The main hurdle you have to overcome when attempting to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the means test. The Chapter 7 means test is designed to look at your income and expenses and disqualify you for Chapter 7 if they don’t fit within certain guidelines. The means test will compare your average monthly income for the six-month period preceding your bankruptcy filing against the median income of a comparable household in your state of residence.
The means test is intended to prevent people with higher than average incomes from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Often, the better bet for someone who cannot qualify under the mean test is to go the Chapter 13 route. The means test comes across as relatively straightforward, but it can be more complex than you think. A good bankruptcy attorney can be an invaluable resource in guiding you through this process. Here are three common mistakes people make when completing the means test form:
- Listing the wrong household size. This can be more complicated than it would seem since courts don’t always agree on what constitutes household size. A minority of courts take the view that everyone living in the house should be counted. Other courts determine household size by including only those people who are financially dependent on the debtor. Household size is extremely important to the means test because it is used to calculate the median family income to balance against your income, and the standard deduction amounts for housing and certain other expenses.
- Your income doesn’t match up to the documentation you provide. This is information you have to go over carefully. The number of weeks in a month, the issue date of paychecks, and the timing of the bankruptcy filing are all factors that can affect the average income figures.
- Failing to take all allowable deductions. Don’t miss out on a deduction you are entitled to. Court ordered payments like those in a divorce or child custody case are allowable deductions, for example.