Updated May 29, 2019
When your income doesn’t cover your bills, filing a bankruptcy case might provide the fresh start you need. But finding the information you need to get your Georgia bankruptcy case started can be difficult. The basics are here.
You'll learn about:
The first step is learning about the two primary types of bankruptcy available to most individuals and deciding which will be best for you. Then you’ll determine whether you meet the chapter’s qualification requirements.
If you aren’t sure which chapter is best, try starting with What Are the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy? You’ll find income charts and expense guidelines on the U.S. Trustee’s website (select “Means Testing Information”).
An important part of deciding the best chapter for you is determining whether you’ll lose any property. Because you'll be able to protect some property with exemptions, you won’t lose everything. In fact, you might not lose anything at all.
Finding out which assets you can protect is as simple as looking at Georgia’s bankruptcy exemptions (examples below). Unlike in some states, the federal bankruptcy exemptions aren’t available in Georgia, but you can supplement with federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
The bankruptcy chapter you file determines what will happen to nonexempt property—the property you can’t protect with an exemption.
Here are some commonly-used Georgia bankruptcy exemptions (citations are to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated).
You must be a Georgia resident for at least 730 days before filing the bankruptcy petition. If you weren’t living in any one state during the two years before filing for bankruptcy, you'd use the exemptions of the state you lived in for most of the 180 days before the two-year period that immediately preceded your filing. Learn more about filing for bankruptcy after moving to a new state.
You can protect up to $21,500 in equity in real or personal property used as a residence, or $43,000 if you’re married. $10,000 of unused homestead exemption can be used to protect other property of your choosing, or $20,000 if you’re married. (44-13-100(a)(1).)
This exemption will let you protect up to $5,000 in a motor vehicle. Spouses can double this amount. (44-13-100(a)(3).)
You can protect up to $1,200 of any property of your choosing, plus any unused homestead amount up to $10,000. Spouses can double this amount. (44-13-100(a)(6).)
You’ll find additional types of property you’ll be able to protect in Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions.
Next, you’ll likely want to gather together financial documents. You’ll also need the information that follows to prepare your paperwork and file your case.
Individual filers must take two financial courses—one before filing and another before receiving a discharge (debt forgiveness). Approved providers are listed under “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” on the U.S. Trustee’s website (scroll down to your district).
Georgia has three bankruptcy districts—the Northern, Middle, and Southern district—with multiple locations serving various cities. Each court has a webpage with helpful information, such as:
Clicking on the district name will take you to the court’s homepage.
You’ll want to check the appropriate Georgia bankruptcy court website to find out if you’ll need to use a local form. Contact the court clerk for help.
Most people must pay something to file for bankruptcy, but it’s usually worth the cost. Here’s what you can expect.
This overview cannot provide all of the information you’ll need to file a bankruptcy case. For more detailed information, consider consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer or buying a self-help book such as How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.