Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by our Bankruptcy Attorney


Q: What is the difference between a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

A: To put it simply, a chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation style bankruptcy where a court appointed bankruptcy trustee sells your non-exempt property to pay your creditors.  Most individuals I have assisted in chapter 7 bankruptcy did not have any of their property sold because they are entitled to claim exemptions on all of their property.  In most cases, the allowed exemptions are sufficient to cover all of an  individual's property, and that person's exempt property is protected from the trustee.  A chapter 7 bankruptcy is normally complete between 90 and 120 days from the date you file the bankruptcy petition. 

In a chapter 13 bankruptcy you will make payments to your bankruptcy trustee for between 3 and 5 years.   However, if you are employed the plan payments will be taken directly from your wages in accordance with your chapter 13 plan.  If you are self-employed, you will be required to remit your payment at least once per month to the trustee.  If you are eligible for a chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge, it normally will come after you have made your last plan payment. 

To find out which chapter is best for you and your situation, contact our bankruptcy attorney today for your free no-obligation consultation.  If you can't make it to our Tacoma or Aberdeen/Hoquiam offices, then we can accommodate you with a phone consultation. 

Q: How much do you charge for a bankruptcy?

A: I cannot quote what I charge for a bankruptcy on a general knowledge website.  My fees for a bankruptcy are customized to each individual case.  I will give you some standardized costs charged in connection with a bankruptcy.  First of all, if you want to file a bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will charge a filing fee of $335 for a chapter 7 banrkuptcy and $310 for a chapter 13 bankruptcy.  In addition to attorney's fees and filing fees, you will also pay to take two online classes in connection with your bankruptcy.  You need to take the first class within 180 days before you file your case, and the 2nd class after you have filed your case but before your case concludes. The fees for these class have ranged from $9.95 to $50,  depending on what the particular course provider charges for their materials.  For more information on our fees, please contact us using our contact form here.  If you are not too far from our offices in Tacoma or the Aberdeen/Hoquiam area, we would be happy to meet in person.  If you cannot make it to our office we can talk over the phone. 

Q: If I have already filed a bankruptcy, can I file another bankruptcy?

A: Yes, you can another bankruptcy if you have previously filed for bankruptcy in most cases.  In a few situations, a bankruptcy judge or the Bankruptcy code will not allow you to file another bankruptcy.  Just because you can file bankruptcy again doesn't mean that you should.  Too many bankruptcies filed too close together can cause your bankruptcy protection to be limited and/or lost, and this can cause you to lose property to your creditors.  If you have filed bankruptcy before and think you may need to re-file then feel free to contact our bankruptcy attorney and schedule your free consultation. 

Q: Can I remove a mortgage from my house with bankruptcy?

A: Yes and no.  If you are talking about your first mortgage, then no, you cannot remove your first mortgage from you house  in any chapter of bankruptcy.  If you are talking about a 2nd mortgage or a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) then you can remove a mortgage from your home in a chapter 13 bankruptcy but not a chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Now in a chapter 13 bankruptcy you can only remove the mortgage if your home is worth less than what you owe on your first mortgage.  Proving this in a court is easier said than done.  If you believe you may qualify to remove a junior mortgage lien from your home, please contact our bankruptcy attorney and schedule your free consultation.

Q: How do I clean up my credit report after bankruptcy?

A: After you finish your bankruptcy, the credit reporting bureaus will not automatically take the discharged debt off of your credit reports.  You should be sure send each of the credit reporting bureaus a copy of your bankruptcy list of creditors (Schedules D, E/F), and a copy of your discharge order (which the court will mail to you) to the following: 

 Equifax Information Service Center
Attn: Consumer Dept. 
PO Box 740241 
Atlanta, GA 30374 

Consumer Assistance 
PO Box 2350 
Chatsworth, CA 91313-2350 

 TransUnion Corporation
National Consumer Disclosure Center 
PO Box 7000 
North Olmstead, OH 44070 

If you have questions about your debt, please contact our bankruptcy attorney today for a free no-obligation consultation.  We now have offices in Tacoma and Aberdeen/Hoquiam to better serve you. 

Q: Is true that in some cases I can get rid of student loans in a bankruptcy?

A: It is legally possible to discharge student loans, but only a very small number of debtors have actually accomplished this. In order to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, one has to file a lawsuit called an adversarial proceeding against their student loan creditor in the bankruptcy court.  After the person files the law suit, that person bears the burden of proof to prove that you have an "undue hardship."  This term has never been defined anywhere, so each bankruptcy court needs to decide what is an undue hardship on its own.  However, there are legal tests that will help the court decide whether or not you have an undue hardship such as the Brunner Test.  The procedural steps to file the bankruptcy and then the lawsuit can be simple, accomplishing the discharge of student loans is a feat that relatively few people actually accomplish. Most folks simply don't have sufficient documented proof that will stand up in court which proves that they cannot maintain even a minimal standard of living, that their condition is likely to persist, and that they have made good faith efforts to repay their student loan debt.  Thus, in the majority of cases, discharging student loans while possible in theory, simply isn't possible to be accomplished in court.   If you think you have the evidence of the undue hardship, you should contact an experienced trial attorney about your case.   If you wish to talk about your student loan debt, feel free to contact our bankruptcy attorney today for a free no-obligation consultation.


Q: What happens when I file for bankruptcy?

A: The first thing you might notice after file for bankruptcy is that the relentless letters stop.  The next thing that will happen you will have to go to a court hearing called a "Meeting of Creditors," or a "341 Meeting."  If you are a chapter 13 debtor, you will start making plan payments within the first 30 days of your case.  In some cases your first plan payment is due before your Meeting of creditors.  

At your meeting of creditors, you and your bankruptcy attorney will meet with your bankruptcy trustee and make sure that the documents you filed with the bankruptcy courts are accurate and up-to-date and that there are no other issues which need to be addressed in the bankruptcy.  At this meeting your creditors may ask you questions about your bankruptcy if they decide to show up (Most creditors do not show up at these meetings in my experience).   After this meeting, most chapter 7 debtors  will get their discharge in approximately 60 days and their case will be closed. 

If you are a chapter 13 debtor, then after the meeting of creditors you will work with your bankruptcy attorney to make sure your chapter 13 plan is confirmed or approved by your bankruptcy judge.  Once the judge confirms your plan, you just have to make your plan payments and stay in contact with your bankruptcy attorney in case you need to make any changes to your plan.  Once you finish making your plan payments (which is 3 to 5 years) in most cases you will receive your bankruptcy discharge and be done with your case.   If you think you need a bankruptcy contact our bankruptcy attorney for a free consultation.  

Q: How Often Can I file for Bankruptcy?

A: If you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and you receive a chapter 7 discharge after that bankruptcy, then you have to wait 8 years and 1 day from the date you last filed your chapter 7 petition to be able to get another chapter 7 discharge.  If your previous bankruptcy was a chapter 13 bankruptcy and you received a bankruptcy discharge after completing your plan, you are eligible for a chapter 7 discharge after waiting six years (and one day) unless your previous chapter 13 bankruptcy paid all of your creditors or it was a "best efforts plans" which paid at least 70% of your creditors, in which case you can do away with the six year waiting period. 

If you need to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy after filing a chapter 7 or a chapter 13 bankruptcy there is no requirement to wait a certain number of years.  If you filed another bankruptcy within the past 2 - 4 years you can still file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, but you will not receive discharge of your debts after finishing your bankruptcy plan.   Most people who choose to file a no-discharge chapter 13 intend to pay all the creditors back whose debts which are non-dischargeable such as certain taxes, child support, traffic tickets, and student loans. Most often I see this scenario arise in a "Chapter 20" bankruptcy, which is when a chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed very shortly after finishing a chapter 7 bankruptcy .  

If you have any concerns about whether or not you qualify for a bankruptcy discharge, schedule a free consultation with our bankruptcy attorney today.

Q: Can I modify my mortgage or refinance my house in a bankruptcy?

A: I get this question many times because people are often working with their mortgage companies for months before a foreclosure, and will only file a bankruptcy when they know that the mortgage loan will not be modified before the foreclosure sale date.  In our district it is permissible to continue to work on a mortgage loan modification even after the bankruptcy is filed.  In these cases,  the bankruptcy is put in place to make sure the house cannot be sold during the loan modification process with the mortgage company.  If this matches your situation, please contact our bankruptcy attorney and schedule your free consultation today.  We are happy to meet with clients at either our Tacoma office or Aberdeen / Hoquiam office.

Q: What happens if I file a chapter 13 plan, and later on I lose my job?

A: If you lose your job or experience another adverse circumstance while your are in a chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, you can in most cases either modify your bankruptcy plan based upon your change in circumstances or, if you are eligible for relief under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, you may convert your case from a chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  You should not modify the plan or convert your case on your own; these items should be done with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  If  you do not have a bankruptcy attorney currently, please come talk to our bankruptcy attorney at one of our office locations in either Tacoma or Aberdeen / Hoquiam. 

Q: What happens if I don't make my Chapter 13 Plan Payments?

A: If you are in a chapter 13 bankruptcy and you do not make your bankruptcy plan payments, then the trustee or a creditor will likely ask your judge to dismiss your case.  Chapter 13 is a bankruptcy payment plan, and if you don't make your payments, then you cannot continue in the bankruptcy.  Furthermore, you have to have made all of your plan payments to get your discharge after finishing your bankruptcy plan.  It is worth noting that is very rare (and I mean very rare) that in cases of a hardship a very few folks can qualify for a hardship discharge before finishing their plan.   If you fall behind on your plan payments there are ways you can deal with the missed plan payments and not have your bankruptcy dismissed.  A skilled bankruptcy attorney can look at your case and work with you to come up with the best plan to help you.  If you are in a chapter 13 bankruptcy and behind on plan payments, contact us.

Q: Do I get to keep my tax refunds if I file for bankruptcy?

A: Generally speaking you can keep at least a portion of your tax refunds.  In a chapter 7 bankruptcy you can keep a tax return if you can exempt the tax refund from being liquidated by the chapter 7 trustee.  In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can generally retain exempt tax refund proceeds to which you were entitled to on the day that you filed your bankruptcy petition.  For the tax refunds you which receive more than six months after you file your petition, our jurisdiction generally will let you retain up to $2,500 of each annual tax refund you receive during the life of your plan.  As always, these are generalities and does not constitute legal advice for any particular situation.  If you are concerned about your tax refunds and you may be looking to file a bankruptcy, contact our bankruptcy attorney today for a free no-obligation consultation.