In Ancient Greece, bankruptcy did not exist. If a man owed and he could not pay, he and his wife, children or servants were forced into "debt slavery", until the creditor recouped losses through their physical labour. Many city-states in ancient Greece limited debt slavery to a period of five years; debt slaves had protection of life and limb, which regular slaves did not enjoy. However, servants of the debtor could be retained beyond that deadline by the creditor and were often forced to serve their new lord for a lifetime, usually under significantly harsher conditions. An exception to this rule was Athens, which by the laws of Solon forbade enslavement for debt; as a consequence, most Athenian slaves were foreigners (Greek or otherwise).
Bankruptcy statistics are also a trailing indicator. There is a time delay between financial difficulties and bankruptcy. In most cases, several months or even years pass between the financial problems and the start of bankruptcy proceedings. Legal, tax, and cultural issues may further distort bankruptcy figures, especially when comparing on an international basis. Two examples:
To be eligible to file a consumer bankruptcy under Chapter 7, a debtor must qualify under a statutory "means test".[49] The means test was intended to make it more difficult for a significant number of financially distressed individual debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts to qualify for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The "means test" is employed in cases where an individual with primarily consumer debts has more than the average annual income for a household of equivalent size, computed over a 180-day period prior to filing. If the individual must "take" the "means test", their average monthly income over this 180-day period is reduced by a series of allowances for living expenses and secured debt payments in a very complex calculation that may or may not accurately reflect that individual's actual monthly budget. If the results of the means test show no disposable income (or in some cases a very small amount) then the individual qualifies for Chapter 7 relief. An individual who fails the means test will have their Chapter 7 case dismissed, or may have to convert the case to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
A Bankruptcy Trustee (in most cases, the Official Receiver) is appointed to deal with all matters regarding the administration of the bankrupt estate. The Trustee's job includes notifying creditors of the estate and dealing with creditor inquiries; ensuring that the bankrupt complies with their obligations under the Bankruptcy Act; investigating the bankrupt's financial affairs; realising funds to which the estate is entitled under the Bankruptcy Act and distributing dividends to creditors if sufficient funds become available.
Debtors do not necessarily have the right to a discharge. When a petition for bankruptcy has been filed in court, creditors receive a notice and can object if they choose to do so. If they do, they will need to file a complaint in the court before the deadline. This leads to the filing of an adversary proceeding to recover monies owed or enforce a lien.

Before a consumer may obtain bankruptcy relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the debtor is to undertake credit counselling with approved counseling agencies prior to filing a bankruptcy petition and to undertake education in personal financial management from approved agencies prior to being granted a discharge of debts under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Some studies of the operation of the credit counseling requirement suggest that it provides little benefit to debtors who receive the counseling because the only realistic option for many is to seek relief under the Bankruptcy Code.[45]


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Chapter 9: This applies only to cities or towns. It protects municipalities from creditors while the city develops a plan for handling its debts. This typically happens when industries close and people leave to find work elsewhere. There were 20 Chapter 9 filings in 2012, the most since 1980. Detroit was among those filing in 2012, and is the largest city ever to file Chapter 9. Detroit’s GDP shrunk by 12.2% in the 10 years prior to declaring bankruptcy. The average major metro growth in that time was 13.1%.
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