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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When is The Appropriate Time to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? Part 2 Income Issues

       Although income considerations were always a factor in determining when and if to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy the creation of the Mean Test by the amendments to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 added more to consider in making this decision. In simple terms the Chapter 7 means test uses the IRS median income based on household size and applicable state to first determine if a debtor has to satisfy the means test in order to qualify for Chapter 7. For example for a three person family in Connecticut the current median income is $82,797.00. If the debtors' combined income for the six-month period immediately preceding a bankruptcy filing calculated on an annual basis equals less than the $82,797.00 there is no “presumption of abuse" and no need to complete the means test. If the opposite is true than the means test needs to be completed which makes the filing more difficult due to the arbitrary means test expense calculations and the strong likelihood of a United States trustee audit of the file to determine eligibility for discharge. This means in cases where debtors' incomes are close to the median income and fluctuate from month to month the timing of the filing can determine whether the means test comes into play or not.  Clearly all other factors aside the appropriate time to file is when the six month income brings the debtor below the median income to avoid the means test. This by itself will not determine whether debtors may file Chapter 7.  There are still the income and expenses schedules that need to be completed for which the income and monthly expenses for the next 12 months are projected. These schedules are based on actual figures and allow debtors to take into account recurring expenses like student loans which the means test does not.  I find that in most cases if a debtor has reached their financial bottom and reached out to me to help them that if their income falls below the means test median income they usually qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge. 
     Another factor to look at when reviewing income and the means test is the household size of the debtors. The definition of household size is not necessarily just the nuclear family. If an elderly relative or sibling with little or no income contribution to the debtors' household income lives with the debtors' family for the six month period prior to filing they can be included in household size. In some cases this increase in household size can make the difference whether the debtors have to pass the means test or not.  Finally, if it turns out that the debtors have to pass the means test it does not mean they automatically will not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Each case is unique and in cases where the debtors have large secured debts due to mortgages and car loans and they intend to keep these assets there is a stronger likelihood that they will pass the means test. This may also be the case where a debtor has high recurring medical costs due to a medical condition which can be viewed as a special circumstance under the means test. I had a case like this and after providing the necessary doctor reports and proof of medical expenses to the US Trustee my client obtained her discharge. These audits are not easy, but if debtors can provide the requisite documents to the US trustee to satisfy their audit they can obtain a discharge.


  1. Great resource! Thanks for sharing, I found it valuable.
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  2. A big thanks for the efforts you have put into writing this article.

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  3. Hello there! I'll be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. Glad to have a chance to drop by and learn additional information about this particular topic from your blog. Keep up the good work! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about bankruptcy. You have an interesting and very informative page.
    In addition to that, I remembered reading another article about bankruptcy that states that after the increase in 2005 and 2006 the figures have remained stable.
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  4. This is helpful for people who are looking for what to do regarding chapter 7 Bankruptcy, or even if they're not of the same situation as it is stated on the article, we at least would have a deeper knowledge regarding this matter.

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