Since bankruptcy law is Federal Law under Title 11 of the United States Code, cases are filed in Federal Court. My office represents clients in the Southern District of Florida, which covers Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties as well as Monroe County and the Florida Keys. The 2005 changes in bankruptcy law, by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act are fully integrated into our practice.
If you have been having difficulty covering shortfalls in your monthly bills, missed mortgage payments or had to borrow to pay your car note, you are experiencing financial difficulties and should not go through this alone. At the Law Office of David T. Seif, we personally handle each client's legal matter and get to know the specific facts and circumstances that lead to your financial situation.
Every day we have clients call and ask the following questions:
- Can I lose my car?
- Can the sheriff throw me out of my home?
- Can creditors garnish my wages or seize my property?
Our office offers a free initial consultation to all of our clients. During this consultation we learn about your financial circumstances and can make a determination whether bankruptcy chapters 7, 11 or 13 might offer debt relief to our potential client. Additionally, our office offers payment plans to assist our clients in being able to obtain legal representation.
HOW IT WORKS
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor files a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the individual lives or where the business debtor is organized or has its principal place of business.
In addition to the petition, the debtor must also file: schedules of assets and liabilities; a schedule of current income and expenditures; and a statement of financial affairs. Individual debtors with primarily consumer debts must also file: a certificate of credit counseling; evidence of payment from employers; and a statement of monthly net income and expenses. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. Even if filing jointly, a husband and wife are subject to all the document filing requirements of individual debtors.
In order to complete the forms that make up the petition, the debtor must provide the following information:
- A list of all creditors and the amount and nature of their claims;
- The source, amount, and frequency of the debtor's income;
- A list of all of the debtor's property; and
- A detailed list of the debtor's monthly living expenses, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, etc.
Filing a Chapter 7 petition "automatically stays" (stops) most collection actions against the debtor or the debtor's property. The stay arises by operation of law and requires no judicial action. While the stay is in effect, creditors generally may not initiate or continue lawsuits, wage garnishments, or even telephone calls demanding payments. Creditors receive notice of the filing from the bankruptcy clerk.
Debtors must cooperate with the trustee and provide any financial records or documents that the trustee requests. The Bankruptcy Code requires the trustee to ask the debtor questions at the meeting of creditors (341 Hearing) to ensure that the debtor is aware of the potential consequences of seeking a discharge in bankruptcy. These include: the effect on credit history; the effect of receiving a discharge; and the effect of reaffirming a debt. Bankruptcy judges are prohibited from attending the meeting of creditors in order to preserve their independent judgment.
A Chapter 7 discharge releases the debtors from personal liability for most debts and prevents creditors from taking collection actions against the debtor.
Debtors can retain certain secured property (such as an automobile), if they decide to "reaffirm" the debt. A reaffirmation is an agreement between the creditor and debtor where the debtor remains liable for the debt and pays all or a portion of the money owed, even though the debt could be discharged in the bankruptcy. Debtors must decide to reaffirm a debt, before the discharge is entered.
HOW IT WORKS
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is often referred to as reorganization bankruptcy. While Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes out most of your debts and you relinquish property that isn't exempt from seizure by your creditors, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to keep the property, but you must use your income to pay some or all of what you owe to your creditors over time. Depending on the size of your debts and income that period is from three to five years.
The most important part of a Chapter 13 is the repayment plan. Your repayment plan describes in detail how (and how much) you will pay monthly for all of your debts.
In a Chapter 13, priority debts must be paid in full. Priority debts are considered sufficiently important to jump to the head of the bankruptcy repayment line. They include: child support and alimony, wages you owe to employees, and certain tax obligations.
Plans must also include regular payments on secured debts, such as a car loan or mortgage, as well as repayment of any arrearages on the debts you’ve fallen behind in.
Chapter 13 plans must show that any disposable income – after making these required payments – will go towards repaying unsecured debts, such as credit card or medical bills. Unsecured debts do not have to be repaid in full – or at all, in some cases. But disposable income must go towards their repayment.
The length of your repayment plan depends on how much you earn and how much you owe.