If you live in Pennsylvania and are thinking about filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete a credit counseling course, fill out the bankruptcy petition and other required forms, and file those forms with the proper Pennsylvania bankruptcy court.
Because most of bankruptcy is governed by federal bankruptcy law, the basic bankruptcy filing process in Pennsylvania is similar to other states. You will, however, need to incorporate some Pennsylvania-specific information in your bankruptcy documents. Further, the bankruptcy exemptions you are allowed to use are controlled by Pennsylvania law.
(For more articles on the filing process, see Filing for Bankruptcy.)
Here’s what you should know if you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania.
To qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must show that you received credit counseling from an agency approved by the Bankruptcy Administrator during the six months prior to filing for bankruptcy. There is typically a fee associated with this course, and you can choose to complete this counseling course in person, over the telephone, or on the internet. You’ll also have to take a debtor education course after you file bankruptcy, but before you receive your discharge. (To learn more about this requirement, including the rare exceptions, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
Each state has its own bankruptcy exemptions, which determine the property you get to keep when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and play a role in how much you repay unsecured creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.)
In Pennsylvania, you can use either the state exemption system or the federal bankruptcy exemption system (but you can’t pick and choose different exemptions from each system – you have to use all state exemptions or all federal exemptions.)
To learn about Pennsylvania’s exemptions for your home and car, see The Homestead Exemption in Pennsylvania and The Motor Vehicle Exemption in Pennsylvania. For a list of other common exemptions in Pennsylvania, see Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Exemptions.
In order to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must first fill out a bankruptcy petition, a number of schedules containing detailed information about your finances, and several other forms, including a lengthy form known as the “means test” (for Chapter 7) and a similar form for Chapter 13.
For more information about each of the official forms, including where to find them and how to complete them, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.
When you file for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you must determine whether your income is above or below the median income for a household of the same size in Pennsylvania. If your income is below the median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13, you can choose to repay your debt over the course of three years instead of five years. This is called the means test.
If your income is above Pennsylvania’s median income, you still might qualify for Chapter 7, but you’ll have to provide additional information about your expenses and secured debt payments in order to find out. Most Chapter 13 filers have to provide this information as well.
For information about each of these forms, including how to complete them, see:
Here’s how to find the Pennsylvania-specific figures for these means test forms:
Pennsylvania median income figures. The current Pennsylvania median income is $$45,092 for a single-person household, $53,091 for a household of two, and more for larger families. These figures change periodically. You can find the most current figures for each household size here.
Example. Phil's annual income is $55,000. He is married and lives with his wife, but she is not employed and has no income. Phil (or Phil and his wife) will not automatically pass the means test because his household income is above $53,091. However, he is permitted to deduct his family’s allowable living expenses from his household income to determine whether he qualifies for Chapter 7 or earns sufficient income to repay all or part of his debt in Chapter 13.
Pennsylvania standard deduction figures. Forms 22A and 22C list categories of living expenses such as housing, transportation, healthcare, and childcare. For some of those categories (like childcare), you provide the actual amount you spend. For others, you input a predetermined amount -- sometimes that figure is a national standard, other times the number varies by county or region.
You can find all of the Pennsylvania county and region-specific figures you’ll need for Forms 22A and 22C on the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform” and then “Means Testing Information.”
Example. Housing and utility expense standards vary by county. If you live in Butler County, your mortgage or rent deduction is $1,026 for a two-person household. But if you live in Washington County, the deduction is $873. You can find housing expense standards for each Pennsylvania county here.
Some judicial districts and bankruptcy courts require bankruptcy filers to complete additional “local forms.” To find out if you are required to complete these additional forms, contact the bankruptcy filing clerk. Some courts post these forms online on the court’s website. (Below you’ll find links to Pennsylvania’s bankruptcy courts.)
There are three federal judicial districts in Pennsylvania (see below for links). You can file in either:
You can use the Court Locator tool on the U.S. Trustee’s website to find bankruptcy court locations and websites. The three district bankruptcy courts in Pennsylvania are: