Cara O'Neill


Cara O'Neill is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O’Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.

Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time legal editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for,,, and

Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.

Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara’s advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.

Articles By Cara O'Neill

Is Social Security Income Counted in the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Means Test?
Are Social Security and unemployment income counted in the bankruptcy means test?
I transferred property out of my name. Should I wait to file for bankruptcy?
If you recently transferred property out of your name, you might run into a problem if you file for bankruptcy.
What the Bankruptcy Trustee Looks for in Your Schedules
The bankruptcy trustee reviews your bankruptcy petition and schedules to find information about you and your finances.
Can I Keep a Lawsuit Award or Settlement If I File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, whether you can keep the money from a lawsuit settlement or award will depend on state law.
The Creditor Mailing List in Bankruptcy
When you file for bankruptcy, you must list all of your creditors and their addresses on the creditor mailing list or mailing matrix. This notifies them of the bankruptcy and automatic stay.
When Is a Bankruptcy Claim Contingent, Unliquidated, or Disputed?
When you file for bankruptcy, you fill out a large packet of forms in which you provide detailed information about your debts, property, and finances.
Surrendering Secured Property in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if you don’t want to keep an item of property that serves as collateral for a secured debt, you can “surrender" it.
"Best Effort" Requirement in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Disposable Income Test
In order to be confirmed (approved) by the court, your Chapter 13 repayment plan must represent your "best effort" at paying back your nonpriority unsecured creditors.
Filing For Bankruptcy in 2023
When considering filing for bankruptcy, it can be challenging to make sense of the bankruptcy process and the available options. Our bankruptcy guide not only answers your bankruptcy questions but explains the three types of bankruptcy available, Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy, so you can navigate the bankruptcy process successfully when filing for bankruptcy in 2023.
Property Damage Cases in Small Claims Court
One significant category of small claims disputes involves property damage cases.