How to Complete Bankruptcy Schedule J: Your Expenses

On bankruptcy Schedule J: Your Expenses, you list your average monthly expenses and the members of your household.

By , Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Filing for bankruptcy requires disclosure of your income, expenses, debts, assets, and property transactions on official bankruptcy forms. On Schedule J: Your Expenses, you'll provide your current household budget.

For more information about other required forms, see The Bankruptcy Forms.

Schedule J's Purpose

The court and your bankruptcy trustee use Schedule J to determine several things, including:

  • whether you have too much disposable income to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • if you can afford to make your proposed Chapter 13 plan payments, and
  • whether you're paying enough in Chapter 13.

The Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, whose job it is to find funds for creditors, will check the reasonableness of your expenses. The trustee will also compare Schedule J: Your Expenses to Schedule I: Your Income to determine whether you're paying creditors as much as your budget allows. If Schedule J shows that you have disposable income—money left over after paying expenses—the trustee might ask the court to declare you ineligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The court could decide this even if you otherwise pass the Chapter 7 bankruptcy means test and convert your case to Chapter 13.

If you're filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the trustee will look for expenses that appear too high. The court will use Schedule J to make sure you have enough money to make your monthly Chapter 13 plan payments.

Completing Schedule J: Your Expenses

Schedule J is where you list your current monthly expenses and all of your dependents, whether living in your household or not. The form includes easy-to-understand instructions, so filling it out is simple—especially if you follow these tips:

  • You'll list the expenses of a spouse living in a separate residence on the Expenses for Separate Household of Debtor 2 form.
  • You can determine the monthly cost of occasional expenditures like car repairs or snow removal by dividing your yearly expenses by 12.
  • Be prepared to explain any unusually high expenses and to provide receipts.
  • If you have an expense that isn't listed on the form, you can enter it in the "Other" section.
  • You can explain any anticipated increase or decrease in your expenses at the end of the form.

Keep in mind that bankruptcy is a specialized legal area that requires an understanding of how multiple issues interrelate. Although the form instructions are clear, the form does not include a legal explanation, or how your entries will impact your bankruptcy case. You're responsible for understanding all bankruptcy laws and requirements. If you're not confident in moving forward, you should consult with a bankruptcy lawyer.

Where to Get Schedule J: Your Expenses

You can find a downloadable, fillable version of the Schedule J: Your Expenses along with other official bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Court's website.

This article provides general information only. When filing for bankruptcy, you must understand the federal and state laws governing the entire bankruptcy process. Failing to adequately research and understand how these laws might affect your case could result in unexpected consequences. If you aren't familiar with the process, it's best to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney, or, use a do-it-yourself book like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.

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