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Homeowners often find the need to file for Bankruptcy in order to save their homes. Hopefully, your first bankruptcy filing will be your last, and you’ll be able to start fresh and regain control over your finances. But there are times when people need to file bankruptcy multiple times. For example, a homeowner with serious financial problems may file Bankruptcy not only to save their homes, but equally to protect other assets. Secondly, someone may have a serious medical condition, but can’t get medical insurance. If the medical bills keep piling up, that person may need to file bankruptcy multiple times to get those bills discharged. Homeowners often wonder – how often can we file for bankruptcy?

The Bankruptcy Code does not specify a maximum number of times one can file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy courts are more apt, however, to scrutinize a bankruptcy filing by someone who has already filed previous cases. If the person keeps charging up credit card debt for unnecessary items, the court may dismiss that person’s successive bankruptcy case.

Also, a person may be denied a discharge if he or she received a prior discharge in a previous bankruptcy case. If you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court may deny your discharge if you already received a discharge in a previous Chapter 7 case filed within eight years of your current case. The court will also deny your Chapter 7 discharge if you previously received one in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case that you filed within six years of your current case, unless you paid the majority of your creditors in that prior Chapter 13 case. Finally, if you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, you’ll be denied a discharge if you received one in a prior Chapter 7 bankruptcy case that was filed within four years of your current case, or in a Chapter 13 case filed within two years of your current case.

There’s a lesson here – if you file for bankruptcy, make sure you do it right, or you may not be able to do it again for a number of years.

Bankruptcy is a federal legal process that consists, at minimum, of filing a court petition, attending credit counseling classes, and meeting with a bankruptcy trustee. In every consumer bankruptcy case there are three categories of fees: (1) bankruptcy filing fees; (2) credit counseling fees; and (3) attorney fees. Filing a bankruptcy case does not have to be expensive or unaffordable. Below are some tips and tricks to keep costs low.

Bankruptcy Filing Fees

Because bankruptcy is a federal legal process, court filing fees are the same throughout the country. For a Chapter 7, an erase-your-debts-start-fresh bankruptcy case, the filing fee is $306. For a Chapter 13, a repayment plan, the filing fee is $281. These fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. However, with the court’s permission individual debtors may pay in installments. The final payment cannot be later than 120 days after you file the petition. In some rare cases the filing fee may be waived altogether for debtors who earn less than 150% of the poverty level. Bankruptcy filing fees are the same whether a debtor files a single or joint husband and wife bankruptcy.

Credit Counseling and Financial Management Courses

The federal Bankruptcy Code requires each consumer debtor to receive credit counseling from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency approved by the United States Trustee within 180 days prior to filing a bankruptcy. This counseling fee is around $50.00 per household and is available in-person, by telephone, or over the internet. After filing, the debtor must complete an “instructional course concerning personal financial management.” This class is also available in-person, by telephone, or over the internet for a fee around $50.00 per filer.

The Bankruptcy Code directs approved providers of the credit counseling and financial management courses to provide services without regard to your ability to pay. If you can’t afford the counseling, the agency may waive the fee or require you to pay a lesser amount.

Attorney Fees

Attorney fees are negotiated between the debtor and the attorney. Attorney fees are paid up-front in Chapter 7 cases. In Chapter 13 cases, the attorney may elect to receive attorney fees in equal monthly installments. The attorney is paid from the debtor’s monthly payment to the trustee, and makes the entire process more affordable. A few not-for-profit agencies and private attorneys provide free bankruptcy representation to indigent individuals.

If you are in need of debt relief, but are afraid that you cannot afford the bankruptcy fees, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options. There are strategies that you and your attorney can employ to make the process fit your budget.

How Much Debt Do I Need To File Bankruptcy

There is no qualifying minimum debt limit for an individual bankruptcy in most States. Debtors who otherwise qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can file with any amount of secured or unsecured debt. The purpose of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to provide the debtor a fresh start without the burden of overwhelming debt. In some cases this debt may be objectively very small (perhaps only a few thousand dollars), but it be relatively very large to a person on a fixed income from retirement, disability, or otherwise.

In cases where the amount of dis-chargeable debt is objectively small, both the bankruptcy attorney and the client should take care to consider all of the consequences of filing. First, bankruptcy is not cheap. There is a court filing fee, a credit counseling fee, a personal financial management course fee, and, of course, your attorney’s fees. In some extreme cases some or all of these fees may be waived. Second, a bankruptcy filing can significantly impair the debtor’s ability to borrow money and obtain credit, at least for the short term. Finally, non-exempt property may be at risk. For many poor debtors, these consequences have little, if any, affect. Many poor debtors seek bankruptcy protection simply to rid themselves of the nuisance of debt collection.

While there is no minimum amount of debt required to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy laws set a ceiling on the amount of secured and unsecured debt a person can have in a Chapter 13 case. These limits as of April 1, 2010 are $1,081,400 for secured debt and $360,475 for unsecured debt. The Chapter 13 debt limits adjust every three years. Cases that exceed these limits are ineligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but may qualify under Chapters 7 or 11. There is currently some confusion in our courts as to how these debt limits apply in a joint husband and wife Chapter 13 case. Some courts will separately consider debt that is individual and not joint, effectively increasing the Chapter 13 limits.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can evaluate your case and discuss any issues surrounding your case. Whatever the amount of your debt, if you are unable to pay, the federal bankruptcy laws can offer you substantial relief. Speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discover how the federal bankruptcy laws can help you.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are considering bankruptcy, discuss your case with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

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