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Debunking some myths about bankruptcy and credit scores

Many people don't consider bankruptcy until they've run out of options (and money) for paying off their debts because there are a lot of misconceptions out there about it. A big one is that it will ruin your credit.

However, if you're deeply in debt, your credit score is likely very low. Being able to discharge that debt via a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or reorganizing it via a Chapter 13 actually will help your credit score -- possibly sooner than you think.

According to data from the credit bureau Equifax that was studied by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, while credit scores generally fell in the 18 months after a person filed for bankruptcy, they then took an upward turn. As one economics professor put it, "It's a pretty rapid rate of recovery."

Different studies have shown varying levels of credit score recovery and different time frames. However, the study of Equifax's information found that the average credit score for those filing Chapter7 rose from 538.2 to 620.3 by the time the case was discharged. For those who filed for and completed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which has a three- to five-year repayment plan, the average score rose from 535.2 to 610.8.

Along with the impact on their credit scores, many people cite their ability to get credit with a bankruptcy on their record. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years. Getting credit immediately after filing for bankruptcy is probably not an option (nor should it be if you're trying to regain your financial footing). However, one study found that people were more likely to get credit within 18 months of completing their bankruptcy than those who were four months or more overdue on their debts and didn't choose bankruptcy.

While bankruptcy may not be your first choice for dealing with overwhelming debt, experts say that you should consider it before you deplete your retirement accounts, college funds and other savings trying to pay off your debts, which may consist largely of interest payments at this point. An experienced Arizona bankruptcy attorney can provide guidance to help you make the decision that's best for you and your family.

Source: NerdWallet, "When Bankruptcy Is the Best Option," Liz Weston, accessed Nov. 03, 2016

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  • MCBA | Maricopa County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Arizona
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  • NACBA | National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
  • NACA | National Association of Consumer Advocates
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