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 South Carolina. 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 South Carolina, 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 South Carolina that have been approved to provide this counseling.
In South Carolina, the bankruptcy courts are located in Columbia, Spartanburg, and Charleston. At the court’s website, you can find information on forms, local rules, and more.
Like every other state, South Carolina 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 South Carolina, you must use the state’s exemption list; although some states allow debtors to choose between the state list and a federal list, South Carolina isn’t one of them.
In South Carolina, you can exempt up to $58,255 in real property if you are a single owner, and up to $116,510 for multiple owners. You may also exempt certain amounts of life insurance, disability benefits, and fratenral society benefits. Personal property exemptions in South Carolina include burial plots of $50,000 (if you don't use the homestead exemption), health aids, jewelry to $1,175, motor vehicles to $5,825, and more. You can also exempt various public benefits, alimony, and child support, among other things. Here’s a list of South Carolina exemptions.
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in South Carolina. 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 South Carolina income for a one-person household is around $42,000; these figures change frequently. 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 South Carolina.
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced South Carolina bankruptcy lawyer.