The bankruptcy means test is an important aspect to understanding which chapter filing of bankruptcy is most likely to fit your particular situation. This test determines the income level—the “financial means”—of any individual seeking to file bankruptcy. The means test formula was originally designed to ensure high-income earners file Chapter 13. It is also now used to determine if your income is low enough to qualify you for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

How Does the Test Work?

Do you have enough monthly disposable income after paying your expenses in order to pay back your debt? The bankruptcy means test seeks to determine the answer. It works by deducting specific monthly expenses from your “current monthly income” in order to determine your monthly “disposable income.” The test uses your average income over the six calendar months before you file for bankruptcy in order to make this determination. Courts essentially use this bankruptcy means test to make sure the burden of debt repayment is substantial when compared to your income in relation to your monthly expenses. It was designed to limit the use of Chapter 7 bankruptcy to solely being used by those individuals who are unable to pay their debts.

A general rule of thumb is that the higher your disposable income is, the more likely you won’t be allowed to use Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Instead, courts will expect you to use your disposable income to repay creditors. However, it is important to realize that just because you have to take the bankruptcy means test, doesn’t mean that you must be living at the “poverty level” in order to file for Chapter 7. You can earn significant monthly income and still qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you have a large number of expenses, such as a high mortgage, multiple car loan payments, taxes, or other expenses.

What to Do If You Don’t Pass the Means Test

Most people who file for bankruptcy find Chapter 7 ideal because it requires no repayment. However, without passing the means test, you’re likely going to be limited to using Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires monthly payments to be made over the course of a three to five-year period.

Trusted Bankruptcy Attorneys

The decision to file for bankruptcy is a difficult and lengthy one that should not be done without the legal guidance of an attorney that you trust. It’s important to seek professional legal advice when exploring the means test and before making a final decision on what will best suit your situation. The attorneys at Parker& DuFresne can help. Contact us today.