Cara O'Neill

Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

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

Chapter 13 Rules: No Means Test Required
Although the Chapter 7 means test doesn't apply in Chapter 13, you still must meet Chapter 13 qualification requirements. For instance, you must prove you earn enough to pay the required debts through the Chapter 13 plan. You must also meet Chapter 13 debt limits and more before the bankruptcy judge will confirm a Chapter 13 case.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy vs Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
If you are considering restructuring your debt, you're likely wondering if you should file Chapter 11 versus Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Both Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy provide a way for people struggling with debt to keep their property by reorganizing their debt. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is generally more popular with businesses, but it can be a good choice for certain individuals, especially those with extremely large amounts of debt. For most individuals, however, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is often cheaper and easier.
Adversarial Proceedings in Bankruptcy
Sometimes after you file for bankruptcy, a dispute arises concerning a debt you included in the bankruptcy. If this happens, you, the creditor, the trustee, or some other interested party must file a separate case in the bankruptcy court, called an “adversary proceeding.”
Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy?
Many people wonder whether they could file for Chapter 7 without hiring a bankruptcy lawyer and save the legal fees. If you have a simple enough bankruptcy case, you might be able to do just that. Our DIY bankruptcy quiz helps you assess the complexity of issues in your bankruptcy case, which can help you decide whether the DIY approach or hiring a bankruptcy attorney specializing in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is your best bet. The bankruptcy quiz is quick—only ten questions—and the pop-ups after each answer will give you insights into areas of bankruptcy you might want to research further.
Objecting to a Wage Garnishment
If a judgment creditor is trying to garnish your wages, you can challenge it by filing an objection. The procedure to challenge a wage garnishment depends on the laws of your state, your court's procedures, and the type of debt you owe. Read on to learn more. (To learn more about what wage garnishments
Your Car in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
You won’t lose your car in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Filers making vehicle payments can reduce the loan interest and pay off the car loan through a repayment plan. Filers can even catch up on late payments and, in some cases, pay less by reducing the principal balance to the vehicle’s value using a “cramdown” procedure.
Understanding Secured, Unsecured & Priority Claims in Bankruptcy
When you file bankruptcy, each creditor (the person or company to which you owe money) has a claim against your bankruptcy estate. If there's any money in your estate, the bankruptcy trustee will use it to pay the creditors' claims. To get paid, each creditor must file a proof of claim form indicating how much you owe and the type of debt.
Can I file bankruptcy and then start a new job?
You’ll want to consider a couple of issues before filing for bankruptcy if you’re looking for a new job. First, you should understand how a bankruptcy filing could affect your ability to find a new job. And second, you’ll want to know how a new job could affect qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and your repayment plan amount in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024
Chapter 13 works well for higher-income filers who can afford to repay some debt. But all filers can use Chapter 13 to stop foreclosure and keep a house or prevent a vehicle repossession.
The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Process
A typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is relatively straightforward. You will spend most of your time completing the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and other forms, which will require you to list your debts, assets, financial transactions, and so on. Once you've filed your paperwork, the bankruptcy trustee takes over your case.