chapter 7, this fee is $335; for Chapter 13, the fee is $310. You may also be required to pay additional, though relatively minor, fees. You may ask to make installments if you cannot afford the bankruptcy fee at the time you file.
- Bringing Your Completed Bankruptcy Forms to the Court: After completing your bankruptcy forms, you will need to print them out and bring them to the court where you wish to file. They must be printed on one side of the paper only, and you will need to sign them once you have printed them out. You may be required to bring additional copies.
- Providing Documents to Your Bankruptcy Trustee: Once you have properly filed your forms at the courthouse, you must mail your documents to the appointed bankruptcy trustee. You should receive information from the trustee informing you of what you need to mail to him/her.
- Attending Your Second Credit Counseling Course (If Required) and a 341 Meeting: If necessary, you will next need to attend your second credit counseling course. You will also need to attend a 341 Meeting with your trustee about a month after filing. The purpose of this relatively quick meeting (often about five minutes) is simply to ensure that you are not attempting to hide any assets or properties.
Though it is not required, you may also wish to surrender your car to the lender if you have outstanding debt on the vehicle. You can also choose to “reaffirm” your debt, which allows you to keep your car while continuing to make payments on it.
Do You Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy in Washington, D.C.?
While you are not required to work with an attorney when filing for bankruptcy, we strongly recommend that you do. Simply put, you likely don’t really know how the bankruptcy process works, but an attorney does. Your attorney will be able to answer your questions and make sure that everything is completed properly and in a timely manner.