How to File Bankruptcy in Montana

Find the information you need to file your Montana bankruptcy case.

When you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, filing for bankruptcy in Montana can be a good solution. The first step toward financial freedom is understanding the differences between filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once you know which chapter is best for you, you’ll want to complete the paperwork.

This article will help you find information you’ll need, such as official bankruptcy forms, Montana means test figures, credit counseling providers, and your local bankruptcy court. Also, you’ll find an explanation about protecting property in a Montana bankruptcy.

Official Bankruptcy Forms

Before the Montana bankruptcy court wipes out (discharges) your qualifying debt, you must first describe all aspects of your financial circumstances on bankruptcy forms, including property, credit accounts, income, expenses, and financial transactions.

You can complete and download the forms on the U.S. Courts form page, then file your paperwork in the Vermont bankruptcy court along with a filing fee or a request for a fee waiver and proof that you’ve completed a credit counseling course (more information below).

Montana Bankruptcy Information

Federal law governs bankruptcy filings, but some aspects of Montana law and procedure play a part, too.

Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information

You can find two types of information specific to Montana on the website of the U.S. Trustee: means testing figures and approved credit counseling providers.

  • Means test data. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll need to ensure that your income will qualify and that you pass the “means test.” If the family income exceeds Vermont’s median income, you might pass the test after you subtract certain standard expenses. If you’re lower than the median, you automatically pass. You’ll find the income charts and expense figures on the U.S. Trustee’s website (select “Means Testing Information”). If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead, a calculation similar to the means test will help you determine your monthly payment.
  • Credit counseling providers. Most filers must complete a session with a credit counseling service before filing for bankruptcy and a debt management course before receiving a discharge. You’ll find approved providers on the U.S. Trustee’s website under “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education.” Scroll down to find the District of Montana.

Montana Bankruptcy Court Locations

The District of Montana has five divisions. The court holds hearings in four of those divisions (filers in the Kalispell division should verify filing and hearing information with the court clerk—see chart below). On the Montana Bankruptcy Court website, you’ll find instructions for filing your paperwork and the court’s local rules (click on “Filing Without an Attorney”).

BILLINGS DIVISION

BUTTE DIVISION

MISSOULA DIVISION

GREAT FALLS DIVISION

James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

2601 2nd Avenue North

Billings, MT 59101

(406) 247-7000

(Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Garfield, Golden Valley, McCone, Musselshell, Petroleum, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sheridan, Stillwater, Sweetgrass, Treasure, Valley, Wheatland, Wibaux, Yellowstone)

Mike Mansfield Federal Courthouse

400 North Main Street, 2nd Fl

Butte, MT 59701

(406) 497-1240

(888) 888-2530

(Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Jefferson, Gallatin, Granite, Lewis & Clark, Madison, Park, Powell, Silver Bow)

Russell Smith Federal Courthouse

201 E. Broadway

Missoula, MT 59802

(406) 542-7260

(Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, Sanders)

Note: Some of the above counties fall in the “Kalispell” division. Consult with the website or court clerk.

Missouri River Federal Courthouse

125 Central Ave West

Great Falls, MT 59404

(406) 727-1922

(Blaine, Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Glacier, Hill, Judith Basin, Liberty, Meagher, Phillips, Pondera, Teton, Toole)

Montana Bankruptcy Exemptions

Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean that you’ll lose everything, but you might not be able to exempt (protect) all of your property, either. You can exempt an asset if it appears on the list of Montana exemptions. In addition, you might also be able to claim other exemptions available under federal law. (Find more information in The Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.)

If your property isn’t exempt, the Chapter 7 trustee can sell it for the benefit of your creditors. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the process is different. You’ll keep your nonexempt property as long as you can afford to pay for it in the Chapter 13 repayment plan.

Below are some of the most commonly used Montana bankruptcy exemptions. Spouses filing a joint bankruptcy in Montana can double the exemption amount if they both own the property. Statute citations are to the Montana Code Annotated (Mont. Code Ann.).

  • Homestead or residential property. Up to $250,000 of equity in a residence (on up to 320 farm acres, a quarter of city acreage, or one residential acre outside a municipality). You can also protect proceeds from insurance, condemnation, or the sale of a qualifying home for up to 18 months. (The funds lose the exempt status after the 18-month period expires.) You must file a homestead declaration before filing bankruptcy to qualify for the exemption. (Mont. Code Ann. §§ 70-32-104, 25-13-615)
  • Insurance benefits. Life insurance proceeds (other than to the insured) (Mont. Code Ann. § 33-15-511); medical, surgical, or hospital care benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(f)); group life insurance proceeds (Mont. Code Ann. § 33-15-512); hail insurance benefits (conditions apply) (Mont. Code Ann. § 80-2-245); fraternal group society benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 33-7-522); unmatured life insurance contracts (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(k)); annuity contracts (conditions apply). (Mont. Code Ann. § 33-15-514)
  • Motor vehicle. Up to $2,500 of equity in one motor vehicle. (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-609(2))
  • Personal property. Furniture, appliances, animals, feed, and crops, musical instruments, books, firearms, sporting goods, jewelry, and clothing, up to $600 per item and $4,500 total (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-609(1)); prescribed health aids (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(a)); burial plot (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(h)); cooperative association shares (Mont. Code Ann. § 35-15-404); proceeds from insurance or the sale of exempt property (conditions apply). (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-610(1))
  • Domestic support. Alimony and child support. (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(g))
  • Pension, retirement, and other benefits. Public employee retirement benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 19-2-1004); qualified benefits (conditions apply) (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-608(1)(e)); firefighters’ retirement benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 19-18-612); police officers’ retirement benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 19-19-504); teachers’ retirement benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 19-20-706); university system employees’ retirement benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 19-21-212). (To learn more about available federal exemptions for retirement funds, visit The Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions (link above).)
  • Public benefits. Public assistance (Mont. Code Ann. §§ 53-2-607, 25-13-608(1)(b)); unemployment compensation (Mont. Code Ann. §§ 31-2-106(2), 39-51-3105); veterans’ benefits (not including support payments) (Mont. Code Ann. §25-13-608(1)(c)); silicosis benefits (Mont. Code Ann. § 39-73-110); crime victims’ compensation. (Mont. Code Ann. §5 3-9-129)
  • Tools of the trade. Tools and implements of your trade up to $3,000, including a library. (Mont. Code Ann. § 25-13-609(3))

Montana adjusts these exemption amounts periodically, and additional exemptions exist. To make sure you are using all exemptions available and that you have the most recent figures, be sure to check the Montana statutes on the website for the Montana Legislature.

This overview’s purpose is to provide resources for some of the information needed for a bankruptcy filing; however, each filer is responsible for understanding the law. For more detailed filing information, consider purchasing a do-it-yourself book like How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.

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