The Law Office of Michael Riley

Specializing in bankruptcy, real estate law and mediation services.






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Frequently Asked Questions About Bankruptcy:


It is important to speak with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy laws are complex and knowledge of rules is required. Bankruptcy remains an option for most, if not all, honest individuals or couples who face overwhelming debt or foreclosure.


What Is Bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding under Federal law where a person is released from paying debts by declaring bankruptcy and turning all non-exempt property over to the court’s Trustee. For more information, click on the text: Bankruptcy Filing Process.


Who Can File Bankruptcy? Any person who resides in, does business in, or has property in this country can file bankruptcy.


Should I Stop Paying Creditors Once I Decide to File for Bankruptcy? Yes. Debts that can be discharged in bankruptcy, such as credit card and medical obligations, should not be paid once an informed decision is made to file a Chapter 7 petition. Monthly bills, such as rent, mortgage payments, telephone and utilities must be paid.


Will Filing for Bankruptcy Stop Harassing Phone Calls from Bill Collectors? When you file either kind of bankruptcy, something called an “automatic stay” goes into effect. The automatic stay prohibits virtually all creditors from taking any action to collect the debts you owe them unless the bankruptcy court lifts the stay and lets the creditor proceed with collections.


How Long Does a Bankruptcy Remain on My Credit Report? The fact that an individual filed a bankruptcy can remain on the credit report no longer than 10 years under provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


How Much Does It Cost to File? In Massachusetts, the filing fee is $299.00 for individual, joint and business petitions under Chapter 7, or $274.00 for Chapter 13. This does not include legal fees.


What Is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13? In Chapter 13, the debtor pays a portion of non-secured debt and all of the secured and priority debt over a period of 3 to 5 years. The debtor is allowed to keep both exempt and non-exempt property. In Chapter 7, the debtor is not required to pay any dischargeable debt and is not allowed to keep any non-exempt property. Whether to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 should be discussed with an attorney. Click on "Chapter 7" or "Chapter 13" above to go to the Bankruptcy Court information page.


Where Is a Bankruptcy Filed? A bankruptcy petition is filed in the United States District Court in the district where the debtor lives or does business.

How Long Does It Take? Chapter 7’s are generally very fast. The court will schedule a creditor’s meeting in approximately 30 days after the bankruptcy petition has been filed. At the meeting, the trustee will ask you about the information contained in your bankruptcy schedules. The meeting may last only a few minutes, and is generally the only “court” appearance you will have to make. In approximately 120 days, you will receive your discharge and the final decree will follow a few weeks later. Chapter 13’s and 11’s take longer. Your attorney can give you a rough estimate of the time involved.


What Do I Need for the Initial Meeting with my Attorney? Clients should bring in these five things: 1) a list of assets and liabilities, 2) a list of creditors showing the amount due to each creditor, 3) a list of income and expenses, 4) last two years tax returns and 5) evidence of last 6 months of income. We will discuss your financial situation and determine if bankruptcy is appropriate. If it looks like bankruptcy is appropriate, I will provide you with forms to fill out. When this is complete, the petition and schedules will be prepared and filed.


I Am in Debt Because I’ve Been Irresonsible in Using Credit. Will I Be Denied a Debt Discharge Because I Don’t Have a Good Excuse for my Behavior? No. The bankruptcy system does not ask whether your debt is due to unforeseen circumstances that were no fault of your own, or whether you were living “over your head.” Click on the link for Discharge FAQs.


What Does the Term “Fresh Start” Mean in Association with Bankruptcy? (Regain Financial Control) By discharging your debts in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can receive a “fresh start” and move on to rebuild your financial and personal life, without the worry of being overwhelmed by an unbearable load of debt.


Is My Primary Residence Protected? Know and understand the 1215 day rule: In Massachusetts, if you own your own home and it serves as your principle residence, you may be able to protect it against the claims of creditors and/or a forced sale by filing a Declaration of Homestead. Speak with a qualified bankruptcy attorney to determine the status of your Homestead Exemption should you file bankruptcy.


Will I Lose My Job? No. Bankruptcy laws prohibit discrimination based upon a debtor filing for protection under the bankruptcy laws.


Can I Go To Jail if I File Bankruptcy? No. There are no debtor’s prisons in the United States.


Will Bankruptcy Stop a Wage Attachment? Yes.

For more information on specific bankrupcty codes and the filing process, click on the following links:

Chapter 7 Information




Check out the links below for further information.

Attorney Riley partners with Fresh Start for credit counseling and debtor education and is a member of NACBA and ABI.

Visit NACBA to learn more about filing bankruptcy.



National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
American Bankruptcy Institute

Click on the image above to go to the American Bankruptcy Institute's Consumer website. ABI provides research and education on issues related to insolvency.