Cara O'Neill

Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

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

Changes to Bankruptcy Means Test Median Family Income Amounts
The bankruptcy means test median family income amounts change each year. Learn where to find the latest figures for all states, commonwealth, and United States territories.
Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy
Most debtors can’t “discharge” or wipe out student loan debt in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, if you can prove that repaying your student loans would cause you undue hardship, you can get rid of your student loans in bankruptcy.
Eliminating Tax Debts in Bankruptcy
Most taxes can't be eliminated in bankruptcy, but federal income tax can be erased if it meets bankruptcy discharge requirements. Find out how to determine if bankruptcy will clear tax debt or if you'll remain responsible for paying federal income taxes after your bankruptcy case.
Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Basic Steps
When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your case should move forward predictably. Here's a summary of what's involved in a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: An Overview
Learn how Chapter 11 bankruptcy works.
The Role of the Bankruptcy Trustee in Chapter 13
The Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee will review your documents and repayment plan, oversee the 341 meeting of creditors, and distribute repayment plan funds.
Options If You Can't Afford a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer
Here's what to do if you can't afford a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney.
Medical Bankruptcies
If you're struggling to pay medical bills, consider discharging your medical debt in bankruptcy.
Preparing for Bankruptcy: What to Do With Bank Accounts, Automatic Payments, and Utility Deposits
Your creditors should stop deducting automatic payments from your bank accounts when you file for bankruptcy, but it doesn’t always work as smoothly as you’d expect. You’ll also want to prepare for bankruptcy by ensuring you have a checking account or another bank account that will remain open after bankruptcy. And take steps to avoid a set off that occurs when your bank withdraws funds from your bank account to set off a balance owed to your bank on other debts. Your utility provider could use your existing utility deposit to set off a past due utility bill, as well, so be ready to fund a utility deposit.
Your Car in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
People often wonder how Chapter 7 bankruptcy will affect their ability to keep their car. Suppose you aren't making payments on a vehicle. In that case, you'll keep it if its value is below your state's vehicle exemption amount—the amount of equity you can protect in a vehicle when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, if you make car payments, it's not so simple. You’ll decide whether to surrender the car or keep it and continue to make payments. We explain how to tell your creditors whether you want to keep a leased or financed car in Chapter 7 bankruptcy or surrender it to the lender.