Bankruptcy Overview presented by Our Gainesville Attorneys
Bankruptcy is a powerful law. Let it work for you.
If you are worrying about money and debts, you have come to the right place. Call us if you want a free consultation. Our Gainesville office is conveniently located on Newberry Road. Free parking, of course. Below you will find an overview of bankruptcy law as it applies to Florida residents. Click on blue links for in-depth information.
Types of Bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy comes in several flavors, called "Chapters." Most people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A smaller number file Chapter 13. The law provides that if you can't afford to make any payments to your creditors, then you may file a Chapter 7. However, if you have the ability to make at least partial repayment of repayment to your creditors, then you should pay what you can in a Chapter 13. Businesses reorganize their debts in a Chapter 11. Farmers can file Chapter 12, but they are extremely rare. About 2/3 of all cases filed are Chapter 7, about 1/3 are Chapter 13, and only 1% are Chapter 11. Chapter 12's are so rare they don't even show up as a sliver on the pie chart.
Data for year ending September, 2014, from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, home to about 10 million of Florida's 18 million inhabitants.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
People file Chapter 7 to get foregiveness of debt from credit cards, loans, repossessions, medical bills, and to get out from under a house loan that is "upside down" (mortgage balance higher than value of home). You are allowed to preserve, or keep, certain assets, called "exempt property" in a Chapter 7 case; see our list of Gainesville Florida bankruptcy exemptions. Find out more about
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Law.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
People file Chapter 13 either to save a home from foreclosure or because their income is so high they can afford to make some payment to creditors (and therefore do not qualify to file Chapter 7). Learn more about Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Law.
Which Chapter for you? The Bankruptcy Code has financial tests that determine
which Chapter is appropriate for you. We provide a chart showing a
comparison of Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13.
Chapter 11. Chapter 11 is for
business bankruptcy reorganization. Ordinary folks don't file Chapter 11 cases, which are complicated and expensive. Corporations can file either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11, but corporations are not permitted to file Chapter 13.
Chapter 12. Farmers can file a Chapter 12, but they are rare as hen's teeth and represent less than 1/2 of 1% of all cases filed. On average only a single Chapter 12 case is filed each month in the entire Middle District of Florida where more than 10 million Floridians live.
Qualifying for Bankruptcy
Amount of debt. There is no specific minimum amount of debt you must have in order to qualify to file bankruptcy although a person can be shut out of Chapter 13 by exceeding the
Chapter 13 debt limits.
Residency. Your residency controls where (in what state and in what courthouse) you can file your bankruptcy case. We have an in-depth explanation of the
rules of bankruptcy residency and how it affects
what bankruptcy exemption law applies to your case and also the correct
bankruptcy court in which to file your bankruptcy case. Because residency affects which law of exemptions will apply to your case; the Florida
list of Florida exempt property might not apply to your case even if you live in Florida now. Once you know where your case must be filed, you can view a
map of the areas of Florida served by Ruff & Cohen to see if you live in a county we normally serve from our two offices.
Income Limits. To qualify for Chapter 7 there are
limits on how much income you can have. These limits involve the concepts of
median income, the
means test, and the "primarily business debt exception."
The Bankruptcy Process
There is a process to bankruptcy, and it all starts with the client deciding it's time to talk to a lawyer. That's a point where many people hesitate, but it's really just an email or a phone call. Plus, the consultation is just a chance to talk, ask questions, and learn. Most bankruptcy lawyers, including us, offer a free consultation, so it doesn't cost anything but your time. After the consultation you will understand what bankruptcy law has to offer your particular situation. In most situations our clients present to us, bankruptcy can resolve a significant portion of their money problems. We explain
the bankruptcy process from the free consultation all the way to the end of the case.
Life After Bankruptcy
If you know anyone who has filed bankruptcy and you feel comfortable talking about it with him or her, do so. The vast majority of those who have filed bankruptcy are glad they did; their only regret is that they did not do so sooner. Why hold on to stress if it can be relieved? Learn more about life after bankruptcy.
You have questions
Naturally you will have questions. Some questions seem to get asked on a regular basis by clients and we have put together a group of very short videos addressing these issues. You can also read answers to
Frequently Asked Questions.
You have company
If you fear that filing bankruptcy will permanently ruin your reputation, take a look at this list of famous people who filed bankruptcy. You may be surprised at the names you see.
Mortgages, foreclosures, short sales, and Chapter 13
Everyone knows that there has been an unprecedented (at least in our lifetimes) recent surge in the number of mortgage foreclosures all over this country. Yet the topics of mortgages, second mortgages, defaults, acceleration, short sales and
saving a home from foreclosure are areas of mystery to many people because it's not something they will ever deal with more than a handful of times. But you can take the short course in this area by clicking
here and you can get a decent handle on the whole story from beginning to end.
Choosing your bankruptcy lawyer
If you make the decision to file bankruptcy your next decision will be choosing a bankruptcy lawyer. You probably should not handle your bankruptcy case on your own nor have a "paralegal" try to do it for you. Why not? You may have heard that there was a significant change in the bankruptcy law a few years ago. The change was the 2005 bankruptcy "reform" act. USA TODAY published an article on December 22, 2011, observing that the new law was intended to close loopholes but also had the effect of adding a lot of additional work to the bankruptcy process -- making bankruptcy representation more costly than it had been. Then the article stated:
To avoid the cost, debtors could file for bankruptcy without an attorney, or "pro se." But there is greater need to be represented, because the system is too complex to successfully handle alone... Although the system is less tolerant of mistakes, there are more opportunities for even seasoned attorneys to make errors, the study said. [emphasis added.]
There are several reasons to consider hiring our law firm to represent you in your bankruptcy case. On invitation, our attorneys have
presented speeches on bankruptcy law to groups of other bankruptcy attorneys on several occasions, even at the Florida Bar Annual Convention. Or you can look at the individual qualifications, experience, and industry recognition of attorneys
Eric S. Ruff and of
Lisa C. Cohen. You may want to look at
reviews of Eric S. Ruff on Avvo.com, where he is rated a Superb Attorney or
reviews of Lisa C. Cohen on Avvo.com where she is also rated Superb Attorney. You can read
what some of our clients say about their experience with our firm. Or, you may want to consider that when a certain well known newspaper wanted a bankruptcy lawyer's opinion about the former chairman of Lehman Brothers selling his multi-million dollar Florida home to his wife for just $10, the reporter for the
New York Times contacted our attorney Eric S. Ruff for his opinion. If you decide to contact us, we are easy to reach. You can call us on the telephone, email us, submit an
Online Consultation form, or even use the "Click to Call" button on the right side of this page to be instantly connected to our office. It takes only a few moments to set up your free consultation and you can see a
map to our Gainesville office. We look forward to helping you.