You’ve been in financial trouble since your divorce, so you moved to New York State to live with your parents. Although the reduction in living expenses helped, there’s no way you will be able to make a dent in all those credit card and medical bills before your creditors finally take legal action.

You decide to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But can you do it in New York, or do you have to file in Florida, where you used to live and where most of these debts were accumulated?

The answer to that question will depend on where most of your assets are located and where you’ve been living for the past 180 days. Your residency history will also determine whether you can use New York state exemptions to protect your personal property.

Let’s assume that during the 180 days before you filed, you lived in New York for 120 days and Florida for 60 days. For over five years, you’ve owned a cottage in Maine that your grandparents left you. Under the rules of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, you could file in New York, where you’ve lived for the majority of the 180 days or in Maine, where you own property. You cannot file in Florida because you don’t meet the residency requirement.

What about exemptions?

The Bankruptcy Code has a list of federal exemptions intended to protect your property. Some states have their own exemptions (New York is one of them.) However, whether you will be entitled to use state exemptions will depend on where you resided during the 730 days before you filed for bankruptcy.

If you lived in only one state, then the decision is easy. You can use that state’s exemption if it has one. If you lived in multiple states, then you can only use the exemption for the state where you lived during the 180 days before filing. If you had more than one residency during that period, then use the state where you lived the longest, so in your case, you can use New York’s.

Those who lived abroad during the 180-day period or who lived in several states over the past 730 days without any intention of establishing residency (for example, they were with the U.S. military or traveled regularly as digital nomads) will have to use federal bankruptcy exemptions.

State exemption availability is one of many questions you’ll have when you prepare to file for Chapter 7. If you’re unsure about your options, then a New York bankruptcy attorney will review them with you so that you get the best protection for your assets and feel confident that you received the information needed to make the right decision.

If you are considering filing bankruptcy, then contact Jayson Lutzky, P.C., a Bronx bankruptcy firm. Mr. Lutzky offers free consultations. You may reach his office at 718-514-6619.