By: Marshall G. Reissman Bankruptcy Attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida at The Reissman Law Group, P.A.
The test that everyone wants to talk about when they come in for a consultation is the Means Test. Folks generally want to know if they qualify to file Chapter 7 by passing the Means Test. This test is pretty simple. If you are below the state median income you qualify. Everyone breathes a big sigh of relief that they won’t be forced into a repayment plan under Chapter 13. The problem with this is the Means Test is where the analysis begins, not where it ends. The actual income and expenses of the Debtor must be taken into account in order to pass the not much discussed “Totality of Circumstances Test.”
Even if a Debtor is below the median income on the Means Test, if the Debtor has disposable income on the bankruptcy schedules, the Debtor may not qualify to receive a discharge under Chapter 7. This is called the Totality of Circumstances Test. If a Debtor has disposable income to pay back unsecured creditors, the Trustee can file a notice stating that receiving a discharge under Chapter 7 would be an abuse. Not many folks talk about the Totality of Circumstances Test, and the only test you can find on the internet is the Means Test. Inevitably, folks do some research on the internet, find out they are under their state’s median income, and automatically think they can receive a discharge under Chapter 7. Therein lies the mistake. Passing the Means Test just gets you to the starting line, a better analysis needs to be performed to see if you can finish the race.
I recently had the opportunity to review Warren Sapp’s bankruptcy petition when I was interviewed by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. Link to the story can be found here. I previously wrote an article about the reason why I, and other bankruptcy attorneys, think that Mr. Sapp filed for bankruptcy. The garnishment. Another question folks had was how could a person with so much income file Chapter 7. Looking over the schedules, it did not appear Mr. Sapp had substantial income in the six months prior to filing the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petition. What I believe will be problematic for Mr. Sapp is the amount of disposable income he shows on his schedules. While Mr. Sapp does not fail the Means Test, Mr. Sapp lists more than $4,500.00 in net monthly income on his schedules, which could be viewed as an abuse is he receives a discharge under Chapter 7. I guess we will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, if you want to find out if you not only qualify to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, but will be able to receive a discharge under Chapter 7, call us for a free consultation. We have more than 30 years combined experience representing individuals in bankruptcy.