Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.
Question: “do we have to be way behind in our bills to file chapter 8?”
Answer: There are two possible Chapters under which you’d file for bankruptcy protection: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. In a Chapter 7 your assets would be liquidated (i.e. sold) and the proceeds would be used to repay your unsecured creditors. In a Chapter 13, you can keep your assets, but you must make monthly payments into a “plan” for 3 to 5 years, and the bankruptcy trustee will disburse those funds to the unsecured creditors.
The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that if you filed under Chapter 7, your house would be sold and the proceeds would go to the credit card companies. If you filed under Chapter 13, then you may be able to keep the house if you can afford to make the monthly payments to the plan. The amount you’d have to pay per month partially depends on the value of your assets because after the plan is completed, each creditor must at least have gotten the same amount it would have gotten had your assets (such as your house) been immediately sold. Therefore, if your house is worth quite a bit you may not be able to afford the monthly payments required to keep it. My suggestion is that you consult with a local bankruptcy attorney who can review your financial picture in its entirety and then advise you as to the best route to take.
In answer to your specific question quoted above, you do not have to be behind in your bills to file for bankruptcy, and therefore, you can file immediately if that makes the most sense for you.
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DISCLAIMER: Please understand that the complexities of most legal problems cannot be adequately addressed in this setting, and that I am only licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland. Accordingly, you acknowledge (1) that we have not formed an attorney-client relationship, and (2) that my post is general information only and not specific legal advice.