Cara O'Neill


Cara O'Neill is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O’Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.

Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time legal editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for,,, and

Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.

Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara’s advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.

Articles By Cara O'Neill

How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt
When you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you have to complete a packet of forms and file them with the court. Schedule C is one of the most important forms you have to file: It tells the court and your creditors what property you claim as exempt under state or federal law.
How Does the Bankruptcy Trustee Get Paid?
When you file for bankruptcy relief, the court appoints a bankruptcy trustee to review your paperwork and oversee your bankruptcy. The trustee is entitled to compensation for administering your case. But how the trustee gets paid depends on whether you filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Can the Bankruptcy Court Take Life Insurance Funds?
When you file for bankruptcy, you can keep property needed to live, such as furnishings, clothing, a modest car, and some portion of home equity. You might be able to protect the value of a life insurance policy or funds received as a beneficiary under another person’s policy. But it will depend on whether a bankruptcy exemption covers the value of the life insurance or the life insurance funds.
Running Up Credit Cards Before Filing Bankruptcy: Is it Fraud?
Filing for bankruptcy can help you get rid of credit card debt; however, if you use your credit cards excessively knowing you intend to file bankruptcy, the credit card company can accuse you of fraud and take steps to make you repay the debt.
Should I ignore a debt collector's calls and letters?
If you can’t pay your debts and the debt collectors are calling, you likely want to know if you should ignore the debt collection calls or call the debt collectors back. Ignoring debt collector's calls and letters is a strategy that works if you're judgment-proof or plan to discharge your debt by filing for bankruptcy. If not, consider developing another debt payment strategy before speaking with debt collectors or responding to calls and letters.
The Debtor Education Course Requirement in Bankruptcy
Before you can receive a discharge in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must complete a course in personal financial management (also called the predischarge debtor education course). The purpose of the debtor education course is to teach you how to manage money and use credit wisely after bankruptcy. If you don’t complete the debtor education requirement, the court won’t issue a discharge in your bankruptcy. Learn more about the debtor education course requirement in bankruptcy.
Tennessee Bankruptcy Exemptions
Like all states, Tennessee has its own set of exemptions you can use when filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Tennessee bankruptcy exemptions help you keep the property you'll need, like a home, car, instrument, retirement account, and furnishings. You'll use Tennessee bankruptcy exemptions to help you determine the property you can keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and how much you'll pay to creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Debts You Can Wipe Out in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Many debtors file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy to reorganize their debts and catch up on their missed mortgage or car loan payments through an affordable repayment plan. If you successfully complete your repayment plan, you will receive a bankruptcy discharge that wipes out your personal liability.
What If I Lose My Job After I File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you commit paying job earnings into a three- or five-year repayment plan. Chapter 13 filers who lose their job have a few bankruptcy options. Depending on your creditors, property, and the amount paid into the plan, the bankruptcy court might reduce your Chapter 13 payment or end your Chapter 13 with a hardship discharge. You could also explore converting to Chapter 7 bankruptcy or dismissing your Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions
Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions to protect property in bankruptcy instead of state bankruptcy exemptions. You can use federal bankruptcy exemptions if you live in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, or Wisconsin. Compare your state exemptions to the federal bankruptcy exemptions and decide whether the federal bankruptcy exemptions would be best for you.