Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the District of Columbia: 2 Things You Need to Know

If you find yourself in debt, navigating the options to alleviate that financial burden can be overwhelming. This article aims to clarify Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its alternatives in the District of Columbia. Before delving in, consider these three questions:
Information in this article does not constitute legal advice, it is for informational purposes only, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Readers should contact their attorney for advice on any particular legal matter.
  1. Do you know if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and what would be the associated costs?
  2. Are there alternative solutions that might better suit your situation?

By the end of this article, we will address all of these questions. However, we also understand if you prefer to skip straight to the details. If so, you can use our District of Columbia Chapter 7 Calculator below to estimate your qualifications and costs.

1) How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Works in District of Columbia

How Fast Do You Get Relief in A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia

It usually takes around 120 days to wrap up a no-asset Chapter 7 case in the state from start to finish. A "no-asset" bankruptcy means that you don't own any fancy houses or other valuable assets that might exceed the District of Columbia bankruptcy exemptions. So, if you're in a situation where you don't have an excess of assets, you could be looking at a relatively speedy resolution to your bankruptcy case.

How Much Does It Cost To File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia

The typical cost of Chapter 7 bankruptcy ranges from $500 to $3000, but it can vary based on your location, your lawyer’s expertise, and the complexity of your situation. Therefore, even within the District of Columbia, you might pay a completely different fee than someone else.

From historical cases, we’ve typically seen fees varying from $1,150 to $1,660. But once again, these fees are subject to change due to the factors mentioned above.

In some cases, the filing cost can be reduced through a filing fee waiver. To explore this option further, you can find all the details in the District of Columbia filing fee waiver.

How Do I Qualify For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia?

When reviewing whether you qualify for Chapter 7, you may want to check the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy District of Columbia Income Limits. This test determines if you're eligible for a bankruptcy discharge (another way of saying your debts will be forgiven). If you pass the means test (you can estimate it below), Chapter 7 will cover most of your unsecured debts. Unsecured debts don't have any collateral, such as medical bills, personal loans, certain old income tax debts, old utility bills, credit card debts, and most personal judgments.

What about secured debts in Chapter 7?

If you want to wipe out secured debts such as car loans and mortgages, Chapter 7 bankruptcy might still be the answer. But the catch is that you'll have to give up the asset to the creditor, and the creditor will consider it as full payment for what you owe.

IMPORTANT: Chapter 7 Qualification via District of Columbia Means Test

A tool to help you determine your eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the District of Columbia is the Bankruptcy Means Test. This form will help calculate your average annual income based on your last six months of gross income. It will then compare that number to the median income of other households in the District of Columbia. If your median income turns out to be below the District of Columbia median income, you might qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge.

Feel free to use the calculator below:

My Income Exceeded The Chapter 7 Means Test Allowable in District of Columbia

If your income is higher than the median income in your state, you might need to dive into part 2 of the means test or explore an alternative option. We encourage you to check out this helpful resource: passing the Chapter 7 means test when income exceeds the median.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy District of Columbia Income Limits

If you're filing for bankruptcy in District of Columbia on or after November 1, 2023, here are the limitations for income based on household size:

# of PeopleAnnual Income
1$82,535
2$136,088
3$166,120
4$173,924
5$183,824
6$193,724
7$203,624
8$213,524
9$223,424

Will I lose my belongings if I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy? Understand District of Columbia bankruptcy exemptions.

Bankruptcy exemptions are crucial to understand as they help shield assets against being sold off to creditors. The household exemption is an important one to consider. In the District of Columbia, you’ll be able to exempt up to $23,675 of your home’s equity. This is regardless of age or marital status.

You will also be able to protect up to $8,625 of household goods and furnishings. There is also an exemption of  $2,575 for one motor vehicle. However, in this case, it’s better to use the federal exemption of $3,775.

Some final exemptions are allow you to save $200 of weekly income from the household head and $1,283,025 on any retirement accounts you might have.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy District of Columbia Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The speed at which you can receive a discharge: In just about 120 days, you could be debt-free and on your way to building a fresh start.
  • Property exemptions: If you meet the threshold for exemptions, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may allow you to keep a good percentage of your personal property.
  • Stopping debt collection lawsuits: Once you file, the court will issue an automatic stay, preventing legal action against you, including calls and letters from collectors.
  • Loan deficiency: When you owe more on a loan than the collateral is worth, you may be stuck with a deficiency. But with bankruptcy, that burden could be lifted.

Cons

  • Income requirements for qualification: To be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must meet specific income requirements.
  • Potential loss of home and belongings: If your assets exceed the exemption limit, there is a chance that you may have to part ways with some of your property.
  • Negative impact on credit report: Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can have a lasting effect on your credit report. It stays on record for a decade, making it challenging to secure future loans or favorable interest rates.
  • Non-dischargeable debt: It's important to note that not all debts may be discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Specific obligations, such as student loans and child support payments, are typically not eligible for discharge.

2) Alternatives to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia

a) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia

If you earn more than the income limit, you can still get debt relief through Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in District of Columbia allows you to restructure your debts into a more manageable monthly plan. This restructuring can help you keep your home and vehicles, help stop foreclosure, and prevent repossession of your belongings. Furthermore, you might be able to reduce any unpaid child support, alimony, and car loan payments.

Can you afford Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

If you are considering a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can use this calculator to help estimate whether you can manage the monthly payment.

b) Debt Settlement/Relief

Debt settlement may also be another option aside from Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once you pursue this option, the debt settlement company negotiates a lower amount on your total debt, saving you money in the long run. However, consider its impact on your credit score and do proper research to choose a well-reputable and transparent debt settlement company.

c) Debt Management

Another option is debt management. Whereas debt settlement companies work to lower the total amount of debt you owe, debt management companies work to lower your interest rates. These programs usually last 3 to 5 years and are typically a bit pricier than debt settlement. Not all creditors may be willing to work with a debt management company.

However, if you're dealing with a bunch of high-interest credit card debt, this option may reduce that interest by around 10-20%. This could translate to an eventual 30-50% savings on the debt you currently owe and allow you to pay off these debts more efficiently. Considering your situation and determining which option makes the most sense financially is essential.

d) Debt Payoff Planning

The last alternative we'll mention is debt payoff planning. This strategy does take some effort and will require you to cut your expenses and save excess income to pay down as much debt as possible. However, you can make tangible progress every month by choosing the appropriate debt payoff plan. Another thing to remember is that as you begin to pay off your debts, you will be able to compound those payments towards the remaining debts, allowing you to pay things off faster and faster.

Conclusion

At this point, you hopefully have a better understanding of the requirements and potential alternatives. For a quick check of your eligibility and estimated costs, use the Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test calculator provided below.

Otherwise, if you’d like a more comprehensive overview of the process of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, feel free to explore our guide. This resource offers a thorough breakdown of the steps you can expect.

Lastly, if you are interested in minimizing attorney fees and are willing to shoulder some of the responsibility, we have an article on filing bankruptcy without an attorney. You can access this article here: filing bankruptcy without an attorney.

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