Jul. 22--Dear Action Line: What all is involved in filing bankruptcy? My older sister filed it years ago and now can't get a mortgage on a house. I have credit card debt I can't pay, but she says it is harder to file now than it was for her. What's up with this? -- L.H., Tulsa.
     New bankruptcy law: The Congress passed a new federal bankruptcy law in 2005 that tightens bankruptcy proceedings. The new law -- the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 -- makes it harder to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy (the liquidation kind) and makes people with higher incomes go through Chapter 13 (the "pay back some of what you owe" kind), says Nolo, a publisher of legal books.
     Credit counseling: The new law also requires all debtors to get credit counseling from an accredited credit counseling agency six months before they can file -- also counseling on budgeting and debt management before their debts can be wiped out. Also, as the law imposes new requirements on lawyers, the new law makes it more difficult to find attorneys to represent bankruptcy clients.
     Approved counseling agencies: The only two credit counseling agencies in Tulsa approved by the U.S. Trustee's office are
     Credit Counseling Centers of Oklahoma, Inc., 4646 S. Harvard Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135; call (918) 744-5611 or (800) 324-5611 or e-mail the agency at cccsok@aol.com or visit tulsaworld.com/ccco, and Debt Reduction Services, Inc., 4111 S. Darlington Ave. Suite 540, Tulsa OK 74135 or call 660-0200.
     High income: Under the new rules, the first step in determining whether you can file Chapter 7 or not is comparing your monthly income to the median income for a household the size of yours, in your state. If your income is less than or equal to the median, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If it is more, you must pass "the means test" -- another requirement of the new law -- in order to file Chapter 7, Nolo's Web site said.
     The means test: The purpose of the means test is to determine whether you have enough disposable income, after subtracting certain allowed expenses and required debt payments, to make payments on a Chapter 13 plan. To take the means test, subtract certain allowed expenses and debt payments from your monthly income and if the remainder is below a certain amount, you can file Chapter 7. Try an online calculator at tulsaworld.com/meanstest
     .Submit Action Line questions by calling 699-8888 or by e-mailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by U.S. mailing it to Tulsa World Consumer, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.


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