There are two alternative systems that can be used to "exempt" property from a bankruptcy estate, federal exemptions (available in some states but not all), and state exemptions (which vary widely between states). For example, Maryland and Virginia, which are adjoining states, have different personal exemption amounts that cannot be seized for payment of debts. This amount is the first $6,000 in property or cash in Maryland, but normally only the first $5,000 in Virginia. State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, such that there may be significant differences in the outcome of a bankruptcy case depending upon the state in which it is filed.
If you plan to file for Chapter 7, you might qualify for a fee waiver if your income is within 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. Otherwise, you might be able to pay the fee in up to four installments. To apply for either, you’ll complete and submit the official request forms along with your initial bankruptcy petition. The court will notify you if the judge approves the waiver or installment arrangement.
Bankruptcy offers an individual or business a chance to start fresh by forgiving debts that simply cannot be paid while offering creditors a chance to obtain some measure of repayment based on the individual's or business's assets available for liquidation. In theory, the ability to file for bankruptcy can benefit an overall economy by giving persons and businesses a second chance to gain access to consumer credit and by providing creditors with a measure of debt repayment. Upon the successful completion of bankruptcy proceedings, the debtor is relieved of the debt obligations incurred prior to filing for bankruptcy.
Financially distressed municipalities, including cities, towns, villages, counties, and school districts, may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. Under Chapter 9, there is no liquidation of assets to repay the municipality's debts. Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides relief to "family farmers" or "family fishermen" with regular annual income. Both Chapters 9 and 12 make use of an extended debt repayment plan. Chapter 15 was added in 2005 to deal with cross-border cases which involve debtors, assets, creditors and other parties who may be in more than one country. This type of petition is usually filed in the debtor's home country.
Chapter 9: This applies only to cities or towns. It protects municipalities from creditors while the city develops a plan for handling its debts. This typically happens when industries close and people leave to find work elsewhere. There were 20 Chapter 9 filings in 2012, the most since 1980. Detroit was among those filing in 2012, and is the largest city ever to file Chapter 9. Detroit’s GDP shrunk by 12.2% in the 10 years prior to declaring bankruptcy. The average major metro growth in that time was 13.1%.
Often called "straight bankruptcy" or "simple bankruptcy," a Chapter 7 bankruptcy potentially allows debtors to eliminate most or all of their debts over a period of as little as three or four months. In a typical consumer bankruptcy, the only debts that survive a Chapter 7 are student loans, child support obligations, some tax bills and criminal fines. Credit cards, pay day loans, personal loans, medical bills, and just about all other bills are discharged.