Filing for bankruptcy in Louisiana? Although federal law governs most of bankruptcy, including the filing process, some information is specific to Louisiana, and you will need this information to file bankruptcy. Much of this information you can get online. Here's how. (For more articles on the filing process, see Filing for Bankruptcy.)
In order to qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must show that you received credit counseling from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee in Louisiana within the six month period before you file for bankruptcy. You'll also have to take a debtor education course before you get a bankruptcy discharge. (To learn more about this requirement, including the rare exceptions, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
Louisiana has a set of bankruptcy exemptions which help determine what property you get to keep in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and play a role in how much you repay unsecured creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.)
Although the Louisiana legislature has said that debtors may only use the Louisiana exemptions, the 9th Circuit allowed one debtor to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead. (To learn about the federal exemptions, see The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions.)
To learn about Louisiana's exemptions for your home and car, see The Homestead Exemption in Louisiana and The Motor Vehicle Exemption in Louisiana. To find other Louisiana exemptions, see Louisiana Bankruptcy Exemptions.
When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete a bankruptcy petition, a number of schedules containing detailed information about your finances, and several other forms, including a lengthy form known as the "means test" (for Chapter 7) and a similar form for 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 Louisiana, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Louisiana. 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, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years). This is called the means test.
If your income is above Louisiana's median income, you still might qualify for Chapter 7, but you'll have to provide detailed information about your expenses and payments on secured debts in order to find out. Most Chapter 13 filers also have to provide this information.
For information about each of these forms, see:
Here's how to find the Louisiana-specific figures for these means test forms:
Louisiana median income. For a two-person household in Louisiana, the median income is $46,169. For a family of four, the Louisiana median income is $65,778. You can find figures for other household sizes in Louisiana here.
Example. John and Kate have two children. Their total household income is $70,000. They do not pass the means test, because their household income exceeds the median; they will have to complete the means test in full.
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 others, you plug in a predetermined amount -- sometimes that figure is standard for the whole country, other times it varies by county or region.
You can find all of the Louisiana parish and region-specific figures you'll need for Forms 22A and 22C on the U.S. Trustee's website at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on "Bankruptcy Reform" and then "Means Testing Information."
Example. In Louisiana, the standard amount you can deduct on your means test for housing depends on your parish. For example, if you live in Orleans Parish, your mortgage or rent deduction is $921 for a one-person household. But if you live in Lafayette Parish, the mortgage or rent deduction is $764. You can find housing expense standards for each Louisiana parish 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 filing clerk. Some courts post these forms online on the court's website. (Below you'll find a link to Louisiana's bankruptcy court.
There are three federal judicial districts in Louisiana (see below for links). You can file in either:
You can use the Court Locator tool on the U.S. Trustee's website to find bankruptcy court locations and websites. The three district bankruptcy courts in Louisiana are: