The 2005 reforms, driven by an exaggerated concern that debtors might game the system, instituted a series of paper-intensive procedural safeguards. All debtors must produce documents that estimate potential increases in expenses or income during the year to come, a monthly net income statement and a complex “means test calculation” that certifies expenditures in a large number of specific, carefully defined categories.

The result is a lawyer- and paperwork-centered system in which the families most in need of quick relief wait months to save up for the filing costs and attorneys’ fees necessary to file a bankruptcy petition. Although total expenses vary a great deal, the statutory filing fees are now almost $300 and lawyer’s fees alone average more than $1,000.

Ronald Mann, professor, Columbia: via NYT