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 Virginia. 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 Virginia, 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 Virginia that have been approved to provide this counseling.
Where to File
In Virginia, the bankruptcy courts are divided into two districts. In the Eastern District of Virginia, the bankruptcy courts are loated in Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk, and Richmond. In the Western District of Virginia, the bankruptcy courts are in Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, and Roanoke. Click on the district links to find information on forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, Virginia 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 Virginia, you must use the state’s exemption list; although some states allow debtors to choose between the state list and a federal list, Virginia isn’t one of them.
Virginia allows debtors to exempt up to $5,000 in equity in a house or other real property for single debtors, plus $500 per dependent, and up to $10,000 for debtors over 65. Virginia's personal property exemptions include: up to $8,000 in a motor vehicle; up to $1,000 in clothing; burial plots; up to $5,000 in household furnishings; and up to $10,000 for tools of trade, among other things. Here’s a list of Virginia 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 Virginia. 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 Virginia income for a one-person household is just over $50,500; 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 a list of agencies approved to provide this course in Virginia.
Getting Help From a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced Virginia bankruptcy lawyer.