Filing Bankruptcy In Washington DC

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Bankruptcy is a big decision.  If you are considering filing in the District of Columbia, your choice can be beneficial, or detrimental.  Bankruptcy laws attempt to create a fair disposition of property and offer a fresh start.  Bankruptcy’s promise of a fresh start may bring relief, protection, and alleviate some outstanding debts, the recent updates to bankruptcy laws make discharging certain types of debts considerably more onerous.  Deciding whether bankruptcy in Washington DC is right for your specific situation requires in depth research, consultation, and objective analysis of your financial outlook.

Washington DC Bankruptcy Topics

  1. Personal Bankruptcy Options
  2. Keep Your Home: Bankruptcy and Foreclosure
  3. DC Exemptions to Bankruptcy Liquidation
  4. Options for Filing Bankruptcy
  5. Local Bankruptcy Courts and Trustees

Personal Bankruptcy in Washington DC

The majority of individuals will declare bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of U.S. Code Title 11, which is otherwise known as Bankruptcy Code.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as ‘liquidation’ bankruptcy, because the debtor’s non-exempt assets are in a financial sense liquidated, along with applicable outstanding liens and debt obligations.  To prevent bankruptcy abuse, filing Chapter 7 requires individuals to take a “means test”, which determines if an individual’s income is below the median amount in the District of Columbia; and if given the level of outstanding debts, repayment via Chapter 13 or other arrangements is feasible.  Some filers may have little or no non-exempt property.  In District of Columbia, the median income figure used is $40,774 for an individual, $70,035 for couples, $70,035 for three person households, $70,035 for four person households, and an additional $6,900 for each addition family member.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as ‘wage earner’ bankruptcy. This is because Chapter 13 is designed for individuals or sole proprietors who earn a steady wage. With a steady wage, one may ask why bankruptcy is needed. This form of bankruptcy is used to reorganize one’s debts and plan repayment. A private individual can have no more than $1,010,650 in secured debts or $336,900 in unsecured debts to qualify for this form of bankruptcy. After filing, the collections process ceases, but individuals must follow closely to the repayment plan created with the bankruptcy trustee, who in this case is a communicator between the debtor and creditors. Amendments to the Chapter 13 reorganization strategy can be made to the initially proposed repayment plan, but must be cleared by the bankruptcy court.

Bankruptcy Filings During Foreclosure

When someone files for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, bankruptcy laws mandate relief from creditor actions, including foreclosure proceeding, until the courts can sort the financial situation.  However, this does not guarantee the home will stay in possession of the debtor. If certain foreclosure actions occurred before the individual’s bankruptcy was filed, then the lender may continue with the foreclosure in rare cases.  However, reorganization under Chapter 13, which specifically addresses the repayment of mortgage obligations, may allow debtors to keep their homes in light of impending foreclosure.

Washington DC Bankruptcy Exemptions

In the District of Columbia, debtors may claim exemptions under the state exemptions list, the federal bankruptcy exemptions list are allowed in the District of Columbia.  Total property exemptions in District of Columbia may not exceed $8,625 (excluding equity in principal residence and pensions) include:

Type of Asset(s)

Details on Applicable Exemption(s)


75% of Unpaid earned wages for head of household.  Up to $200/week in unearned wages.    

Real Estate

Real or personal property the debtor uses as a principal residence.


A motor vehicle up to $2,575.

Retirement Accounts

IRS recognized “roll-over eligible”  up to $1,095,000.

College Funds

Current assets in an IRS defined 529 plan; most proceeds payable under such a plan.


Life insurance cash surrender value.  Death Benefits (except those paid to deceased’s estate).  Annuities (except lottery annuities).


Any property up to $850


Washington DC Bankruptcy Court Filing Options

Use a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Need Bankruptcy Advice?

A bankruptcy lawyer will provide sound, accurate legal advice, which will prove much more useful that one might expect. Not only will a bankruptcy lawyer be present with you in stressful meetings and court dates for moral and advisory support, but also the attorney will be aware of state specific rules, regulations, and most importantly, exemptions and protected assets.

Use a Filing Service

 In a time of financial crisis, a filing service may seem enticing, because of the lower costs in lieu of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. However, filing services are of little actual help in that all these entities can do for a debtor is prepare and file paper work.  The filing service route is not recommended, and none of their employees can provide advice for the best options and bankruptcy filing strategy.

File “Pro Se”

Even more enticing during the time of financial strain is filing pro se. To file pro se is to file completely on one’s own accord. This means saving money without hiring a bankruptcy lawyer or enlisting the aid of a filing service for paperwork. However, this is a dangerous endeavor as most people are unfamiliar with all federal and state laws involved in filing bankruptcy.

Courts and Washington DC Bankruptcy Trustee Information

U.S. Bankruptcy Court, For the District of Columbia

Clerk’s office:

E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20001