How Far Do I Need to Be Behind On By Bills Before I Can File for Bankruptcy?

by Brett Weiss, Esq.

November 23, 2009

I am often asked how far someone needs to be behind on their bills before they can file for bankruptcy. A month? Three months? Charge off? Law suit?

The short answer is that you don’t need to be behind at all before you can file. In fact, many of my clients are completely current on their bills when they file.

So why do they file? Because they can see that they won’t be able to continue to make the payments. Or something has happened in their life–illness, job loss, separation, etc.–that means that they won’t be able to continue making their payments. Or they are only able to pay the monthly minimums, and don’t see ever being able to catch up and pay down the balance. Or any of the hundreds of other reasons that people have for needing to file.

I strongly recommend speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney if you think you won’t be able to pay your bills, even if everything is current now. Using retirement funds, borrowing money, or enrolling in phony debt management programs can all lead to problems far worse than filing for bankruptcy…and you might need to file even if you do these things.

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Brett Weiss, a senior partner at Chung & Press, LLC, represents people and businesses in all phases of bankruptcy. He has experience in complex individual Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and in Chapter 11 small business restructuring and reorganization. Mr. Weiss lectures nationally on bankruptcy issues. He has testified before the Federal Bankruptcy Rules Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has twice testified before Congress on bankruptcy and credit issues. Brett Weiss is the co-author of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, and has written Not Dead Yet: Bankruptcy After BAPCPA, for the Maryland Bar Journal, as well as hundreds of blogs for the Bankruptcy Law Network. With his law partner, he recorded a 13-hour basic bankruptcy training series, and leads intensive three-day Chapter 11 training boot camps. Mr. Weiss has received international media attention in connection with his work. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News with Peter Jennings, the Montel Williams Show, National Public Radio, AARP-TV, the BBC World Service, German state television, and numerous local radio and television programs, and been quoted in Money magazine, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others. Brett Weiss is the Maryland State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network, on the board of the Maryland State Bar Consumer Bankruptcy Council, and a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, and the Civil Justice Network. He has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2007 for Maryland and the District of Columbia, and in 2011 received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for his work on behalf of consumers across the country. Mr. Weiss is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia federal and state courts, the United States Courts of Appeals for the DC, Fourth and Eighth Circuits, The United States Tax Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and has been practicing law since 1983.

Last modified: December 22, 2011