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

How to Protect Your Home in Bankruptcy
Find out what happens to your home in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You'll about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy when you're behind on your mortgage payments, what it means to "exempt" equity in your home, how to determine how much home equity you can exempt in bankruptcy, how Chapter 13 works to save one's home, and when you can “strip” liens from junior mortgages and HELOCs in Chapter 13 and pay substantially less than you owe.
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.
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 Tax Refunds in Bankruptcy?
Learn whether you'll lose your tax return if you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Should I Stop Paying Creditors If I'm Going to File for Bankruptcy?
If you are planning on filing for bankruptcy, it might make sense to stop paying certain creditors.
Red Flags the Bankruptcy Trustee Looks for at the Meeting of Creditors
Learn about some of the red flags that will trigger questioning by the bankruptcy trustee during your meeting of creditors.
What Happens If the Court Dismisses Your Bankruptcy With Prejudice?
A dismissal with prejudice can bar you from refiling your case or discharging your debts.
What to Expect at the Bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors (341 Hearing)
The meeting of creditors (341 hearing) is an important part of every Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
Can I Use My Credit Cards Prior to Filing for Bankruptcy?
If you use your credit cards before bankruptcy, the credit card company might challenge your ability to wipe out the debt.
Paying Your Bankruptcy Lawyer: Costs & Types of Fees
Learn when most attorneys require payment, how attorneys' fees are structured, the average costs, and whether fees are fixed by the court.