There are three parts of the cost of filing bankruptcy:
The attorney's fee we charge depends on how simple or complicated your case is. People often ask us to quote a fee over the phone for a bankruptcy case before we have even met with them. It's not possible to give a sensible answer to that question until we have at least met with you and understand your situation. But if you read our client reviews we think you will see that our clients are very happy they came to us and several reviews specifically mention that our fees are reasonable.
This is one of the most commonly asked questions. Of course bankruptcy is a black mark on any credit report. The fact of a bankruptcy filing can be reported on your credit report for a maximum of 10 years. On the other hand, consider that if you are thinking about bankruptcy your credit reputation is most likely already heavily damaged, so bankruptcy may not make it any worse than it already is. If someone has a record of repossessions or judgments and is heavily in debt, it's doubtful he or she will be able to get a bank loan simply by avoiding bankruptcy.
Also keep in mind that judgments stay alive in Florida for 20 years and can be renewed for another 20 years, so the 10-year credit reporting of bankruptcy may be better than having much longer-term judgments in effect.
Finally, your credit worthiness may look more attractive if you are no longer have so much debt hanging over your head.
Either spouse can file on his or her own. It is not required that they both file.
No, they will not be seized. We are used to seeing situations where several people's property are mixed together. The bankruptcy papers you file with the court have a special section where you can list things in your possession that actually belong to someone else. We see this in roommate situations, people storing items for other people, and items on loan from one person to another. Be aware that if you have transferred property to your children for the purpose of safeguarding it from your creditors, your children cannot keep those items and you may seriously harm your chances of a success in bankruptcy court.
The court looks to see the source of the funds in the account. That is, whose money is it really? If the money in your mother's account came from her retirement checks, and your name is on the account just to be able to write checks for her in the event she is unable to do so, the court will not touch it. If you are in this situation, we can report to the court that you have "legal title only" to the account (because your name is on the bank's signature card) but the "equitable title" (true ownership) lies with your parent. But if you deposited some of your own money into the account, your deposits are subject to seizure.
Yes, the property you are allowed to keep is called your "exempt property." You can review the list of exempt property in Florida on our website today.
For many people, credit cards cause more harm than good. They lead to impulse buying and mask the real pain of paying cash or even writing a check. Many people think they cannot live without a credit card, but anthropologists have dug up some ancient bones and discovered there was life before Visa. For an alternative option, consider the debit cards available at Walmart with fairly low fees and no credit check. You can also search online for prepaid credit cards or secured credit cards. You pay some money in advance and you get a credit card for that limit amount. It’s not really a credit card, because the bank already has your money, but it allows you to pay for things online, rent cars, etc.
We have many clients that are drowning in debt, but they appear to be "making it" despite having depleted their savings. They emphasize at our consultation that they “are current on all their debts.” Yet, they can see the writing on the wall. They are staying current by using up their savings and even cashing in retirement accounts. Often they have transferred the debt from one credit card to another in search of temporary low interest rates and pre-approved credit cards. Ask yourself what your total monthly credit card and loan payment is. Then ask yourself if you have enough income left over each month after paying normal living expenses to pay the minimum payment on all that debt. If you can't, then you are traveling backwards, even though you haven't defaulted on a loan yet.
Bankruptcy does not change your moral obligation to repay your debts; it only changes your creditors' abilities to use the legal process to force you to pay them. If you feel obligated to pay your debts, the law welcomes you to voluntarily pay your debts even after bankruptcy has forgiven them. And, if you pay a little bit towards a debt that has been legally forgiven in bankruptcy, that will not re-ignite the old debt, it remains extinguished. You would be free to pay any of your old creditors, in whatever order you wanted, however much you wanted, and when you wanted to do so.
Yes, you can continue to pay debts, even after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. If the debt has collateral, then you can formally agree to be bound to that particular contract (like a vehicle or home purchase agreement) in what is called a Reaffirmation Agreement. If there is no collateral for the debt (cash loan from your parents or a friend) then you can continue to pay the debt on a voluntary basis. In either case, however, you must list and disclose in your bankruptcy papers all your debts, even the debts you intend to continue to pay.
A normal Chapter 7 takes about 3.5 months, but the relief is granted the moment your bankruptcy papers are filed. A Chapter 13 is usually a 36-60 month payment plan and is over about the time you make your last payment.
Yes, our Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyers accept payment plans. You can start with as little as $200 and we begin preparing your court papers, which are extensive and take some time. Keep in mind, however, that a Chapter 7 case cannot be filed with the court until all the fees are paid in full. Why? If you still owe our firm for unpaid fees when we file your case that makes our own firm one of your creditors—and we obviously don't want to file bankruptcy against our own firm!
There is an exception in Chapter 13 cases. We will sometimes accept some portion of our fees after you have filed from the monthly payments you make to the court. That depends in part on how regular and predictable your income is.
Why is bankruptcy better than those "debt management" companies that advertise on TV and radio? Those folks want to negotiate with your creditors, but the creditors don't have to agree to anything. In Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, we don't need the agreement of the creditors. The law just tells them how it is. Creditors may get something or they may get nothing, but they don't get to vote (except in Chapter 11 cases).