Cara O'Neill


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

Can Creditors Get Your Income If You Are Self-Employed?
If you are an independent contractor or freelancer, a judgment creditor cannot garnish your wages. But it may be able to get some of your income through a non-earnings garnishment. This article provides information on creditors seizing self-employment income.
Can I File for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney?
Although you can file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy on your own, it often makes sense to hire a lawyer. Learn when it's important to file for bankruptcy with an attorney, as well as how to find a good bankruptcy lawyer.
How Much of My Wages Can Be Garnished?
Federal and state law limits the amount that can be taken from your paycheck to pay debts.
How the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Payment Is Calculated
An overview of the calculations used to determine the payments in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
How to File an Emergency Bankruptcy Petition
If you need to file for bankruptcy quickly, you can file a bare-bones emergency petition now and the remaining documents later.
Can I Get a Loan or Credit During My Chapter 13 Case?
Can you get a car loan or new credit card, or incur medical or other debts during your Chapter 13 bankruptcy? Find out here.
Steps in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case
The steps in a typical Chapter 13 bankruptcy case include filing initial paperwork, drafting a repayment plan, and attending a 341 meeting of creditors. After completing the three- to five-year repayment plan, the court discharges (wipes out) qualifying debt balances.
How Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Affects Mortgages and Foreclosure
Learn about the options you have for dealing with your mortgage or foreclosure in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including catching up on arrearages and stripping off junior liens.
Questions the Trustee Will Ask At Your Bankruptcy Hearing (Meeting of Creditors)
Here are some of the questions you can expect from the trustee at your bankruptcy 341 hearing.
The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Means Test
You must pass the means test to be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge.