Bankruptcy filings in Oklahoma declined by as much as 10 percent last year in some parts of the state, according to data released this week by the U.S. Courts system.
Bankruptcy filings for the Western District of Oklahoma, which includes Oklahoma City and most of the western half of the state, dropped from 7,315 in 2011 to 6,574 in 2012, a decrease of 10.1 percent.
Cristy Cash director of counseling for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma, said she believes that low unemployment rates in the state have fewer people looking to bankruptcy as a way to solve their debt problems.
“People are looking for other ways to pay their debt other than bankruptcy,” Cash said.
“I think the reasons for that are that the economy is improving and people have renewed hope and more income.”
In Oklahoma's Northern District, which includes Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma, bankruptcy filings declined from 3,796 in 2011 to 3,534 in 2012, down 6.9 percent.
There were 1,862 bankruptcy filings in 2012 in Oklahoma's Eastern District, which encompasses southeastern Oklahoma, down from 2,008 filings in 2011.
Nationally, bankruptcy filings declined 13 percent in 2012 from the previous year, from about 1.4 million filings in 2011 to 1.2 million in 2012.
A local breakdown of business versus nonbusiness bankruptcy filings for 2012 has yet to be released by the U.S. Courts system.
Nationally, personal bankruptcies declined 13 percent in 2012 from the previous year, from about 1.3 million new filings in 2011 to 1.18 million filings in 2012.
Business bankruptcy filings in the United States fell from 47,806 in 2011 to 40,075 in 2012, a 16 percent decrease.
Grant Price, court clerk for U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma said that while he's noticed a decline in filings over the past year, it hasn't meant less work for him and his staff, because of federal budget cuts that have led to staffing consolidations in the judiciary system, he said.
“Fewer filings may be a good sign for the economy, but it's not necessarily good for court clerks,” Price said.
Although bankruptcy filings have been declined over the past year, Patrick Moore, Oklahoma City bankruptcy attorney said he hasn't noticed a corresponding drop-off in business.
He has seen an increase in clients interested in filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy over Chapter 7 liquidation filings.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor can keep his or her property and repay debts over a period of three to five years.
Many of Moore's clients turn to Chapter 13 bankruptcy to help avoid losing a home to foreclosure, he said.
“I think there are more people that realize you can stop a foreclosure or relieve some of their bills for three to five years,” he said.
People are looking for other ways to pay their debt other than bankruptcy.”
director of counseling for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma