Filing for bankruptcy in Wisconsin? Although most of bankruptcy (including the bankruptcy process) is governed by federal law, there is some Wisconsin-specific information you will need to file for bankruptcy. Much of this information you can get online. Here’s how.
Before you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must have proof that you received credit counseling from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee in Wisconsin within the six month period before you file for bankruptcy. You’ll also have to take a debtor education course after you file, before you will be granted a discharge. (To learn more about this requirement, including the rare exceptions, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
Wisconsin has a set of bankruptcy exemptions which help determine what property you get to keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and play a role in how much you repay creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.)
In Wisconsin, you can choose between federal or Wisconsin state exemptions.
To learn about Wisconsin’s exemptions for your home and car, including the federal option, see The Homestead Exemption in Wisconsin and The Motor Vehicle Exemption in Wisconsin. To find other Wisconsin exemptions, see Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions.
Whether you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you need to fill out a bankruptcy petition, several schedules containing detailed information on what you own and who you owe money to, and several other forms containing detailed information on your finances. You also need to file a lengthy form known as the "means test" to see if you qualify for a Chapter 7 and a similar form for a Chapter 13.
(For a list of the forms you must complete, see The Bankruptcy Forms: Getting Started.)
For more information about each of the official forms, including how to find them, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.
When you file for bankruptcy in Wisconsin, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Wisconsin. If your income is less than the median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13 instead, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years).
If your income is above Wisconsin’s median income for a household of your size, you still might qualify for Chapter 7, but you will have to provide detailed information on your regular expenses and payments on secured debts by completing something called the means test to find out. Most Chapter 13 filers will also have to provide this information in a similar Chapter 13 form.
For information about each of these forms, including how to complete them, see:
Wisconsin Median Income. For a one- person household in Wisconsin, the median income is $41,880. For a family of four, the Wisconsin median income is $76,117. You can find median income figures for other household sizes in Wisconsin here.
Example. Melissa is single and has no children. She lives alone. Her total household income is $38,000. She is eligible to file for Chapter 7 without completing the detailed means test calculations because her household income is less than $41,880.
Standard deductions. Forms 22A and 22C have a comprehensive list of expense categories, such as housing, transportation, food and childcare. For some of those categories (like childcare), you provide the actual amount you spend. For other categories, you plug in a predetermined amount -- sometimes that figure is standard for the entire country, other times it varies by county or region.
You can find all of the Wisconsin area state, county, and region-specific figures that you will need to complete Forms 22A and Forms 22C on the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on "Bankruptcy Reform" and then "Means Testing Information."
Example. In Wisconsin, the standard amount that you list on your means test for housing varies by county and number in your household. If you live in Eau Claire County, your mortgage or rent deduction is $860 for a one-person household and $1,187 for a four-person household. If you live in Pierce County, your mortgage or rent deduction is $1,135 for a one-person household and $1,565 for a four-person household. You can find housing expense standards for each Wisconsin county here.
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 clerk’s office. You might even find these forms posted online at your bankruptcy court’s website. (Below you will find links to the bankruptcy courts in Wisconsin.)
There are two federal judicial districts in Wisconsin. You can file in either
You can use the Court Locator tool on the U.S. Courts website to find bankruptcy court locations and websites. The two districts for the Wisconsin bankruptcy courts are:
If you are not sure which Wisconsin district you are in, you can use the Justice Department’s Judicial District Locator to find out.