Chapter 7 is designed for people who are having financial difficulties and are not able to re-pay their debts. Under the changes to the Bankruptcy Code that took effect October 17, 2005, you can usually qualify for a Chapter 7 if your average gross monthly income for the last six months is below your state's Median Income, your gross income less certain expenses is below your state's Median Income, or you can show "special circumstances" that would allow you to qualify for Chapter 7. The filing fee for a Chapter 7 is $335.00.
Under Chapter 7, you can usually exempt, or keep, most or all of your property under either Federal Law or Wisconsin Law, or, if you have not lived in Wisconsin for the past two years, under the state's exemption law that applies to your case. Most retirement accounts and pensions are also exempt. Secured property, normally your car and house, may not have any net equity, in which case you can keep them as well. The Trustee liquidates most non-exempt property and uses the proceeds to pay your creditors according to priorities of the Bankruptcy Code.
Once your Chapter 7 case is over, you receive a Discharge. The discharge prevents your creditors from taking any steps to try to collect their unsecured debt. They cannot call you, write you, sue you, or take any steps that could be considered an attempt to collect the debt. If you want to keep property that has a lien on it, you must keep your payments current, and may be required to reaffirm your debt. Some debts cannot be discharged. Typical examples are child support, alimony, and other domestic support obligations, some taxes, student loans, criminal restitution, and debts for death or personal injury caused by operating vehicles while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs.