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

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Overview
Learn the basics about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, how it works and what it can do.
How Bankruptcy Stops Your Creditors: The Automatic Stay
When you file for bankruptcy, something called the automatic stay immediately stops any lawsuit filed against you and most actions against your property by a creditor, collection agency, or government entity. Especially if you are at risk of being evicted, being foreclosed on, being found in contempt for failure to pay child support, or losing such basic resources as utility services, welfare, unemployment benefits, or your job (because of a raft of wage garnishments), the automatic stay may provide a powerful reason to file for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy v. Doing Nothing
Should you file for bankruptcy to get rid of debts, or can you sit back and wait?
What Should I Expect From My Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you hire a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney, here's what that lawyer should do for you.
How Bankruptcy Can Stop Wage Garnishments
Learn how filing for bankruptcy can help stop a wage garnishment.
Will the Bankruptcy Trustee Come to My Home to Collect Property?
Although it's unusual, there are circumstances when a bankruptcy trustee might come to your home to take or inspect property.
My Car Was Repossessed. Can Chapter 7 Help?
If your car has been repossessed, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may allow you more time to negotiate with your lender and get your car back.
Reaffirming a Car Loan in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
When you reaffirm a debt, you agree to be responsible for the debt as if you had not filed for bankruptcy. You can keep your car as long as you keep making the payments. However, if you default on the payments, the lender can repossess it and sell it at auction. You’ll be responsible for any remaining balance due under the loan agreement, called a “deficiency balance,” and sales costs.
How Bankruptcy Can Help With Foreclosure
If you are facing foreclosure and are unable to work out a deal with your lender, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can stall the foreclosure temporarily and allow you to save some money to move to a new home. Chapter 7 also can cancel the debt secured by your home and prevent tax liability for this cancellation.
The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy
The homestead exemption in bankruptcy protects your home equity from creditors in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and helps reduce your payments in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.