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I've had to use my credit cards recently, can I still file a bankruptcy?

There is no perfect time to file for bankruptcy. Ideally, you should wait to file at a point when you have not touched your credit cards for several months and your credit card charges over the past year have not taken a big jump. Further there is less chance that you will face any objection if you have made at least the minimum payment over the past 6 months or longer.

Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code sets out a number of situations in which credit card debt will not be discharged. Section 523(a)(2)( c) makes non-dischargeable consumer debt totaling more than $500 for luxury goods and services owed to any one creditor that are incurred within 90 days of filing, or cash advances totaling $750 or more owed to any one creditor made within 70 days of filing.

Section 523(a)(2) makes non-dischargeable debt owed to a creditor that was incurred by false pretenses or by fraud.

So to sum it up, Section 523 gives credit cards at least two arguments to challenge a Debtor:
1. Recent credit card use (within 3 months) for anything but necessities like food, clothing and shelter
2. Any credit card use in the recent past (up to a year prior to filing) if a Debtor makes charges where there is no reasonable expectation of repayment.

Here's another way to think about it: If you have lost your job, and for the last year your only source of support are credit cards and cash advances, you should not expect to avoid a challenge by the credit card issuer just because you wait 91 days after your last use of your cards.

What, then, should you do if you need to buy food or gasoline in the weeks before you actually file?

You should recognize that shortly after you file, there is a very good chance that your credit cards will all be canceled and you are going to have to find another way to pay for your food and gasoline. A bankruptcy may eliminate old debt but it will not help you pay your current or on-going bills.

As a practical matter you are not going to want to spend the money litigating Section 523 dischargeability actions. Bankruptcy litigation is expensive and if you are scraping to buy food and gasoline, you will not be able to afford litigation. The fee you pay your bankruptcy lawyer will almost never include litigation.

If you are in Southeastern Wisconsin and are having trouble with your credit card debt, contact Miller and Miller today. We have offices in Milwaukee and Kenosha, making sure that whether you live in Racine or Waukesha, you have a office close to home.

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