Cara O'Neill

Attorney · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Cara O'Neill is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O’Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.

Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time legal editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for,,, and

Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.

Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara’s advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.

Articles By Cara O'Neill

Do I Have Enough Debt to File for Bankruptcy?
Although you don't have to have a minimum amount of debt to be eligible for bankruptcy, you'll need to meet other qualification requirements, as well as determine whether bankruptcy is a good option for you. Learn ways to determine whether you can pay debts without filing for bankruptcy, including negotiating to pay less to creditors.
The Bankruptcy Trustee and the U.S. Trustee
The U.S. Trustee Program oversees the bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case and more. Learn about the differing responsibilities of the bankruptcy trustee and the U.S. Trustee.
Debt Limits for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a cost-effective way to handle debts, but to qualify, you can't owe more than the Chapter 13 debt limits. If your debts exceed the Chapter 13 limits, you'll be limited to Chapters 7 or 11. Learn how much secured and unsecured debt you can have when filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, whether temporary increases in the Chapter 13 debt limits will allow more people to file, and how to find the current debt limits in Chapter 13.
Which Type of Bankruptcy Should You File? Chapter 7 vs. 13
Once you've decided that bankruptcy is the right solution for your financial situation, you must decide which bankruptcy chapter is best. This article explains the basics of Chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13. You'll also find a chart illustrating the primary differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
The Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy
The automatic stay in bankruptcy requires most creditors to stop all collection efforts against the debtor.
Wildcard Exemptions in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Learn how you can use a wildcard exemption to protect property in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Who Is Exempt From Taking the Bankruptcy Means Test?
You don't have to take the bankruptcy means test if you have mostly business debts, are a disabled veteran, or a military reservist. Find out more about the Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under §707(b)(2) form.
Where Should I File My Bankruptcy Petition?
Here's how to figure out the correct bankruptcy court in which to file your bankruptcy petition.
When to Stop Paying Credit Cards and File for Bankruptcy
If you can't afford your credit card payments, bankruptcy might be a good option.
What Happens to Unsecured Debt in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Here's how your unsecured debt, like credit cards and medical debt, is treated in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.