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Rizwan Butt

Rizwan Butt

When creditors are knocking, it is time to reconsider your priorities. Slipping behind on your payments--occasionally--is not a cause for concern. You know you can stretch your bills a month or two and catch up paying only a few late fees. Chronic lateness however is a different matter.

If you lose ground every month, added late fees alone can destroy your financial health. You are on a slow-motion roller coaster heading down. If realize you are in this position, worrying will not help. You have options. Take charge of your future.

No one wants to file bankruptcy. Perhaps you intend to try a debt management plan or a debt settlement plan. These tactics are worthy of your consideration. The trick, if you use them, is not compromising your bankruptcy alternatives. You would not marry the first person who smiles. Take your time and keep your options open until you understand the ripple effect of your choices. Then decide what you must do.

Bankruptcy is a full strength solution that is available to almost everyone. Success claiming maximum benefits in one chapter or two chapters successively is more difficult. You must choose a far-reaching and complementary strategy to enhance your unique personal situation. Debt management and settlements are but two available tactics. Chapter 7 is an option to consider later if necessary. Chapter 13 provides the power to defeat even IRS super-priorities. You should know when to convert Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 and back. All tactics should work in harmony to serve your ultimate goal: your strategy for long-term financial security.

Before committing to any course of action, review your qualification and the availability of a wide range of choices. Consider your overall strategy and your options may complement each other. It is not difficult to keep your options open, profitably, and insure you receive the greatest benefits each step of the way. If filing bankruptcy becomes necessary, keep all assets you now own and discharge all debts quickly. You can plan your strategy yourself or with the assistance of an attorney. But, there is always a catch. You must be the first to act. In the meantime, do not waste another cent on needless payments once filing becomes imminent.


Dave Clark is a lawyer who enjoys writing about bankruptcy strategies for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you have questions about how to convert Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, contact him through his website.

The basic qualifications to file bankruptcy again remain the same. U.S. citizens, army personnel serving over seas, and any person who owns property or does business within the U.S. may file bankruptcy. Chapter 7 imposes additional restrictions based on a previous case. You cannot re-file Chapter 7 within eight years of a prior Chapter 7 discharge, or within six years of a prior Chapter 13 discharge (unless unsecured creditors received at least 70% of their total debt), or if a prior case was dismissed with prejudice within the last 180 days.

The means test poses the greatest hurdle if filing Chapter 7 again, and determines the amount of the monthly payment owed to a Chapter 13 trustee.

The means test became effective in late 2005. Since that time, all people who file bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 must take the test. In theory, the test measures monthly disposable income for each debtor. The calculation starts with total income, subtracts expenses, to find disposable income (Accountants call this discretionary income). If filing jointly with a spouse, total household income, less allowed monthly expenses, determines disposable income.

Importantly, disposable income is a far different measure under the U.S. Code than the common understanding of discretionary income. In the later case, expenses include all basic necessities based the current cost of goods. This basic concept is absent in the U.S. Code definition of disposable income.

The test imposes national standard allowances and local standard allowances for the majority of allowed expenses used in the test. Debtors may not deduct any expense unless specifically authorized. Further, as a rule for necessities, the actual cost of living, actual cost of goods, and historical expenses of each debtor are irrelevant.

In a few important expense categories however, the test does permits debtors to deduct actual expenses. Additionally, debtors may also petition the court for a 5% increase in a few standard allowances for good cause shown.

The test uses monthly disposable in a three-pronged test. First, if the debtor(s) earns more than their state median income, Chapter 7 is not available unless qualifying under two exceptions. These exceptions apply in limited circumstances when the means test measure of disposable income is less than $200.

Taking the test the first time is frustrating for most people. The mandatory allowed budget is not adequate in many situations. Yet many opportunities exist to change results and even improve results substantially over time.

The test relies on income and expenses over last full six months. Each month, test results change. The oldest month disappears and latest month becomes part the test. Over six months, the test result is entirely new.

Small changes in lifestyle may qualify a debtor to file Chapter 7. Debtors who become acquainted with the test and a few advanced bankruptcy strategies may swing the test result dramatically. To swing the test in your favor, you must know how to calculate income, the expenses used in the test, and the expenses that remain irrelevant. When taking the test, time and knowledge combine into the power to exert great influence over next five years of your life.

If you pass the test, you may discharge all debt in as little as four months and receive a final order closing the case. If you fail the test, you must repay at least a portion of all debts and live on a mandatory budget under court supervision for the next five years.


Dave Clark is a lawyer who enjoys bankruptcy strategies questions. This article is for a client who asked, "Can I file Chapter 7 second time?" & "Does bankruptcy eliminate judgements?"

You may notice that some people seem lucky. When confronting difficult situations they have better options, rebound quickly, and come back stronger. This is not luck. These people plan for success and keep their options open.

Planning for financial success is not as hard as many people lead you to believe. In most situations, discovering you best strategy is nothing more than comparing your options before making a decision. Everyone dreams of winning the lottery occasionally but few believe it is likely. You also know with certainty that bills pour into your mail each month. You have a plan to pay them the best you can, but do not rely on lottery winnings. This simple decision silently includes risk vs. reward analysis based on probabilities.

If you have difficulty paying your monthly expenses, it is time to reevaluate. You have a wide range of options to reduce your expenses, eliminate debt and perhaps increase your income. Each of these options includes a degree of risk. Costs vary as much as potential rewards.

For example, you may consider a debt management plan to reduce your credit card payments by 20%. You may also consider a debt settlement plan that cuts your payments by 60% or even Chapter 7 bankruptcy that wipes out payments and debts completely. Each of these options can help. You must however focus on the probability of achieving your ultimate goal. Consider these options as nothing more than tools at your disposal.

Use your tools wisely. If you need a screwdriver, you would not throw away your hammer because it is in the way. Financial tools are similar. If you choose a debt settlement plan, do not destroy your Chapter 7 option to wipe out all debt and keep all property you own. To do this, you must consider what assets can be taken in bankruptcy and those you may keep. The best strategies seamlessly integrate tools, tactics, and the likelihood of financial success.

Work through your options one by one. Decide if you qualify. Evaluate risk. Analyze your probability of success in each situation. Then, calculate how much you expect to save over the next five years using each option you consider. If your success is not guaranteed--it seldom is--do not destroy your other options.

If you use this approach, you no longer need luck. You will control of your destiny. If your first plan fails you always have an uncompromised solution ready to claim the maximum benefits allowed by law.


Dave Clark is an attorney who is enjoys writing about bankruptcy strategies for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. This article is for a client who asked, "Can I file for Chapter 7 a second time?"

Three situations are responsible for 80% of all bankruptcy cases filed, and they are largely beyond your control. Un-reimbursed medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Job loss is second, followed by divorce. Often, any one of these factors may lead to another. Job loss may cause divorce almost as easily as disability results in unemployment. The progression is similar to a game of rock-paper-scissors with tragic consequences.

A joint study conducted by two major credit card companies found that approximately 5% of all bankruptcy cases involved intentional credit card abuse. Small business owners who fail, victims of crimes, and single mothers account for the majority all remaining cases.

Spend a day in the gallery of a bankruptcy court, if you dare. You will understand why ordinary people must file again. You will also wonder why the 2005 Bankruptcy Code amendments, designed specifically to punish small debtors and make filing more difficult, left only corporate privileges in Chapter 11 untouched.

If you find yourself facing an insurmountable financial situation, you too would probably consider filing bankruptcy. It is not only pointless, but is indefensible to expect a $15 an hour employee to repay $500,000 in medical expenses while disabled. Without regular income, Chapter 13 is not available. Moreover, can this person qualify for Chapter 7?

Qualification to file Chapter 7 depends on several factors. If you received a Chapter 7 discharge in the last eight years, you cannot re-file. If you received a Chapter 13 discharge in the last 6 years and paid less than 70% of all unsecured debts, you cannot re-file. If you had a previous case dismissed with prejudice in the last 180 days, you cannot re-file. If you fail the means test, you cannot re-file.

The means test disqualifies all people from filing Chapter 7 if income exceeds the median income in their state residency over the last six months. A $15 an hour employee is an excessively high earner in a few states, if monthly expenses are low, and cannot file Chapter 7.

If you qualify, Chapter 7 stops the nonsense. It exempts disability income from forfeiture when discharging medical expenses. Child support payments are not dischargeable and remain payable. A disabled debtor must always pay child support, as a percentage, from all income received.

The means test is a fluid measurement. It changes each month in response to actual income and expenditures. You have the power within your grasp to make better choices. These choices determine if you can file Chapter 7 over the next six months. You should start now if you think financial hardhship is on the way.


Dave Clark is a lawyer who enjoys bankruptcy strategies questions. This article is for a client who asked, "Can I file for Chapter 7 a second time?" & does "bankruptcy eliminate judgements?" Contact him through this web site.

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