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 Missouri. 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 Missouri, 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 Missouri that have been approved to provide this counseling.
In Missouri, the bankruptcy courts are divided into two districts. The bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Missouri is in St. Louis. The bankruptcy courts in the Western District of Missouri are in Kansas City and Jefferson City. Visit those districts' websites to find information on forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, Missouri 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 Missouri, you must use the state’s exemption list; although some states allow debtors to choose between the state list and a federal list, Missouri isn’t one of them.
Missouri allows debtors to exempt up to $15,000 in equity in real property and up to $5,000 in a mobile home. Joint bankruptcy filers may not double these amounts. Missouri bankruptcy filers may exempt up to $750 in alimony or child support per month. In addition, Missouri provides an exemption of up to $3,000 total for appliances, household goods, furnishings, clothing, books, and the like. Debtors can exempt up to $3,000 in a motor vehicle, $1,500 in a wedding ring, and $500 in other jewelry, among other things. Here’s a list of Missouri exemptions.
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Missouri. 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 Missouri income for a one-person household is about $44,000; 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 “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 Missouri.
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced Missouri bankruptcy lawyer.