Bankruptcy is a powerful tool for debt relief. It can provide a fresh start for people who have been living with the burden and stress of debt for years, and allow them to finally move forward. Unfortunately, there are many myths and misconceptions about bankruptcy that can scare people off before they learn about its benefits. When you work with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Jacksonville, they can help you pick the right option that will have the best impact on your financial future.
There are more than 2.4 million small businesses in Florida, employing more than 3.2 million people. If you are one of them, you might be wondering if bankruptcy is an option to reduce your debt. Depending on how your business is legally categorized, you’ll be able to file a Chapter 7, 11, or 13 case. An experienced bankruptcy attorney in Jacksonville can help you determine if bankruptcy is your best alternative. Because Florida is a homestead exemption state, there may be some other things to keep in mind as well. Each of these can have different effects on your business.
What Types of Bankruptcy Can I File?
In the US, there are a few different types of bankruptcy filing categories, called “Chapters.” Chapters 7 and 13 are usually used by individuals for personal filing. Chapter 11 is used for businesses. These can all mean different things for a small business in Florida.
Filing for bankruptcy can be a powerful tool for debt consolidation and relief. It can help you get out from under the financial burden weighing you down. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you may be wondering whether you should file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The right choice depends on your current income, assets, debts, and your future financial goals.
What are the Major Differences Between Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a relatively quick way to wipe out general, unsecured debt like medical bills and credit cards, and it requires no repayment. It is designed for people with little to no disposable income available to pay back debt. Although it wipes out most debts, it doesn’t clear particular types of debt such as taxes, student loans, or unpaid child support and alimony. When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your nonexempt property is sold to pay back your creditors. The “means test” will help determine if you’re eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you make more than the median income of your state and have some disposable income to pay off debt you may be forced to file Chapter 13 instead.
The primary reason people file for bankruptcy is to get rid of their debt and have a fresh start. But while many of your debts will be discharged in bankruptcy, some debts may remain after filing. Read on to learn more about how to reduce debt by filing for bankruptcy.
Which Debts are Not Discharged with Chapter 7
When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many of your debt will be discharged. There are some debts, however, that will not be wiped out. Some of these debts may be subject to denial or successfully objected by the creditor. Others are never dischargeable, meaning that they fall under a predetermined list of non-dischargeable debts. These include:
If you and your spouse are contemplating filing for bankruptcy, you may wonder if you are required to file jointly. Married couples can, in fact, file separately. When filing for bankruptcy in Jacksonville, married couples have the following options when choosing to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13:
- One spouse files individually
- Both spouses file individually
Falling on hard times financially can also lead to falling behind on your taxes. When your tax debt becomes extremely delinquent, the IRS may issue a garnishment on your wages. This garnishment, or levy, allows the IRS to take part of your wages each pay period. A garnishment will continue until you: A. make other arrangements to pay off your tax debt; B. your debt has been paid in full; or C. the levy has been released. Overwhelmed by the thought of losing your wages, you may wonder if filing for bankruptcy will relieve you from an IRS garnishment.
Filing for bankruptcy can in fact offer some relief from the stress of an IRS garnishment. Once you file bankruptcy, a court ordered automatic stay will immediately go into effect. This stay will stop any type of debt collection, including garnishments and seizures, for the duration of the bankruptcy case. However, since bankruptcy will not get rid of most tax debts, how your garnishment is affected after the case is over will depend on which type of bankruptcy is filed: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, all of your dischargeable debts will be wiped out. Since most tax debts are not dischargeable, they will remain. The IRS garnishment will, however, be temporarily halted due to the automatic stay while your bankruptcy case is processed. When your case is over, you will still owe on your tax debt. For this reason, while Chapter 7 can offer a window of relief, it does not offer a long-term solution to the situation.
Dealing with a former spouse who is not paying their court-ordered share of child support can be an unfortunate hassle. Left with this financial and emotional burden, you may feel like you’ve made every attempt to collect but just aren’t getting anywhere. You may even be at the point where you’re asking yourself, “is withholding visitation an option?”
The answer to that question is no. You cannot refuse visitation if your ex is not paying child support. While you may be able to have your ex-spouse’s visitation rights modified in court, withholding visitation rights is considered custodial interference. Child support and visitation rights are two separate issues that should not be confused.
- Child support is determined in court, and must follow the guidelines of the Child Support Enforcement Act. These guidelines vary from state to state. The factors that are looked at include the child’s needs (health care, education, child care, etc.), the income and needs of the custodial parent, the paying parent’s income and the child’s standard of living before the divorce or separation.
If the debt from your student loans is overwhelming you, you’re not alone. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, an independent non-profit organization, 68% of students who graduated from both private and public colleges in 2015 had student loan debt. The debt average had risen 4% since 2014 to a whopping $30,100 per borrower in 2015.
While it can be challenging, it is not impossible to have student loan debt discharged in bankruptcy. In order for your student loan to be discharged, you must be able to prove that it is causing undue hardship. Courts use certain tests to make this determination. The most common is called the Brunner Test, in which courts will look for you to meet the following three criteria:
- You are unable to maintain a minimal standard of living for you and your dependents if you are required to continue paying your student loans.
When you face the unfortunate situation of falling behind on your credit card, mortgage, auto loan or other bills, you may also find you’ve become the victim of debt collection harassment. The goal of this type of harassment is to annoy, intimidate or bully a consumer into paying off a debt.
Debt collection harassment can come in different forms—email, direct mail or texts—but it is most often done by constant, repetitive phone calls. These phone calls are often designed to annoy and belittle not only the person who holds the debt, but also whoever happens to answer the phone. At worst they may contain profane language and threats. They might even contact your friends and neighbors about your debt, seeking to humiliate you.
Fortunately, you have rights. While debt collection agencies are legally permitted to collect the debt that is owed to a creditor, they are not legally permitted to use abusive tactics to collect this debt from you. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces something called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unreasonable and/or deceptive practices to collect a debt.