If you live in Washington D.C. and want to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are a number of steps you must take to get your case going. For example, you must participate in credit counseling before you file, complete the bankruptcy petition and other required forms, and file those forms with the correct District of Columbia bankruptcy court.
Because much of bankruptcy is governed by federal bankruptcy laws, the general bankruptcy filing process in D.C. is similar to other states. However, you will need to include some Washington D.C.-specific information on your bankruptcy forms. In addition, the bankruptcy exemptions you may use depend on the law in the District of Columbia. (For more articles on the bankruptcy filing process, see Filing for Bankruptcy.)
Here’s what you need to know if you are filing for bankruptcy in Washington D.C.
Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling and Pre-Discharge Debtor Education in D.C.
In order to qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must show that you received credit counseling within the six month period before you file for bankruptcy. You’ll also have to take a debtor education course before you get a bankruptcy discharge. The agencies you use for both of these requirements must be approved by the U.S. Trustee’s office (To learn more about this requirement, including the rare exceptions, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
- Here’s the list of approved District of Columbia credit counseling agencies that provide services in English or Spanish. If you need services in a language other than English or Spanish, visit this page and choose your language in the drop down menu.
- Here’s the list of approved District of Columbia debtor education agencies that provide services in English or Spanish. If you need services in a language other than English or Spanish, visit this page and choose your language in the drop down menu.
District of Columbia Bankruptcy Exemptions
Each state has a set of bankruptcy exemptions – these determine what property you get to keep in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and play a role in how much you repay unsecured creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (Learn more about how bankruptcy exemptions work and the role they play in bankruptcy.)
In D.C., you can use either the District of Columbia exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions. You must stick with one exemption scheme – you cannot mix and match between the two. If you end up using the D.C. exemptions, you can also use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
To learn more about the exemptions specific to the District of Columbia, see the following Nolo articles:
- The Homestead Exemption in District of Columbia
- The Motor Vehicle Exemption in District of Columbia, and
- The District of Columbia Bankruptcy Exemptions.
Completing the Bankruptcy Forms in the District of Columbia
When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete 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.”
Getting and Completing the Official Bankruptcy Forms
For more information about each of the official forms, including how find them and fill them out, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.
Finding Means Test Information for District of Columbia
In order to complete the means test form (in Chapter 7 you’ll use Form 22A – Statement of Current Monthly Income and Means Test Calculation and in Chapter 13 you’ll use Form 22C – Statement of Current Monthly Income and Calculation of Commitment Period and Disposable Income), you must compare your income to the current median income in District of Columbia. If your income is less than the District of Columbia state median income, you pass the means test and qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, if your income is less than District of Columbia’s median income, your repayment plan may last as little as three years (as opposed to five years for higher-income individuals).
As of 2014, the median income in District of Columbia is $50,552 for a single-person household, $78,313 for a household of two people, and more for larger families. These figures change periodically. You can find the most current figures for each household size on the U.S. Department of Justice website.
You also have to include information about your average monthly expenses. For some categories, you fill in the actual amount you spend. For others, you must fill in a predetermined amount, set nationally, regionally, or by county. For example, housing and utility expense standards vary by county. In District of Columbia, you can find those county expense standards on the U.S. Department of Justice website. You can find the other District of Columbia county and region-specific figures you’ll need for Forms 22A and 22C on the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justic.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform” and then “Means Testing Information.”
Getting Local Bankruptcy Forms
Some judicial districts and bankruptcy courts require bankruptcy filers to complete additional “local forms.” To find out if your court requires additional forms, contact the bankruptcy filing clerk. Some courts post these forms online on the court’s website.
Where to File Your Bankruptcy Case
There is only one federal bankruptcy court in the District of Columbia. It is located at East Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room 1225, Washington D.C. 20001. The court’s website is http://www.dcb.uscourts.gov/dcbwww.dcb.uscourts.gov/dcb.