Iowa Household Annual Median Income 

If you are below median income, you are eligible for Chapter 7.
1 Person Household- Iowa Gross Annual Median Income - $42,207
2 People Household-
Iowa Gross Annual Median Income - $58,852
3 People Household-
Iowa Gross Annual Median Income - $64,552
4 People Household-
Iowa Gross Annual Median Income - $78,366
5 People Household-
Iowa Gross Annual Median Income - $86,466
Include all children you support in your "household".  

Exclude Social Security.

Questions? Email Jeff

Ready to Start?   

Step 1 Credit Counseling 

If you are under median income, the next step is your

It costs $35 total whether single or joint married filing and takes around 60-90 minutes.  It is good for Six Months, so you can get this out of the way now.   

Email Jeff a copy of your certificate(s) and questions to Jeff.  

Step 2 Accumulate Fees & Documents 

Below is what you will need.  Go ahead and Email Jeff a copy of your credit counseling certificate first.  Jeff can send you some simple forms to fill out early so we can spot issues and have everything ready for our low stress office appointment.  It is also fine to email Jeff PDF copies of most recently filed taxes and pay stubs listed below. 

 __Attorney and filing fee in cash or money order.  Jeff's fixed attorney fee depends on whether you are filing single or joint and the complexity of your case.  The filing fee is currently $335. 

__Mandatory Credit Counseling Certificate(s) Required.  There is one more online course after we file.  Jeff will email you when it is time.

__All bills you intend to discharge (credit cards, medical etc.) with account numbers and full address including zip code;

__Creditor information (full address, account #'s) on debts you will keep like home or car loans;

__Last two months (60 days) pay stubs from work, including your spouse even if they are not filing. If you are paid bi-weekly, this is four pay stubs.

__If you do not receive wage income, bring records of other income for the last six months;

__Most recent state and federal tax returns;

__W2's for the last two years;

__Photo ID and Social Security Card or proof of social security number.

Go ahead and Email Jeff once you have these documents available and we can prepare ahead of our office meeting to make sure things go smoothly. 

Step 3 Des Moines Office Appointment

We will meet once in Des Moines after we have prepared via email.   Ideally we are just reviewing the information and documents you have already provided and the draft petition already prepared, in which case the office meeting may be done in 30 minutes.

Jeff files electronically and your hearing is about 30 days later here in Des Moines.

Jeff also handles Iowa Criminal Defense.  See Jeff's Iowa Bankruptcy & Divorce News.

Jeff also handles Uncontested and Collaborative Divorce in Des Moines.  See Jeff's History of Child Support in Iowa.

Des Moines Office: 4800 Mills Civic Parkway, Suite 218, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265.  
Jeff has helped thousands of Iowan's get a Fresh Start from Jeff Mathias on Vimeo.
Jeff handles Iowa bankruptcy filings from all 99 Iowa counties in Des Moines.  See Jeff's MathiasLaw.com.
 More about Jeff Mathias on Google+

Jeff's Iowa Bankruptcy Youtube Channel
Jeff's Iowa Bankruptcy Guide


Tax Refunds and Timing

The later we get into the Fall, the more we have worked and the more of our 2014 tax refunds we have earned.  When we file bankruptcy, we list out and exempt our property.  Important assets like home, car, furniture, retirement etc. are exempt.  We can claim $1,000 per working person of tax refunds exempt plus we can use your wild card up to $1,000 each.

We also pro-rate, so for most of the year tax refunds are not an issue since much have not been earned yet, so are not assets to be listed and exempted when the case is filed.  Plus, you get to keep all Earned Income Credit.  But if you do get big refunds, you may have non-exempt tax refunds, especially for those who file bankruptcy after about September 1st.

Feel free to email copies of your 2013 Fed and IA 1040's to Jeff for estimates of how much of your tax refunds you are likely to keep if you file bankruptcy in the fall or winter.  

Beware- Creditors often sue and garnish late in the year.  That way you either wait on bankruptcy to protect your refunds or you go ahead and file bankruptcy to stop the garnishment and they end up getting some of your refunds, a win/win for them.


Des Moines Bankruptcy Hearing Location

All chapter 7 bankruptcy hearings are held at 210 Walnut, Room 783 in Des Moines, Iowa.  Your hearing is about 30 days after we file your case.  They are scheduled hourly as early as 9am and as late as 4pm, although most are in the morning.  A dozen are scheduled each hour, so yours will not take very long.  Jeff will be sitting next to you to address any issues that arise.

The Des Moines Bankruptcy Court serves all 99 Iowa Counties.  Iowa Bankruptcy Links.

Above is the hearing room.  There is no Judge here, just the bankruptcy trustee.  Jeff will be sitting next to you to make sure things go smoothly.  Bring your photo ID and Social Security Card.

Jeff's Iowa Divorce Court

Bankruptcy Court Address & Contact Information


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Iowa Chapter 7 Bankruptcy - Mistakes to Avoid & Reaffirmation

Common Iowa Bankruptcy Mistakes

1. Preference Payments

If you owe on credit cards or medical debt and instead of paying that you pay past-due debt to family within 1 year of filing bankruptcy, that is a preference payment. The Judge can take that money back from your family and give it to your other creditors. For ordinary (non family) creditors it is within 90 days of filing bankruptcy. So don't pay past due debt just before filing. On-time payments in the ordinary course of business are fine.

2. Transferring Property
Don't transfer titles, sign property away etc. before you file bankruptcy. Don't sell property for less than fair market value. The Judge can reverse these transfers.

3. Loading Up
Once you know you can not repay your debt, it is fraudulent to continue to acquire new debt. So don't do any cash advances or balance transfers. It is best to stop using credit cards entirely once you know you are going to have to file bankruptcy. There is a presumption that charges made within 90 days of filing are fraudulent and those may have to be repaid.

4. Tax Refunds
If you are filing after about October 1st and before you get your tax refunds, be sure to discuss how much you can exempt with Jeff. You have a $1,000/$2,000 joint exemption plus you can use part of your wild card(s) for tax refunds and you also keep all Earned Income Credit, see page 2 of your Federal 1040.
NOTE: Huge tax refunds are not good. This is a no-interest loan you are making to Uncle Sam each year. Far better to claim more dependents and get more $ on each paycheck.

5. Unlisted Debt
Please don't leave creditors off your petition! Jeff will email you a draft petition so you can review it again after we go through everything together in the office.

6. Unlisted Assets
We can't exempt assets that are not listed, so very important to list everything you own of significance. Normally we can deal with it in some way.

7. Lawsuits & Claims against Others
Personal Injury and other claims must be listed. Because your cooperation is needed in order to prosecute your Personal Injury claim, an arrangement can often be made so you can keep part of the proceeds & we may be able to exempt them if you need them for basic living expenses.

8. Inheritance
If you will be receiving an inheritance or life insurance proceeds within 6 months, do not file bankruptcy. If you do receive these funds the Court can take them to satisfy your debt.

9. Waiting too Long
Lawsuits, wage and bank garnishments and liens and all their associated headaches can be avoided.

10. Missed Hearing
If you forget to attend your hearing your case may be dismissed.

See Jeff's Iowa Divorce & Bankruptcy Lawyer

Reaffirmation Agreements
When you file Chapter 7 you schedule all debt including home and car loans you would like to keep. Some banks request new contracts called Reaffirmation Agreements. Our Judge prefers in most cases that you not reaffirm. She normally tells clients to just keep & pay. That way you can not be sued, garnished etc. if you can't pay in the future for some reason. Since banks are inconsistent on credit reporting, you may want to pull your Equifax credit report occasionally and see if they are reporting your payments. if not, you can request a payment history from the lender once a year and forward that to the credit bureaus with a request they update your credit history.  Also see Northern District of Iowa Bankruptcy Court on Reaffirmation Agreements.  Jeff's Facebook and Twitter.  More on Common Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Mistakes

Video on Reaffirmation Agreements in Iowa Chapter 7

Serving all of Iowa from Des Moines - Jeff Mathias Law Office,
4800 Mills Civic Parkway, Suite 218, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265.


Iowa Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions in Detail

When you file a Chapter 7, your property goes into the "bankruptcy estate". You get to keep the items you properly exempt. Fortunately we have good exemptions in Iowa so that if we plan well you should be able to keep most or all of your assets and discharge your debt, not a bad deal. Iowa has "opted out" of the federal exemptions. Getting full disclosure of all your assets, doing legal and appropriate pre-bankruptcy planning and exempting your assets is a big part of what your Iowa bankruptcy attorney does for you.  In joint cases, each debtor can claim the exemption so long as they have a property interest.  With cars this means being on the title, with tax refunds this means having had taxes withheld. Iowa bankruptcy exemptions:

Homestead: You can keep your home whether in Des Moines or anywhere else and up to 1/2 acre within city limits or 40 acres outside city limits with no upper limit on value. However, if you acquired your debt before you acquired your home, your exemption may be limited. So be sure to tell Jeff if substantial amounts of your credit card debt occurred before you bought your home.  Be sure to tell Jeff if you are in the process of modifying your mortgage. Some banks are declining modification applications when people file bankruptcy.  Jeff's Iowa bankruptcy exemptions.

Vehicles: You can exempt one vehicle per debtor valued up to $7,000 as long as it is titled in the claimants name. So if a couple has two cars but both are titled in the Husbands name only, there is only one exemption. The amount you need to exempt is the total current market value (See KBB Trade Value) minus current loan balance.. So if your car is paid off you can exempt it up to $7,000 with this exemption. If your car is worth $20,000 and you owe $13,000 you can still exempt the entire car due to the loan balance.

Because they are not worth very much you can often keep old junkers too.

Wages/Social Security Benefits: We can exempt accrued (earned but as yet unpaid) wages and social security benefits.

Workers Comp Claims- Are exempt while in progress. The funds lose their exempt status once received.

Cash/Wild Card: We can exempt your bank balance and cash with your Cash/Wild Card exemption. The $1,000 exemption can also be used for items that you don't have another exemption available for, like excess tax refunds. For this reason, it is usually best to spend down bank balances before we file your case. That leave more wild card exemption available in case something else comes up.

Rental Deposit up to $500.

Tax Refund: Tax Refunds become a bigger issue late in the year after you have worked quite a bit and accumulated a looming refund. So if you file your bankruptcy after you have received your refunds and before about August 1st you are not likely to have any problems keeping all of the refunds. There is a $1,000/$2,000 Joint Married exemption for your pending tax refund. You also get to keep all of your Earned Income Credit (see page 2 of your Federal 1040). Then we can exempt at least some additional amounts with your wild card exemption.

In spending your tax refund, you do need to be aware of preference payments. For example, the Court does not like it when you repay money to a family member for past due debt just before filing bankruptcy. The Judge can take that money back and give it to your other creditors. Far better to repay past due debt to family AFTER you file your bankruptcy.

If you do tend to get very large refunds, go to your employers HR department and ask them to adjust your status to claim all your dependents.  This is much better than turning money over to the bankruptcy trustee because you cannot exempt it later.

Household Goods & Furnishings up to $7,000 in liquidation value. Liquidation = selling on Craigslist, garage sale etc.
If you have Nebraska Furniture Mart debt, discuss this with Jeff.

Jewelry (per debtor):
Engagement Ring- $7,000
Wedding Ring- No limit if purchased at time of wedding
Anniversary Ring- $2,000
Other Jewelry- $2,000

Tools of Trade/Business Assets: Applies to equity value of small business assets unless incorporated. So if the liquidation value of your business assets is $20,000 and you owe $10,000 in debt secured by the assets you can exempt them all. Also applies to tools used in employment and related items. Note there is no exemption for inventory or accounts receivable.

Keeping your Small Business in Iowa Chapter 7 Video

Farm equipment & inventory up to $10,000.

Whole Life insurance cash value is exempt so long as the beneficiary is the spouse or child, although only up to $10,000 if purchased within two years of filing.

Pensions and 401k's are exempt. Bring at least an estimated value so we can claim & exempt it.

Personal Injury proceeds necessary for your support.

Guns: You can exempt one shotgun and one rifle per debtor with no maximum value. There is no exemption for pistols unless you are with law enforcement. But you could use the wild card.

Portraits, libraries & bibles up to $1,000

1 Acre burial plot

Common Non-exempt items: The most common non-exempt assets we see are huge tax refunds. If you get monster tax refunds, you should adjust your dependent claims with your payroll department to increase your regular pay and reduce the refund amount.

Claims against others, so if you have a lawsuit or debt owed to you by someone else, there often is no exemption for that meaning the trustee could take it away from you and collect the funds for the benefit of your creditors. Workers Comp claims in progress are exempt.

Time Shares are not exempt although if they have little or no market value you may be able to keep them, although most people prefer to surrender them and be done with it.

Also toys like motorcycles, trailers, boats, ATV's, snowmobiles and the like. However, if you have a boat worth $2,000 and you owe $2,000 on it you could keep that since it has no equity anyway. We can also use your wild card exemption on these if needed.

Rental Properties: Real estate that you don't live in is not exempt. But again, if your rental property is worth $30,000 and you owe $30,000 there is nothing to exempt anyway.

Jeff can help you with pre-bankruptcy planning on items like this. Although we can exempt most tax refunds, if you have a very large refund coming, be sure to discuss it with Jeff. There is some flexibility on exemptions that is more art than science, like teen cars. Jeff can advise you on assets like this.

Objections- Any party can object to your claim of exemptions, although objections most often come from the standing trustee.  Normally the objection must be filed within 30 days of your examination.  Even invalid claims of exemption stand if not timely objection is filed.

Federal NonBankruptcy Exemptions- Social Security Payments, Veterans Benefits and Civil Service Retirement Benefits.

There are four Bankruptcy Chapters, Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 and Chapter 13

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy - Full Discharge.  Here in Iowa, about 90% of consumers file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, no Repayment.  You get to keep your home, keep your car.  With some reasonable pre bankruptcy planning, most people do not lose any property when they file Chapter 7.  Your spouse is not required to file, you can discharge judgements.  A chapter 7 takes about about 3 1/2 months from office meeting to discharge.  Once your case is filed, calls and garnishments have to stop.  There is no minimum debt amount for Chapter 7.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy - Reorganization .Chapter 11 is used by businesses with very large assets.  Only about a dozen are filed in Iowa each year.

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy - Farmers Bankruptcy.  Chapter 12 is specifically for Farmers, although farmers often file under Chapter 7 as well.

Chapter 13 BankruptcyRepayment over 5 Years.  Most of the people who don't file Chapter 7, file Chapter 13.  Most chapter 13 cases are filed due to income that is too high for Chapter 7, a Chapter 7 within the last 8 years or to try and save a home by catching up past due payments in the chapter 13 repayment, although some people with income over the Iowa median income do qualify for Chapter 7.

These sections are found in Title 11 of the United States Code- United States Bankruptcy Code.

Iowa Bankruptcy Guide.  Jeff represents people from all Cities and Counties in Iowa from Des Moines.