Bankruptcy is the federal court procedure offering a person or business the opportunity to eliminate or restructure their debts. Debts that can’t be paid may be forgiven, and creditors may get some amount of repayment depending on the filer’s ability to pay. Filing bankruptcy in Florida can be a difficult decision, but it provides the opportunity to start with a clean slate.
The Bankruptcy Process in Florida
Most of the bankruptcy process is governed by federal bankruptcy laws. This means that filing bankruptcy in Florida is much like filing in other states. There is some Florida-specific information that you’ll need to submit. There are also Florida exemptions to be aware of. The basic process of filing in Florida follows these steps.
- You’ll first need to determine which type of bankruptcy is right for your situation. The two most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is considered liquidation bankruptcy, while Chapter 13 is known as reorganization bankruptcy. Speak with a bankruptcy lawyer in Jacksonville who can help you decide which type makes the most sense for you.
- You’ll need to undergo credit counseling. The 2005 Bankruptcy Act requires that all individuals filing bankruptcy must first complete credit counseling within six months before filing. You must provide proof that you received this counseling from an agency that’s approved by the U.S. Trustee in Florida. Additionally, you must undergo a debtor education course after filing before a discharge is granted.
- Your financial circumstances will be evaluated by a means test when filing bankruptcy in Florida. This will determine if you are eligible to file for Chapter 7, or if you must file for Chapter 13. The courts will look at your average income over the past six months and compare it to the median income for Florida. If your income is below the median, you may file Chapter 7. If your income exceeds the median, you may still qualify for Chapter 7, but you’ll need to provide more details.
- Once you are approved for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the case begins by filing the petition for bankruptcy, schedule and statement of financial affairs. In these forms, all assets, debts and recent financial history must be listed. This can be the most time-consuming aspect of filing for bankruptcy in Florida. Filing with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help make the process go more smoothly. After your paperwork has been filed with the bankruptcy clerk in your district, and automatic stay will go into effect to ward off creditors.
- About a month after filing, you must attend a first meeting of creditors. You’ll be asked questions under oath about your assets and liabilities by the trustee. Creditors may ask questions, but typically do not. This meeting usually is brief, lasting around five to ten minutes.
- Providing there’s no adversary proceedings, individual debtors will usually receive their discharge or repayment plan within approximately four months of filing the case. The discharge wipes out any dischargeable debts that existed at the beginning of the case. The repayment plan begins your process of repaying your debts in a more attainable way.
Filing for Bankruptcy in Florida
The thought of filing for bankruptcy can be overwhelming, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the process. If you have questions about how bankruptcy works in Florida, contact the lawyers at Parker & DuFresne. We have decades of experience helping our bankruptcy clients file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 successfully. Call us at (904) 733-7766.