Bankruptcy is a creature of federal law, so the process to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is nearly identical in every state, including Alabama. However, state law plays an important role, particularly in setting property exemptions, which determine what property you get to keep (if you file for Chapter 7) and how much you have to repay your creditors (if you file for Chapter 13). There are also important resources available to you by state.
Before you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Alabama, you will have to complete mandatory credit counseling with an agency that’s been approved by the United States Trustee’s Office. Here are links to the agencies that have been approved to provide this counseling in Alabama.
Where to File
In Alabama, there are three district bankruptcy courts:
- The Southern District (the main office is in Selma)
- The Northern District (main office in Birmingham)
- The Middle District (main office in Montgomery)
At the court websites, you'll find information on court locations, filing procedures, forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, Alabama has its own set of property exemptions. (To learn more about how property exemptions work generally and which exemptions you may use, see Bankruptcy Exemptions: What Do I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?)
In Alabama, you must use the state’s exemption list; although some states allow debtors to choose between the state list and a federal list, Alabama isn’t among them.
Alabama allows debtors to exempt up to $5,000 in equity in a house or other real property, and all clothing, books, family portraits, and pictures. Alabama also provides a wildcard exemption of $3,000, which debtors can use to protect any property they wish. Here’s the whole list of Alabama exemptions.
The Means Test
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Alabama. If your income is less than the median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years).
Currently, the median Alabama income is just over $46,000 for a two-person household; these figures change periodically. You can find the most recent amounts on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform,” and then “Means Testing Information.” Or go directly to the Census Bureau table here.
After you file for bankruptcy but before you receive your discharge, you must take a debtor education course. Like the mandatory credit counseling you must take before filing your forms, you must receive debtor education from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee’s Office. Here are links to agencies approved to provide this course in Alabama.
Finding a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced Alabama bankruptcy lawyer.