New Way to Pay Your Topeka Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Payments



There is a new way to pay your bankruptcy payment to the Topeka chapter 13 trustee. Jan Hamilton Trustee has contracted with TFS Bill Pay so you may send money to the trustee electronically.

This is a service through a third party. It involves a fee for handling the money and there is a short delay for payments to transfer from your account to TFS Bill Pay and on to the trustee.

TFS Bill Pay costs 99 cents for a payment up to $100, which is cheaper than a 59 cent money order at the local grocery store plus a 46 cent stamps, not counting your time or gas money. The cost for a payment $101 to $250 is $1.99.

This service is voluntary. You may still pay by wage order, which is the preferred method, or by check mailed to Jan Hamilton Trustee, PO Box 2159, Topeka, KS 66601, or placed in the drop box at 507 SW Jackson, Topeka, KS. No cash is accepted.

TFS Bill Pay may only be used to pay Jan Hamilton and trustees in other states who have contacted with the service. The other chapter 13 trustees in Kansas City, KS, and Wichita do not use this service.

Payments to William H. Griffin, Trustee, in Kansas City, KS, chapter 13 cases must be paid to PO Box 613106, Memphis, TN 38101. He does not accept payments at his Overland Park office.

Payments to Laurie Williams, Trustee, in Wichita, KS, chapter 13 cases must be paid to PO Box 2818 Wichita KS 67201-2818.

Kansas Median Income Increases April 1, 2013

New median income data for bankruptcy cases filed on or after April 1, 2013, has been released by the U.S. Trustee Program.


  • 1 earner  $42,577
  • 2 people $56,851
  • 3 people $65,907
  • 4 people $76,402

For cases filed on or after April 1, 2013, add $8,100 for each individual in excess of 4.

Click here to see the median income table.

Click here for information on means testing from the Executive Office of the U.S. Trustee.

Debtors Win EITC Appeal

207209564_86a48153bd_zThe new Kansas exemption law allowing a person to keep one year of earned income tax credit in bankruptcy is constitutional, a third court has ruled. This is good news for lower income working families with children who received EITC and who are struggling to make ends meet.

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the opinion of Judge Janice Miller Karlin of the Topeka Bankruptcy Court in Williamson v. Westby (In re Westby), BAP No. KS 12-027 (10th Cir. BAP, Feb. 4, 2013).

Judge Robert E. Nugent also has found the Kansas statute to be constitutional.  His decision in the Wichita Bankruptcy Court has been appealed to the Kansas District Court. Those appeals are pending.

“The issue presented on appeal is whether a recently enacted Kansas statute exempting tax refunds attributable to the earned income credit for bankruptcy debtors is constitutional. The Chapter 7 trustee objected to the debtors’ claimed exemption, arguing the Kansas bankruptcy-only exemption statute violates the Uniformity and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution. The bankruptcy court concluded the exemption statute did not violate these constitutional provisions and overruled the Trustee’s objection. Having reviewed the record and the applicable law, we agree that the Kansas bankruptcy-only exemption statute passes constitutional muster, and therefore AFFIRM the bankruptcy court’s order.” [Read more…]

Congratulations Judge Norton!


Hon. Cynthia A. Norton

Congratulations to our friend and colleague, Cynthia Norton, who was sworn in today as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Missouri. She is pictured here with U.S. District Court Chief Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., who administered the oath of office to her, and her husband, George Norton.

She will preside over bankruptcy proceedings in Kansas City, St. Joseph, Jefferson City and Springfield, MO. She was appointed to the position by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit following the retirement of the Hon. Jerry W. Venters. A public investiture ceremony is planned for April.

After graduating from the University of Kansas Law School in 1984, Judge Norton clerked for Kansas Court of Appeals Judge John E. Rees. Her career in bankruptcy law began as law clerk for the Hon. James A. Pusateri for the Kansas Bankruptcy Court in Topeka 1986-1989. She worked in several Kansas City bankruptcy firms, then formed a boutique bankruptcy firm, Grimes and Rebein, LC, of Lenexa, with her partner, Steve Rebein, in 1996. She practiced law under her professional name, Cynthia Frogley Grimes.

She is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and a recipient of the 2002 Michael R. Roser Award for Excellence in Bankruptcy. She is the 2012 recipient of the Robert L. Gernon Award for Outstanding Service to Continuing Legal Education in Kansas, recognizing her for her frequent presentations to lawyers, law students, clerks and others on bankruptcy law.

We will miss our friend and colleague in the Kansas bankruptcy bar. Congratulations Judge Norton!



Free Topeka Tax Help


Here is a list of where you can go in Topeka for free tax return preparation help.

If you are a debtors in a bankruptcy case, take a copy of the 2012 tax returns, both federal and state, to your bankruptcy attorney.

Refunds should not be spent unless the trustee approves. Talk to your attorney about the tax refunds and who gets what portions of the refunds. Spending tax refunds that are supposed to go to the bankruptcy trustee will get you into serious trouble.

If your refunds get offset by the IRS or the state for taxes, child support, student loans or other government debt, you should get a letter explaining the offset. Take that letter to you bankruptcy attorney.

We are still fighting to keep one year of the earned income tax credit exempt in Kansas. Two Kansas bankruptcy judges have ruled that the new statute is constitutional. Three chapter 7 trustees in Topeka and Wichita have appealed those rulings to higher courts. The appeals are pending. A ruling is expected soon from the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Oral argument was December 6, 2012, in Denver.




Bankruptcy Dollar Limits Expected to Ease April 1, 2013

increasing profitsIt will be a little easier for the debtor in bankruptcy when an adjustment in limits and formulas occurs on April 1.  There will be modest increases in the chapter 13 debt limits, in means test formulas and federal exemptions when the once-every-three-year adjustments for inflation go into effect.

These numbers are not an issue for most Kansas debtors.  But a debtor on the margins of these limits and formulas may benefit from waiting to file bankruptcy after April 1.  Your bankruptcy attorney can make sense of these complicated numbers for you.

Erich Fabricius is predicting a 6.3% increase which is slightly less than the increase three years ago when the figures last changed.  Closer to April 1, the government will announce the actual figures that will go into effect.

The unsecured debt limit for chapter 13 bankruptcy is estimated by Fabricius to be $383,175. The current limit is $360,475. A person with debts with no collateral in excess of the limit is ineligible for chapter 13 relief.

The debt limitation for family farmers in Chapter 12 increases from $3,702,650 to $4,031,575.

The homestead equity limit increases from $146,450 to $155,675 though many Kansans have higher homestead limits under state law. Federal exemptions increase but most Kansans do not use the federal exemptions.

Abuse in chapter 7 for excess disposable income will be more difficult for the U.S. Trustee to prove with the new, higher limits on the means test.


Credit: Microsoft Office Clipart


New Year Resolution: Get Out of Debt


Getting out of debt competes with losing weight for the most common New Year resolutions.

Here is some advice for making your New Year resolution stick. One secret is to create a goal and a sub-goal.

If your resolution is to get out of debt, you can skip eating lunch out each day and start sending that money in to pay off credit card debt. Then, voila…in six months that credit card might be paid off. As you’ll begin to see, your daily goals help you fulfill your larger goal. Sub-goals are very, very important.

But if you are drowning in debt with bills you can never pay, it is time to consider starting over and getting the fresh start that only the federal bankruptcy law provides.  Bankruptcy can stop the garnishment of your paychecks and bank accounts. Bankruptcy can end the trips to collection court. Bankruptcy can make the phone stop ringing. Yes, it is true.

You have good company if you find yourself in financial trouble. Businesses file bankruptcy regularly. The rich and famous shed their debt and move on with their lives. About 4500 bankruptcy cases are filed every day. You can, too! In fact, forgiveness of debt has been part of our culture for centuries.  It is in the Bible.

No one wants to file bankruptcy, at least I have never met anyone who does. You will feel a tremendous relief by getting out of debt. Financial freedom is the brass ring bankruptcy provides.  Call Mark or Jill today.  We understand.  We can help. 785-354-1471.







Ring Out the Old Bills, Ring in the New Year


Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.
                Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out the old bills and your financial troubles once and for all by filing bankruptcy in the New Year.  It’s time to leave your worries behind and get the fresh start you deserve.  We understand. We can help.

Harassing Phone Calls, Garnishments, Collection Letters, Utility Shut-offs, Bill Collectors, Credit Card Interest and Late Fees, Foreclosure, Frozen Bank Accounts, Missed Work for Court Dates, Car Repossessions, Lawsuits, Judgments

Are you drowning in debt? Were you recently laid off? Facing unexpected medical bills? Or even worse, did a recent divorce put a strain on your financial life?

Have your debts snowballed? Have your credit cards raised your interest rate to 30%? Doubled your monthly payments? Are you about to lose your home in foreclosure? Is your paycheck being garnished? Is your car being repossessed?

At Bankruptcy Law Office, our attorneys, Mark Neis and Jill Michaux, understand that life can be stressful at times and we all go through hard times every so often. We understand that when you are dealing with financial hardship, it may not be your fault. Mark and Jill are Topeka’s consumer bankruptcy specialists ready to help you get back on your feet with a fresh start.

Peace of mind, sleep better, answer your phone again, stop looking over your shoulder, lift that heavy burden off your back, feel better about yourself, stop borrowing from friends and family and your retirement fund.

Stop being stressed out by bills you can’t pay! Get the fresh start only the federal bankruptcy laws can give you. Call us today! 785-354-1471




Fighting to Keep Earned Income Tax Credits Exempt

en banc courtroom

10th Circuit Courtroom 1

Our attorneys continue to fight for Kansas debtors to keep one year of federal and state earned income tax credits (EITC) exempt  from bankruptcy trustees and creditors. We traveled to Denver for oral argument  before the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th Circuit. Bruce Barry of Manhattan argued in favor of the law for his clients, Dustin and Brandi Westby.

The Kansas Legislature adopted a new exemption for EITC in bankruptcy cases.  The law went into effect April 14, 2011. Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees in Topeka and Wichita have challenged the law, and the debtors’ right to retain one year of EITC in their bankruptcy cases, since.

K.S.A. 60-2315 – Section 1. An individual debtor under the federal
bankruptcy reform act of 1978 (11 U.S.C. §101 et seq.), may
exempt the debtor’s right to receive tax credits allowed
pursuant to section 32 of the federal internal revenue code of
of 1986, as amended, and K.S.A. 2010 Supp. 79-32,205,  and
amendments thereto. An exemption pursuant to this section
shall not exceed the maximum credit allowed to the debtor
under section 32 of the federal internal revenue code of 1986,
as amended, for one tax year. Nothing in this section shall be
construed to limit the right of offset, attachment or other
process with respect to the earned income tax credit for the
payment of child support or spousal maintenance.
Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from
and after its publication in the Kansas register.

The bankruptcy judges in both divisions ruled against the trustees.  Three trustees have appealed to higher courts.

The Kansas Attorney General also is defending the constitutionality of the EITC exemption statute.

Here is the motion and proposed brief Jill Michaux filed last week in the Hudson appeal to the Kansas District Court for permission to file a friend of the court brief in support of debtors by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). Thanks go to Tara Twomey and Lisa Sharon of the National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center for writing the brief.



Michaux Appointed to U.S. Supreme Court Committee

Jill Michaux

Jill Michaux

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., appointed Jill Michaux to a three year term on the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules to the U.S. Supreme Court.  She is one of four practicing lawyers on the 17 member committee. Other members are federal judges from the bankruptcy, district and circuit courts, two law professors who serve as committee reporters, and a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice.

She succeeds John Rao of the National Consumer Law Center who served six years. Prior to Rao, the position was filled by Eric L. Frank who later was appointed Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Henry L. Sommer, president of National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center, and Editor-in-Chief of Collier on Bankruptcy.

The rules committee is reviewing mortgage claim forms, a proposal for national chapter 13 plan form, and the modernization of bankruptcy forms, and accompanying rules changes on its agenda.

Jill has represented consumer debtors in bankruptcy for 30 years.  She is a founding member and one of the first directors of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). She is a founder and past president of the Topeka Area Bankruptcy Council and the Kansas Bar Association Bankruptcy and Insolvency Section.

She is contributor to the Bankruptcy Law Network, the premier website for consumer bankruptcy information, and writes Kansas Bankruptcy blog. She runs the BK-Kansas listserv for 452 members of the bankruptcy bar in Kansas. She is one of two Topeka attorneys and seven Kansas attorneys who are board certified in consumer bankruptcy law by the American Board of Certification. She practices law with Neis & Michaux, P.A., of Topeka.

See the article in the Topeka Capital-Journal.



Leave It All Behind

Leave It All Behind –  “If banks are “too big to fail” does that mean the rest of us are just the right size? Bankruptcy is all about a fresh start.  Learn to live without massive amounts of credit and dependency on the big banks.  Kick the habit of charging on the plastic.  Cash is king.  in the long run, much of what we own is merely stuff and totally unnecessary.  There is certain freedom in living free of credit and debt.

Thanks to my friend, Gene Melchionne at Consumer Bankruptcy Tips for posting this video by a musician who filed bankruptcy through a New York bankruptcy attorney he knows.  “It says it all,” as Gene says.

Kansas Bankruptcy Court Proposes Rules Changes

Here is the redlined version of the proposed changes to the local Kansas bankruptcy rules about formatting mailing matrices and the taxation and payment of costs. Comments on the proposed rules should be submitted to the Kansas bankruptcy court clerk by December 17, 2012.

Mailing Matrix Format


(a) General Requirements. A matrix not electronically filed must be prepared as follows:
(b) Matrix Required. An optically scannable creditor(s) matrix, signed and verified as provided in Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1008, is required when:
(1) a new case (all chapters) is filed,
(2) an amendment to a case (all chapters) is filed containing additional creditors. This matrix must list only those creditors added.
(c) Original. A matrix must be an original printed document on standard bond paper that is free of headers, footers, titles, lines, marks, or smudges.
(d) Fonts/Typefaces. Parties must prepare matrices in one of the following a standard typefaces or print styles:. Courier 10 pitch, Prestige Elite 12 pitch, or Letter Gothic 12 pitch are recommended. Do not use script, ornamental, calligraphic, or symbol fonts. Character pitch must match character spacing. Do not use proportional spacing. Dot matrix printer fonts are not scannable and will not be accepted. [Read more…]

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Fees Up

Bankruptcy court fees increase 11/21/2012:

  • Chapter 9 Petition $1046, increases to $1213
  • Chapter 11 Petition $1046, increases to $1213
  • Chapter 15 Petition $1046, increases to $1213
  • Motion to Convert Chapter 7 to Chapter 11 (filed by the debtor) $755, increases to $922
  • Motion to Convert Chapter 13 to Chapter 11 (filed by the debtor) $765, increases to $932
  • Motions to Divide a Joint Case Chapter 11 case $1046, increases to $1213
  • Motions to Reopen a Case Chapter 11 $1000, increases $1167

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Advantages

Here are posts by my colleagues at Bankruptcy Law Network telling us the advantages of filing chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Top 5 Reasons to File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Advantages of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Why File Chapter 13

13 Reasons to File a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy


Photo Credit: LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by walknboston

Kansas Bankruptcy Filings Drop 10.6%

Kansas bankruptcy filings fell 10.6% in the federal courts fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.  That compares with the 14% fall nationally, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Filings were down for all bankruptcy chapters:

  • Chapter 7  (liquidation) 16%
  • Chapter 13 (individual repayment plans) 10%
  • Chapter 11 (businesses or individuals with high income or debts) 12%
  • Chapter 12 (family farmers) 20%

Business filings fell 16% and consumer cases were down 14% nationally.

The 10.6% decrease in Kansas bankruptcy filings compares to 11.3% in Colorado, 16.3% New Mexico, 7.7 Northern Oklahoma (Tulsa), 10.2% Eastern Oklahoma, 9.4% Western Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), 13.1% Utah, 11.0% Wyoming, 8% Eastern Missouri (St. Louis), 13.6% Western Missouri (Kansas City), and 17% Nebraska.

Kansas saw 3.20 bankruptcy filings per 1,000 people in fiscal year 2012 ranking 30th in the country in chapter 7 filings and 18th in chapter 13 filings. There were 11 cases filed for family farmers, and 51 chapter 11 cases filed in Kansas. Chapter 11 is usually filed by corporations or individuals with large debts. About a third of the consumer filings (3,150) in Kansas were chapter 13 and 6,089 chapter 7 cases were filed for a total of 9,301 bankruptcy filings.

Plan completion rates far higher than the national average show chapter 13 bankruptcy works in Topeka, Kansas.  Debtors are receiving discharges and successfully adjusting their debts more often than not in this midwestern division.


How to See Your Chapter 13 Payments Online

The chapter 13 trustees in Topeka and Kansas City, KS, give debtors free online access  to  their chapter 13 bankruptcy records. You may view payments coming in and disbursements going out to “monitor the progress you are making toward your financial recovery.”

How to Access Your Chapter 13 Case Information on the Internet

To view your case on line, you must register for a Username and Pasword on our website, You will need your Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition to create your user name and confirm information on the petition.

We encourage you to sign up for online access so you may view your case records at any time.  You may confirm a payment has been received and you can see the trustee payments going out to your creditors.  No need for time consuming telephone calls or waiting for the annual report from the trustee to get up to date information about your case.