If you're drowning in debt, you may be wondering if filing bankruptcy is worth it. While it's not the perfect solution for everyone, it is important to make the decision based on facts. Here are four of the most common myths associated with bankruptcy so you can decide if it's right for you.
Bankruptcy Destroys Your Credit
False. Bankruptcy will bring your credit score down, but how much it is affected, and for how long, depends on what it was to start with and how you handle your bills after filing. In fact, you can start rebuilding your credit and pulling your score back up immediately after filing.
The key is paying your bills on time and doing small things to rebuild. For example, you can apply for a secured loan or secured credit card with your bank. Make sure you talk with a representative ahead of time, and only apply for loans you're qualified for and likely to get as the application process alone can bring your credit score down slightly. You also want to be sure that the bank with which you apply reports to all three of the major credit bureaus.
You can also get a co-signor for a small loan. But make sure you have enough money set aside to pay the balance on time. Otherwise you're risking not just your credit but the co-signor's credit as well.
Bankruptcy will remain on your credit for 10 years, but it's important to be vigilant with checking your credit score regularly to be sure it's climbing.
Filing Bankruptcy Ruins Your Spouse's Credit
False (with a caveat). Filing bankruptcy will not affect your spouse's credit at all. If you have debts, and you file chapter 7 bankruptcy, the creditors have no legal right whatsoever to go after a spouse for payment, and the spouse will never be liable for paying back those debts.
Now to the caveat: if you have joint debts with your spouse, and you file bankruptcy, your spouse will now be liable for paying back those debts alone. So be sure to tally all loans and credit card debts that are in both your names, and make sure your spouse can pay them back. If payments are not made on joint debts, credit scores will be negatively affected.
You Can Be Arrested for Owing Money to Creditors
False. Sometimes, creditors use scare tactics to get debtors to pay, and one of those tactics includes making you think that not paying your debts can land you in jail.
You cannot go to jail for failing to pay your creditors.
You can be arrested for failing to pay court mandated child support and certain court fees if you've been charged with criminal behavior. You can also be arrested if you write a number of bad checks, knowing that you don't have sufficient funds to pay the debt. And lastly, evading taxes is one debt you definitely don't want to avoid.
But not being able to pay your mortgage, credit cards, and other loans does not make you a criminal.
You Can Only File Bankruptcy Once
False. Most people don't plan to file bankruptcy on a regular basis. But there are certain situations in which you may need to file several times. In most cases, there is a time limit on when you can file a second time, and which type you file depends on your previous case.
If you wish to file chapter 7 twice, you must wait at least eight years from the time you file the first until you can file again.
Those who would like to file for chapter 13 twice are typically eligible to file as soon as the first chapter 13 case is dismissed. Technically, there must be at least two years between filing, but since a chapter 13 takes 3-5 years to complete, this shouldn't be an issue.
Going from a chapter 7 to a chapter 13 (also known as a chapter 20) requires you to wait at least four years between filing. And going from a chapter 13 to a chapter 7 typically requires a wait time of six years between filing.
If you have other questions, reach out to a bankruptcy attorney near you.