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Are you having trouble paying your bills?



You are not alone. Many people fall behind on their bills at some point in their lives. Don't worry—you won't go to jail. Owing money is not a crime.

You might think bankruptcy is the answer to your problems, but it may not be. Bankruptcy is a good choice for some people, but it is not for everyone. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a legal process that can get rid of certain debts and give you a chance for a fresh start, but it doesn't get rid of all debts. You will still have to pay child support, alimony, unpaid taxes, your mortgage, and federally insured student loans.  Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you set up a payment plan to pay off your debts.  If you are thinking about bankruptcy, you should talk to a Farmington, CT bankruptcy lawyer to learn about your options. 

The debts that bankruptcy can help with are known as private, unsecured debt. If you have these kinds of debts, you may be able to get rid of them by filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  • credit card bills,
  • medical bills,
  • utility bills, and
  • personal loans.

The rules are different for other debts, such as

  • child support;
  • alimony;
  • taxes;
  • federally insured student loans and most private student loans;
  • secured debts (like a mortgage or car loan);
  • debts not listed on your bankruptcy papers (including debts you get after filing bankruptcy);
  • debts where you were dishonest; and
  • drunk driving fines, criminal fines, traffic tickets, and more.

Do I need to file bankruptcy?


If you are thinking of filing bankruptcy, first you should find out if your income or personal property is protected. Protected means that you don't have money or property that a debt collector can legally take from you. You might not need to file bankruptcy if

  • your income is very low, and
  • you don't have a lot of valuable things.

You may also hear the words judgment  proof, which is another way of saying that your income and property are protected.

Am I already protected?


  • you do not own a house; or
  • you own a house but the equity in your home is less than $75,000 for an individual or $150,000 for a couple; or
  • you own a car worth less than $3,500;


  • you take home less than $440 a week or your income is from Social Security, public benefits, disability, etc.


You are already protected (collection proof). You probably do not need to file bankruptcy right now.

How does being protected or collection proof help me?


If you owe money to someone and you don't pay, you can be sued. If a creditor sues you and wins, the court will enter a judgment (also called an order) against you that says you have to pay back the debt. But if your money and property are protected, then creditors cannot take them from you. A judgment stays in force for 10 to 20 years and can be renewed by the creditor. You will not have to pay the debt for as long as your situation stays the same during that 10 to 20 years. If your situation changes—for example, you go back to work and make enough money to repay your debt—then you may have to pay the debt.

How can a creditor collect money from me? 

Until a creditor sues you and wins, the only way they can collect from you is by asking you to pay.  They can do this by calling you and sending you letters.

However, if the creditor sues you and wins and your income or property is not protected, the creditor has three ways it can try to collect from you. It can

  • take money from your pay,
  • take your property, or
  • take money from your bank account. 

Even if a creditor sues you and wins, it can only collect from you if

  • you take home more than $440 a week (in 2019 - this is calculated by multiplying 40 x the current minimum wage),
  • you have a lot of equity in a house,
  • you have valuable belongings, or
  • you have money in a bank account that is not protected.

What can a creditor do if it sues me and wins?

Can a creditor…

  No, not if …

  Yes, if…

take money from your pay?

you take home less than $440 a week (in 2019).

you take home more than $440 a week (in 2019) now or when you go back to work.

take your property?

you rent so you don't have any property to take.

you have equity in a house or other assets

  • greater than $75,000 for an individual; or
  • $150,000 for a couple.

take money from your bank account?

your money is protected
(see below).

your money is not protected.

Is money in my bank account protected?

Some of the money in your bank account may be protected and should not be taken from your bank account if it is direct deposited and comes from your

  • Social Security benefits (retirement, disability, survivor);
  • wages (but see Direct Deposit of Paychecks below);
  • unemployment benefits;
  • disability benefits (SSI and SSDI);
  • state welfare;
  • child support;
  • alimony; or
  • pension.

Two months' worth of your direct deposits of child support, alimony, pension or government benefits or $1,000 – whichever is higher – is automatically protected. Do not keep more than this protected amount in your bank account. If you do, the creditor may try to take that money through a bank execution. 

However, if the creditor takes some protected money through a bank execution, you will be able to get it back after a court exemption claim hearing. You must file papers with the court in order to have an exemption claim hearing.

Direct Deposit of Paychecks

Be careful if you have your paychecks directly deposited into a bank account.  A creditor may take that money from your bank account even if you make less than $440 a week (in 2019). However, if you take home less than $440 a week, you will be able to get the money back after a court exemption claim hearing. You must file papers with the court in order to have an exemption claim hearing.

TIP: Instead of getting your pay directly deposited, it might be a good idea to get a paper paycheck and keep the cash.

How can a Farmington, Connecticut Bankruptcy Lawyer help me?


You may be able to do the following:

  • Get rid of certain debts under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. They will be legally erased (or discharged) so you won't have to pay them.
  • Stop collection calls. 
  • Stop most wage attachments(money taken from your pay to repay the debt).
  • Keep any wages, money, or property you get in the future.
  • Either turn your utility service back on or stop a shut-off (if it was because you didn't pay your bills).
  • Stop a foreclosure of your home (for some types of bankruptcy).

Are there times when I should definitely file bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy may be your best option if

  • your income or assets are not protected,
  • you plan to get a job that will increase your income and creditors will be able to take money from your paycheck, or
  • the stress and worry over debt collection is too much for you.

If you have not been sued, you may not need to file bankruptcy right away. But you should speak with a bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible.

Types of Debt

Secured and Unsecured Debt

Is the item something the creditor can take?

  • No – then it is an unsecured debt and it can be erased by bankruptcy.
  • Yes – then it is a secured debt and cannot be erased by bankruptcy.

Example: Your creditor can take back your car if you don't make the payments on your car loan. Therefore, a car loan is a secured debt.

What items can I keep after filing bankruptcy?


What you can keep after filing bankruptcy depends on which property exemptions you use.  You can choose two different sets of exemptions: those provided by the Bankruptcy Code or the exemptions allowed by Connecticut law. You can only use one set of exemptions – you cannot pick and choose some from each group. Here are some examples of exemptions allowed:

What items can I keep after filing bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy Code Exemptions Connecticut Law Exemptions
Home: Real property, including mobile homes and co- ops, or burial plots up to $25,150. The unused portion of the homestead exemption up to $12,575 can be used for other property.     Home: Real Property, including mobile or manufactured home, up to $75,000 (up to $150,000 for a couple).
Motor Vehicle: Up to $4,000. Motor Vehicle: Motor vehicle up to $3,500.
Wild Card: $1,325 of any property, and the unused portion of homestead exemption up to $12,575. Wild Card: $1,000 of any property not otherwise exempted.

You should talk to a lawyer about which set of exemptions are better for you before filing for bankruptcy. 

Can I keep my car?

It depends. You can generally keep it if the equity (the value of the car minus the amount you owe on it) is less than the allowable exemption.

 If you owe money on your car but you are not making payments on it, the lender can take back (or repossess) it.

What will happen to my credit?

Bankruptcy will stay on your credit history for 10 years. You can probably still get a credit card or a loan after bankruptcy, but it is up to the lender. For people under sixty, it might be harder to rent an apartment or get certain jobs because of the bankruptcy on your credit history. For people over 60 who are looking for senior housing, a bankruptcy can't be taken into account when considering your application.

If someone signed a loan with me and I file for bankruptcy, will the debt be erased for that person too?

No.  The other person who signed the loan with you (the co-signer) is still responsible for paying the debt, even if bankruptcy erased it for you.

More about the bankruptcy process


You may hear the words file for bankruptcy or declare bankruptcy, which both mean to start the legal bankruptcy processIt usually takes at least six months to finish the process. Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy. 

It will cost you around $335 to file the papers in court. If you can't afford the fee, you can apply to make payments or to have the fee waived (erased). You can get the forms at the Connecticut Bankruptcy Court clerk's office or online at

Before you file for bankruptcy

  • You must complete credit counseling. To get a list of approved credit counseling agencies, ask the clerk at the Connecticut Bankruptcy Court or visit their website at The counseling costs vary, but can be as low as $15 to $20. If you can't afford the fee, ask the agency to waive the fee before the counseling begins.
  • You should talk to a Farmington, CT bankruptcy lawyerBecause bankruptcy is a complicated legal process, do not sign up for any counseling until you have spoken with a bankruptcy lawyer about whether bankruptcy is the best choice for you. 

Where can I get help?

 We are happy to help you with your Farmington, CT bankruptcy questions.  You can contact us  860-500-1414.  Our initial consultations are always free of charge.


Law Offices of James F. Aspell, P.C
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