United States Bankruptcy Code

How to find the law that governs bankruptcy cases -- and where to look for the information you need.

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Bankruptcy laws are federal, which means they were enacted by Congress and apply throughout the states. You can find the federal bankruptcy laws in Title 11 of the United States Code. The bankruptcy laws were overhauled and changed significantly in 2005; these changes have all been incorporated into the U.S. Code. 

Finding Federal Bankruptcy Laws

You can find the U.S. Code at the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University; select "U.S. Code," then "Title 11." You can search Title 11 for keywords or browse to find the information you need. Not surprisingly, you can find information on Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chapter 7 of Title 11; that's where the name came from. The same is true of Chapter 13.

Other code sections that might of particular interest include:

  • Section 341, which covers the meeting of creditors
  • Section 362, which explains the automatic stay
  • Sections 523 and 524, which explain which debts are discharged and which are not, and
  • Section 541, which explains which property falls into the bankruptcy estate. 

You may need to check a number of sections to get the information you need. For a full list of sections, simply expand each chapter and subchapter on the page.   

Finding State Exemption Laws

Although bankruptcy is a creature of federal laws, state law also plays a part. The most important role of state law is in determining exemptions: which property you get to keep in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To learn more about exemptions and find links to each state's exemption list (and citations to state statutes where these exemptions can be found), see Bankruptcy Exemptions - What Do I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy? 

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