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Slight median income changes coming Nov. 1

In New Jersey, it will be a little easier or a little harder to qualify for a Chapter 7 as of November 1, 2011. Whether it’ll be easier or harder for you depends on your family size.

The bankruptcy system looks to the U.S. Census to calculate each state’s median income, as applied to family size. If your income is below your state’s median income for your family size, then in most situations you would be eligible for a Chapter 7. But if your income is above the median and you still want to file a Chapter 7 case, then you have to fill out a long and rather complicated form detailing your allowed expenses to determine whether or not your filing of a Chapter 7 would be “abusive.” So if you want to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s a lot easier if you’re below the median.

On November 1, new median income amounts become applicable. In New Jersey, for a household of 1, the median income level will rise slightly from $59,060 to $60,322.  For a household of 2, it will drop from $70, 680 to $67, 503.  The new figures for all states can be seen here. Remember, if the median income goes up, that makes it a little more likely that your income will fall below that median, and you’ll have smoother sailing qualifying for Chapter 7.  New Jersey has some of the highest median income levels in the U.S.

So, if your income is close to the applicable median amount, and the median is increasing for your family size in your state on November 1, then you have a better chance at falling under the median if you file on or after that date.

Please understand that the meaning of “income” in the bankruptcy context is different from conventional meanings of that word. Bankruptcy “income” is calculated using a six-calendar-month look-back period that is doubled and then divided by 12 for an average monthly income. It includes all sources of income from all family members other than social security and does not only include taxable income.

Because of this and many other complicated issues, you should consult with a bankruptcy attorney about median income questions.

Photo by Rafa.Garcés.

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