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.
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).
Federal law governs bankruptcy filings, but some aspects of Montana law and procedure play a part, too.
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.
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”).
GREAT FALLS DIVISION
James F. Battin Federal Courthouse
2601 2nd Avenue North
Billings, MT 59101
(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
(Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Jefferson, Gallatin, Granite, Lewis & Clark, Madison, Park, Powell, Silver Bow)
Russell Smith Federal Courthouse
201 E. Broadway
Missoula, MT 59802
(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
(Blaine, Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Glacier, Hill, Judith Basin, Liberty, Meagher, Phillips, Pondera, Teton, Toole)
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.).
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.