Updated May 24, 2016
Bankruptcy is a system 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 Rhode Island. 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 Rhode Island, you will have to complete mandatory credit counseling with an agency that’s been approved by the United States Trustee’s Office. Here’s a list of agencies in Rhode Island that have been approved to provide this counseling.
In Rhode Island, the bankruptcy court is in Providence. At the court’s website, you can find information on forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island, you may use either the Rhode Island state exemptions, or the federal bankruptcy exemptions.
In Rhode Island, you can exempt up to $500,000 in land and buildings you occupy or intend to occupy as your principal residence. Spouses may not double this amount. You may also exempt up to $12,000 in a motor vehicle, up to $2,000 in jewelry, up to $300 of books, a burial plot to an unlimited amount, prepaid tuition, and clothing, among other things. Here’s a list of Rhode Island exemptions.
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Rhode Island. 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 Rhode Island income for a one-person household is around $46,500; these figures change frequently. You can find the most recent amounts on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Means Testing Information.”
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 a list of agencies approved to provide this course in Rhode Island.
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced Rhode Island bankruptcy lawyer.