How much debt should I have in order to file for bankruptcy? 30 Answers as of August 13, 2011

I want to know how much debt I need to file for bankruptcy. I don’t have a lot of debt, but its enough to keep me struggling to pay for bills each month. What can I do?

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Law Office of Asaph Abrams
Law Office of Asaph Abrams | Asaph Abrams
There's no threshold of debt for filing a chapter 7. There are considerations or practicality, peace of mind, cost-benefit, and relativity. Chapter 13 has debt LIMITS: your (non-contingent, liquidated) unsecured debts must be less than $360,475. AND your (non-contingent, liquidated) secured debts must be less than $1,081,400. See 11 USC section 109(e). Figures adjust triennially in April. This answer (as well as our Web site) doesn't address all facts & implications of the question; it's general info, not legal advice to be relied upon; it creates no attorney-client relationship; it may be pertinent to CA only; it's independent of other answers. Hire legal counsel before acting or refraining from bankruptcy/legal action.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/13/2011
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
Everyone's situation is different, contact a local attorney.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/10/2011
Breckenridge and Walton
Breckenridge and Walton | Alan D. Walton
Most folks can manage with belt tightening if their unsecured debt is less than half their income. If it is equal to or more than income, there is usually no way you can work it out without bankruptcy. I have filed for folks with less than $10,000 in unsecured debt when they have low income, and recommended that folks with $40,000 in unsecured debt did not need a bankruptcy when their income exceeded $100,000. Talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/7/2011
Mankus & Marchan, LTD
Mankus & Marchan, LTD | Tony Mankus
There is no legal minimum amount of debt required to file for relief under bankruptcy laws. You should consult with a bankruptcy attorney about your specific financial situation to see if bankruptcy would be warranted.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 8/6/2011
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
While there is no minimal amount of debt that needs to be owing to file for bankruptcy, you should carefully consider the ramifications of filing.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/5/2011
    The Law Office of Jacqui Snyder
    The Law Office of Jacqui Snyder | Jacqui Snyder
    The minimum debt to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy is $5,000.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC | Dennis J Sargent Jr.
    There is no magic number. It depends really on your personal situation. There are many factors to consider when determining whether you should file bankruptcy. One factor is your current debt load. Additional factors are your income, assets and expenses. It also depends on your current stage in life. Whether you should file for bankruptcy should not be taken lightly and would best be served by having a discussion with a bankruptcy attorney. Many attorneys offer free consultations to give you adequate information to make the right decision.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Ross Smith, Attorney at Law
    Ross Smith, Attorney at Law | Charles Ross Smith III
    You should not think in terms of the total of your debt. You should think of the debt in proportion to your income. For instance, $10,000.00 is not a lot of debt to a person who makes $100,000.00 a year. But it is more than sufficient to force a person earning $20,000.00 a year to file a Chapter 7. It's a matter of relative size, not the actual size of the debt. Many times people do not file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if their debt is "almost manageable." Instead, they file a Chapter 13 Plan and pay off their debts at 0% interest over 3 - 5 years. In a Chapter 13 plan you do NOT have to pay back 100% of your debts. Quite often a percentage of debt is paid back. The percentage is calculated in a complicated manner that depends on your income. Payments in Chapter 13 are designed to be affordable. And they get you completely out of debt in 3-5-years. It would pay you to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney. The attorney can advise what is best for you. Many do not charge for the initial consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Heupel Law
    Heupel Law | Kevin Heupel
    When looking to file bankruptcy, consider the percentage of debt to income rather than the amount of debt. If your unsecured debt is more than 1/3 of your gross income, then you have more debt than you can afford to repay. For example, if you have $5,000 of debt, but only make $12,000 per year, then you cannot afford to repay the debt.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus | Mark Markus
    You need enough debt so that the benefits of filing bankruptcy outweigh the costs. You need to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to go over all aspects of your situation so you can properly assess your options.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Judith A. Runyon, Esq. Attorney at Law
    Judith A. Runyon, Esq. Attorney at Law | Judith A. Runyon
    The amount of your debt is not what determines if you qualify for bankruptcy or not. Other things are considered, as well. Talk to a bankruptcy attorney
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    The Port Law Firm
    The Port Law Firm | Edward Port
    In regards to determining how much debt a person should have prior to filing a bankruptcy all depends on your specific situation. You should speak with a bankruptcy attorney who will evaluate your case and make a decision if bankruptcy is right for you. The attorney may also give you advice as to other alternatives. The consultations are usually free, so take advantage.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
    If you have enough debt that you're struggling you might want to file now. See a lawyer for a specific analysis.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    10,000 to 100,000,000 - if you can't pay it, you can't pay it. I did a case once with $3,400.00 in unsecured debt.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law
    Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law | Eric Benzer
    It isn't an amount.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Theodore N. Stapleton, PC
    Theodore N. Stapleton, PC | Theodore N. Stapleton
    The decision to file bankruptcy depends on each person's circumstances. You can only get a chapter 7 discharge once every 8 years so you want to use your fresh start wisely. I am happy to discuss your options with you.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Glen A. Kurtis, P.C.
    Glen A. Kurtis, P.C. | Glen A. Kurtis
    It depends on the income level. Generally I would not file under 10K of debt. For debt that small there are others options that might be more beneficial.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson | Lynnmarie Johnson
    There is no set amount, but approach in with common sense. It costs to file, would you better off spending that money to try and settle the debts with the creditors? Once you file a Ch 7, you can't file again for 8 yrs, are you sure you want to give up that right for a small amount of debt? Is there any other expenses that you can cut until you get your debt at a manageable level? Think about it and don't rush in to anything!
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Grasso Law Group
    Grasso Law Group | Charles Grasso, Esq.
    The amount of debt isn't important. The question to ask yourself is if you were to discharge that debt in bankruptcy would you be in a position to move forward and stay out of debt.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Eranthe Law Firm
    Eranthe Law Firm | Cate Eranthe
    There is no minimum debt requirement. If you are struggling and can't save money it may be an option. Keep in mind that you are only able to obtain a bankruptcy discharge every 8 years.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis | Todd Mannis
    There is no set amount - if you're unable to pay your debts as they become due, you are there.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC | Melinda Murphy Dionne
    There is no minimum amount of debt required to file a bankruptcy case. Of course, you have to consider the costs of filing versus the amount of debt you are discharging but there is no minimum amount required.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
    There is no set amount of debt one must have to file bankruptcy.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    There is no legal limit on the amount of debt required to file a bankruptcy case. That is something that must be decided considering your income and the cost of the bankruptcy case among other factors. If you cannot afford to pay your debts now and you are on a tight budget already, then that is a good indication that bankruptcy is probably a good option, particularly if your credit is already bad and there is no likelihood that your income will increase substantially in the foreseeable future.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Lake Forest Bankruptcy
    Lake Forest Bankruptcy | Anerio V. Altman, Esq.
    There is no minimum amount required. Generally if it is more than you can manage that is all that is required.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Ursula G. Barrios Law
    Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
    No debt minimums to file. Its up to you. If you can't pay your debts consider it.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Colorado Legal Solutions
    Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
    There is no minimum amount of debt necessary to file for bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy has some negative consequences and a cost in time and money. If your debt level is low, it might make more sense to explore other options as the trade off may not be worthwhile.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    You can see a lawyer who will analyze your debts, expenses and income to see if you qualify, if you should, and what form you may want to file.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Marjorie Guymon
    There is no debt limit.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 8/5/2011
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC | Richard James Symmes
    You should decide if the debt is enough where you don't see yourself ever being able to pay it back. Generally I don't file cases unless the debtor has at least $10K in debt.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/5/2011
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