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Personal bankruptcies hit record high
Survey finds that about one in every 53 households filed for bankruptcy protection in 2005.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The number of consumer bankruptcy filings surged to a record high in 2005 amid changes to bankruptcy law, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Filings soared 31.6 percent to 2.04 million last year, with about one in every 53 households filing for bankruptcy, according to Lundquist Consulting, an industry group that tracks bankruptcy statistics.

"The number of consumers seeking relief of their debts through bankruptcy was at an all-time high in 2005. However, since the new law went into effect on October 17, relatively few consumers have used the new bankruptcy system," said Chris Lundquist, founder of Lundquist Consulting.

A new bankruptcy law went into effect last year, making it harder for consumers to prove that they should be allowed to clear their debts in what's known as a "fresh start" -- or Chapter 7 -- bankruptcy.

Those filings, which provide consumers with the greatest relief of their debts, increased 47.2 percent in 2005, according to the survey. Chapter 13 consumer filings, which require consumers to repay a part of their debts, declined 7.9 percent.

Fewer than 2 percent of all 2005 filings were made after the new legislation was enacted as households rushed to file early and take advantage of the old bankruptcy law, the survey said.

According to the Lundquist survey, bankruptcy filings increased in all regions, with the largest number found in California, where filings rose about 36 percent to nearly 165,000.

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