December 6, 2017
Many people use bankruptcy to get back on track financially. The process involves setting forth your income, expenses, assets, debt, and property transactions on official bankruptcy forms. In this article, you’ll learn where to find information you'll need in your Pennsylvania bankruptcy case.
(Find out about bankruptcy options in What Is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)
Your case will begin once you file the paperwork with the court clerk. Expect to pay a filing fee or submit a fee waiver request, and to file proof that you’ve completed the pre-bankruptcy education requirement (more below).
Although bankruptcy is primarily governed by federal law, you’ll need some Pennsylvania law and other state-related information to prepare your filing.
Pennsylvania has three bankruptcy districts—the Eastern, Middle, and Western district. Each has several locations serving the surrounding areas.
You'll find the court’s address, phone number, and hours of operation on its webpage, as well as local forms and instructions for people filing without an attorney. (Click on the court’s name to go to the homepage.)
Division locations: Philadelphia and Reading
Presiding Judge Eric L. Frank
Division locations: Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, and Williamsport
Presiding Judge Robert N. Opell II
Division locations: Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Erie
Presiding Judge Jeffery A. Deller
You’ll likely need to go to the U.S. Trustee’s website for the following information:
Exemptions allow you to protect some or all of your property, such as homes, vehicles, and cash, when you file for bankruptcy. If you file under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll be allowed to keep things that are protected by Pennsylvania’s bankruptcy exemptions. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll pay the value of any nonexempt property to your creditors through your Chapter 13 plan.
Pennsylvania has a set of state exemptions, but there’s different set of bankruptcy exemptions under federal law (called the federal bankruptcy exemptions). Pennsylvania allows you to choose either the federal or state bankruptcy exemptions, but you can’t mix and match between the two sets.
If you choose the Pennsylvania bankruptcy exemptions, you can also use any of the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions to protect property such as retirement and disability benefits for federal employees and military personnel.
Married couples filing together in Pennsylvania can double the exemption amount for any property that belongs to each of them (but not on property belonging to one spouse only).
Here are some of the most commonly-used Pennsylvania bankruptcy exemptions. (References are to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Pa.C.S.).)
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a homestead exemption, but you might be able to protect your home equity if you and your spouse own it as a tenancy by the entirety, or if you use the federal bankruptcy exemption scheme.
$100 per month in insurance or annuity payments and life insurance or annuity proceeds (multiple conditions apply); group insurance policy or proceeds; accident or disability insurance proceeds; no-fault automobile insurance proceeds. (42-8124)
Some exemptions are subject to conditions. Also, other exemptions are available. You can find and verify the exemption law at the Pennsylvania General Assembly website or by visiting your local law library.
There’s more you’ll need to know before filing a Pennsylvania bankruptcy case. Because bankruptcy law can be complicated, it’s prudent to meet with a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer.