Bankruptcy in Florida
Are you contemplating bankruptcy or hiring a bankruptcy attorney in Florida? Are you tired of creditors calling for payments you can’t make? Maybe looking for a way to get out of debt and have you exhausted all other options? Then bankruptcy might be the solution you seek. It is a legal option that can erase a portion or all of your debts.
Types of Bankruptcy in Florida
Bankruptcy is a legal process that helps individuals and businesses get a fresh financial start. It eliminates a portion of or all of their debts or financial liabilities. In Florida, to be approved, individuals must prove they have a hardship that prevents them from staying current on their financial obligations. Keep in mind that not all debts qualify. Some liabilities, such as child support arrears, delinquent taxes, alimony, and student loans generally do not qualify for discharge. Consumers who find themselves falling behind in debt can file either Chapter 7, 11 or 13. To determine which option is right for you, you’ll need to assess your goals, assets, and income. You should also consider working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Depending on where you live, you may need to appear at hearings in one of several federal bankruptcy courts. These legal matters fall under the authority of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of North, Middle, or South Florida.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Many people find Chapter 7 to be the right solution for their circumstances because it provides them with the opportunity to start over financially. However, before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should thoroughly assess your income and ability to repay what you owe. You should also speak with a bankruptcy attorney in Florida who can help you to decide if a liquidation plan is right for you.
Typically, individuals approved for Chapter 7 lack stable income or have experienced a change in circumstances that has resulted in an inability to manage their debts. Though Chapter 7 erases debts, the tradeoff is you may have to give up certain possessions, such as your home, car or some other assets. However, once you file your petition, an automatic stay goes into effect that requires all collection activity against you like foreclosures and garnishments, to stop temporarily. However, the automatic stay does not prevent all collection attempts. For example, if you owe child support or restitution for a criminal case, you are still liable for those payments.
The Florida Bar describes Chapter 7 bankruptcy as a “fresh start” for debtors. The process begins with filing a petition with the court and providing:
- Schedules of your assets and liabilities
- Statements of your financial affairs
- Schedules of your monthly expenditures and monthly income
- Schedules of unexpired leases or executory contracts
In general, a trustee should hold a meeting of creditors within 40 days of receiving your petition. Having a bankruptcy attorney on your side can help you best represent your interests, especially once you’ve reached this step. You’ll have to answer questions under oath about your motivations and current financial status.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is more complex than other types of bankruptcy. It is often used by businesses and certain types of people. It allows petitioners to restructure their debts with a reorganization plan, so they are easier to manage over a determined length of time, usually four to 18 months. The main benefit of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it does not require petitioners to sell off or liquidate their assets to pay what they owe. It does allow debtors to negotiate with their creditors a reorganization plan that enables them to stay current on their debts moving forward.
As long as you or your business meet the requirements, filing for Chapter 11 in Florida starts with a voluntary petition. Up to 60 days before, you will want to gather and record the following information:
- Certificate of credit counseling
- Statement of monthly net income
- Statement of anticipated increases in income or expenses
- Record of any interest in tuition accounts or state qualified education
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a debt restructuring or wage earners plan. In Florida after you file, the courts will assign a trustee to examine your liabilities and assets and ability to pay bills. Unlike other types of bankruptcy, Chapter 13 involves you restructuring your debt with a three to five-year repayment plan. The flexibility of this repayment plan will depend on what property you want to keep and how steady your income is. It may also give you the opportunity to have some or most of your debts discharged.
The United States Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of Florida says credit counseling is mandatory before filing. Along with any associated costs for that service, Floridians also need to pay a fee of $313 to get started. While you can expect to send follow-up paperwork, you need to provide upfront:
- Photo ID
- Creditor Matrix
- Voluntary Petition
- Statement About Social Security Numbers
- Initial Statement About an Eviction Judgment Against You
- Certificate of Credit Counseling and Debt Repayment Plan
The Bankruptcy Process in Florida
There is never an ideal time to declare bankruptcy. However, if you are unable to pay off what you owe within five years, filing for bankruptcy can help you to lessen the negative impact on your situation and help you get back on track.
In Florida to begin the filing process, gather all of your financial records, including monthly expenses, debts, assets and annual income. This information is crucial to give the courts an accurate picture of your circumstances. Failure to provide all necessary information can result in your petition being denied.
Florida law does provide exemptions for different types of property during bankruptcy proceedings. A homesteader or owner of a mobile home can keep an unlimited amount of equity, whereas most states cap this amount. Possessions other than real estate to consider are:
- Education, health, and hurricane savings
- Prescription health aids
- Tax credits and refunds
- Up to $1,000 in motor vehicle equity
At least six months before you file for bankruptcy, eliminate unnecessary spending. Do not run up the balances on your credit accounts. You’ll also need to complete an approved credit counseling course, usually online or over the phone. Credit counseling is necessary to help you learn financial literacy and help you learn better financial habits. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion to include in your filing. If you don’t have the certificate of completion from the credit counseling course that you took, the courts will reject your bankruptcy petition.
Work With an Experienced Florida Lawyer
Hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer in Florida during this process can help reduce the costly risks of self-representation in court. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer understands state and federal bankruptcy laws. He or she can help you understand which laws apply to your case, especially which debts that can be discharged or can’t be discharged. An experienced Florida attorney can also offer you guidance to improve the outcome of your case.
Keep in mind that there are debt management alternatives and financial resources that may benefit you more than bankruptcy, such as debt consolidation. Though bankruptcy is an attractive solution, it is best as a last resort. Do you need immediate help? Then one of our experienced lawyers in Florida can guide you through the entire bankruptcy process. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Florida state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!