I Just Got a Well-Paying Job. Can I Pass the Bankruptcy Means Test?

If you recently got a high-paying job, it may affect your ability to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Learn why.

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Before you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pass the bankruptcy means test. The means test uses your income and expenses to determine whether you have enough disposable income to pay back a portion of your unsecured debts. If your disposable income is too high, you will not pass the means test. Read on to learn more about whether you can pass the means test if you recently got a well-paying job.

For more information on how the means test works, see our Chapter 7 Means Test topic area.

Current Monthly Income on the Means Test

When you complete the means test, you must disclose your income from all applicable sources to arrive at a figure called current monthly income (CMI). Despite its name, CMI is actually an average of all income you received during the six calendar months preceding your bankruptcy filing.

If your CMI is less than the median income in your state for a same size household, you automatically pass the means test. If your CMI is higher than the state median, you must complete the entire means test form and use certain allowed deductions to determine whether or not you pass. This means that if you recently got a well-paying job, your average income over the last six months may still be low enough to automatically pass the means test.

Should I File My Case Right Away?

To determine whether you need to file your case right away, use your current monthly income from your new job to see if you pass the means test. If you still pass the means test with no problems, then you may not have to file your case immediately. But if your current income is too high to pass the means test, it may be in your best interest to file your case while your CMI is still low.

The Totality of Circumstances Test

While the means test is the primary factor courts consider when determining whether you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they also take into account the totality of your circumstances (including your current income). Even though the means test looks at your average income for the last six months, you must disclose your current income on Schedule I of your bankruptcy petition.

If your current budget shows that you have a lot of disposable income left after paying your expenses, the court can still dismiss your case under the totality of circumstances test. If your new income is significantly higher than the state median, consider talking to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney who can help you determine whether you should still file your case.