How to File for Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
Filing for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania requires planning and preparation. The first thing to know is that the process of filing for bankruptcy in the state of Pennsylvania mirrors the same uniform process as filing in the rest of the country. It's also important to become familiar with the specific requirements and guidelines of filing in Pennsylvania. You will be required to determine the type of bankruptcy that is appropriate for your situation prior to filing your petition. Almost all debtors will file for either Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges debts that cannot be paid. Chapter 13 bankruptcy establishes a payment plan for paying back creditors. There is also the option to file for Chapter 12 bankruptcy for fishermen and farmers. Some debtors with high debt amounts or business-related debts may be qualified to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The act of filing your petition will trigger what is known as an automatic stay. This notice prevents creditors from contacting you or attempting to collect debt in any way.
The Specifics of Filing for Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania bankruptcy court system is divided into districts. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has offices in Philadelphia and Reading. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has offices in Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has offices in Pittsburgh, Erie, and Johnstown. The cost to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the state of Pennsylvania is $335. The cost to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the state of Pennsylvania is $310. A complete list of fees for all filings can be found here.
What to Expect When Filing for Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
It is required for all filers to complete a credit counseling course prior to filing an initial bankruptcy petition in Pennsylvania. A list of approved agencies that courses can be taken with can be found here. It will also be necessary to take a debtor education course at the end of your case. A list of approved agencies that debtor education courses can be taken with can be found here.
The paperwork required to complete the filing process will consist of detailed questions regarding assets, income, debt, living expenses, property and more. Things like tax returns, deeds and titles will likely also need to be presented to the court during the process. You can find the necessary forms here. The complex nature and strict timelines involved with filing make using a lawyer highly advisable in most cases. The court will use a means test to determine whether you are capable of paying off debts. Those who are found incapable of paying off debts will be granted a debt discharge under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Those who are found capable of paying off debts under certain circumstances will be assigned a payment plan under Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
You will be required to attend a meeting of creditors at some point during the filing process. This mandatory meeting provides your creditors with an opportunity to request paperwork and information that may help them to prove that you are actually capable of paying back some debts. While it is possible that you may be required to forfeit nonexempt property or assets in some cases, this meeting signifies the end of dealing with creditors. It is important to be completely honest when filling out paperwork or presenting information during the bankruptcy process. Any attempts to hide assets or provide false information could result in strict penalties.