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How can I figure out if I qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Once the decision has been made to pursue bankruptcy, people often examine the different types of bankruptcy available to them. Most individuals file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

For many, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is preferable because they want to get through the bankruptcy as soon as possible. But Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not available to everyone. To be eligible you must be able to pass an income and expense test known as the "means test."

Purpose of the means test

The purpose of the means test is to determine whether individuals whose income exceeds certain thresholds have the ability to repay a portion of their debts.

If your disposable income -- the money left after paying allowable expenses -- isn't enough to take care of your debt obligations, you may file for Chapter 7. 

Individuals who do not pass the means test may not file Chapter 7, but they may file Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

How is the means test determined?

The means test starts by comparing the income and size of a household factoring against an average for your state. It then factors in allowable expenses.

Allowable expenses may include, but is not limited to:

  • Transportation fees
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Utilities
  • Medical costs
  • Reasonable housing accommodations

Sometimes it's difficult to determine whether an expense fits into one of these categories. It is always advisable to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to calculate these numbers.

It's not always as simple as it looks. Ask for help

For those residing in Wisconsin, a variety of debt relief options could help you through your financial struggles. The means test merely points you in the right direction by helping you determine which type of bankruptcy you could file if that option serves you best. With the assistance of a skilled bankruptcy attorney, you can determine the course of action that will help you achieve a fresh financial start free from the stress and frustration overwhelming debt causes.

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