Many people ask, "What are the residency requirements to qualify for bankruptcy?" First understand that residency doesn't decide whether you can file some type of bankruptcy, it determines where you can file bankruptcy and which set of property exemptions will apply to your case.
As far as whether you can file, the answer (at least as far as residency is concerned) is always "Yes, you can file bankruptcy, no matter where you live." The first real question is "where can you file?" To answer that, you need to understand the federal bankruptcy "map."
Our Gainesville bankruptcy lawyers explain more below!
Start with the concept that all bankruptcy is federal law, not state law. That is to say, you can't file a bankruptcy case in a Florida State Court, only in a Florida Federal Court. Using a County map, each state is subdivided into Federal "Districts." Florida is divided into three Federal Districts, the Northern District, the Middle District, and the Southern District. As a result, if you want to know what Federal District you are in, you only need to locate your County on the Florida Federal District map.
Once you know which District you live in, the next question is which Courthouse do you file in, because each District is subdivided into "Divisions" and each division has its own bankruptcy courthouse. For example, the Middle District of Florida is divided into four Divisions known as the Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Ft. Myers Divisions, and there is a bankruptcy courthouse in each of those cities.
The main importance of divisions is that it tells you which Florida city has the bankruptcy courthouse where your creditors’ meeting will be held and any hearings on your bankruptcy case will be held. For example, the creditors’ meeting for people who live in Bradford County will be heard at the bankruptcy courthouse in Jacksonville.
There are two common ways to figure out what Federal District you are permitted to file your case in. One is (1) where you have been living and the other is (2) where your principal assets have been located. For both ways, the critical time period is the 180 days before the bankruptcy is filed. The precise questions asked by the Court are "In what Federal District have you lived for the greatest portion of the 180 days period before you filed your bankruptcy case?" and "In what Federal District were your principal assets located in the 180 period before you filed your bankruptcy case?"
You may have already figured this out, but since you get to decide when you file your bankruptcy case, it follows you also have some control over what calendar dates that 180 period will cover. In other words if you file today, we will be talking about the last 180 days measured backward from today. But if you delay the filing of your bankruptcy for a month, then the 180 period of time will cover a different set of dates, also going backwards 180 days, but measured from a date a month into the future, not measured from today. Sometimes, you need to delay filing your bankruptcy case to be able to file your case in the District where you live now.
Since most people decide the correct Federal District for filing bankruptcy based upon residency rather than location of principal assets, the Residency Rule is often boiled down to the following statement:
You are allowed to file bankruptcy within the Federal District where you are currently residing once you have been living in that area for at least 91 days. If you are under that requirement, you will have to file in the old district where you lived before.
For further answers to your questions, call (352) 376-3601 today. Our Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyers can help.