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Bankruptcy FAQs

You probably have questions about bankruptcy, how process works and what the possible outcomes will be...
To assist you, we have compiled the following list of frequently asked questions, or bankruptcy FAQ, for Florida residents.

(1) What is bankruptcy in Florida?

If a person or business does not have enough money to pay their bills, they may file for bankruptcy in federal court. Bankruptcy is a legal way for people and businesses to either: (a) work out a plan to repay their debts over time, or (b) completely eliminate debts. These proceedings occur under the protection of bankruptcy law and the court. You can receive further protection and advice from a Florida bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy in Florida (and the rest of the nation) is governed by federal law contained in Title 11 of United States Code. Individual states such as Florida are not allowed to regulate bankruptcy, but state law may affect other things such as the property you are allowed to keep after a bankruptcy.

(2) Do the new bankruptcy laws enacted in 2005 mean that I am not allowed to file for bankruptcy in Florida?

No. In general, the new bankruptcy laws will not prevent you from filing bankruptcy. However, the new bankruptcy laws have placed limits on eligibility for Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy. Under the new bankruptcy laws, filers with higher incomes may have to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and pay off some of their debts. In addition, new bankruptcy laws may require you to receive budget counseling, credit counseling, and debt management education.

(3) What do Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy mean?

These 4 different chapters of bankruptcy can be broken down as follows:
Chapter 7-this is a "liquidation" bankruptcy for individuals or businesses. By filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your non- exempt assets may be sold to pay down your debt. You will be able to keep any property that is exempt under Florida and federal law. Most people who file Chapter 7 do not have any non-exempt assets to sell; therefore, they lose no property at all and their unsecured debt (i.e., unsecured credit cards) is erased.

Chapter 11-this bankruptcy is typically used by businesses that need to reorganize their finances because of monetary distress. In rare cases, Chapter 11 bankruptcy may be used by high-income, high-debt individuals.

Chapter 12-this bankruptcy is for individuals whose debts come from the operation of a family farm.

Chapter 13-this is a "reorganization" or "wage earner" bankruptcy. People who file Chapter 13 bankruptcy must earn enough of a reliable income to pay off some of their debts. Once you file for Chapter 13, you will have to submit a payment plan showing how you will pay debts over the next 3-5 years. The amount of debt you repay will depend on your income, your expenses, and other factors.

(4) Can I file for bankruptcy in Florida without a bankruptcy lawyer?

You can file for bankruptcy without the assistance of a Florida bankruptcy attorney, but it is not recommended. Bankruptcy laws and forms are very technical and are not written in layperson's terms. If you try to file without an attorney, you could lose valuable rights and property, or your case could be dismissed altogether. The financial risk of representing yourself in a bankruptcy case is substantially larger than the fees you would pay to a bankruptcy attorney. We offer a free initial consultation with a Tampa bankruptcy attorney, so there is nothing to lose by discussing your bankruptcy case with us.

(5) How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy in Florida, and how do I pay that amount?

The filing fee for bankruptcy is the same in every state, including Florida. The current nationwide filing fees are as follows:
Chapter 7: $299
Chapter 11: $1,039
Chapter 12: $239
Chapter 13: $274

In addition to the above filing fee, there will also be attorney fees (if you hire an attorney) and possibly minor fees for credit counseling, etc. Several different arrangements are available for paying filing fees and bankruptcy attorney fees, depending on the case. For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filing fees and attorney fees are sometimes paid in installments. Another possibility is:
(1) hiring a bankruptcy attorney,
(2) notifying your creditors about the bankruptcy, and
(3) redirecting the money you would have used to pay your creditors and using it to pay your attorney and filing fees. Our Tampa bankruptcy attorney fees may vary slightly from case to case, but at the same time we realize our clients are in a difficult financial situation. Therefore, we try to make our fees as affordable as possible.

We understand that our list of bankruptcy FAQ may not answer all your questions about bankruptcy in Florida.

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