Can all my debt be discharged or erased in bankruptcy?
Generally speaking, if you file bankruptcy, your debt will be discharged. However, there are exceptions. We will be glad to discuss the specifics of your situation during a free consultation. In the meantime, here are some examples of debts not generally dischargeable in bankruptcy:
- Taxes (in some cases tax debt may still be dischargeable.)
- Child or spousal support payment obligations
- Debt incurred as a result of DUI
- Student Loans
- Condo and Homeowners Association dues
- Debts incurred by way of fraud and malicious injury
- Debts incurred by way of criminal activity
How much does it cost to file bankruptcy?
The expenses incurred in filing bankruptcy with Stopa Law Firm include the cost to file the bankruptcy petition, the cost to pull your credit report, and a fee for our legal representation. The filing fee and the credit report fee are fixed costs that must be paid even if you were to file a bankruptcy without a lawyer (which, as discussed below, is not recommended).
Currently, in Florida, the cost to file a Chapter 7 petition is $299.00, while the cost to file a Chapter 13 petition is $274.00. The cost to obtain your credit report (which must be pulled because it contains information that is important to the handling of your case) is approximately $40.00.
As for our firm’s fees, Stopa Law Firm represents hundreds of Floridians in difficult financial circumstances. We realize you’re struggling financially, and we pride ourselves on treating you fairly. In fact, we believe this is one big reason why we have so many clients. During our initial consultation with you, we will be happy to discuss the specific fees you will incur if we represent you in bankruptcy court, as our fees may vary depending on the type of bankruptcy you file and your unique circumstances.
What does the bankruptcy process entail?
The bankruptcy process actually starts long before a person files a petition with the bankruptcy court. We call this the planning phase and consider it the most critical element of the bankruptcy process. Poor planning before filing a petition could cause the bankruptcy court to dismiss a case or cost a person hundreds or thousands of dollars. In our opinion, the fees that you will incur with Stopa Law Firm are a small price to pay to prevent such problems and to ensure your case is handled effectively.
Will I have to go to court?
No. But you will have to attend what is called a 341 Meeting, also known as a Creditors Meeting. As the name indicates, it is a meeting, not a formal hearing before a judge in a courtroom. Though your creditors have the right to appear at your 341 Meeting, they rarely do. The Trustee assigned to your case will be present and he or she will ask you, under oath, important questions regarding the petition that your attorney filed on your behalf with the bankruptcy court.
At Stopa Law Firm, we always attend 341 Meetings with our clients. The meetings are relatively informal. If you choose our firm to represent you, we will have prepared a thoughtful and precise petition and timely provided all required paperwork to the Trustee, which tends to ensure a quick and stress-free 341 meeting.
I have recently used my credit cards. Is that a problem in bankruptcy?
Perhaps. Use of a credit card right before filing bankruptcy may result in the credit card company objecting to that portion of your debt being discharged, especially if the credit card use took place within 90 days of filing your bankruptcy petition and the amount was over $500. The bankruptcy code states that any credit card use within 90 days of filing is presumed to be non-dischargeable. A creditor may also object to the discharge of your debt even if the credit card was used more than 90 days from the time of filing if they can prove that it was used fraudulently or under false pretenses.
But don’t worry. Recent credit card use is not the death knell for your plans to file bankruptcy. Call us and will be able to help you plan around such activities.
How long does the bankruptcy process take?
If you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and it is a no asset case, the entire process takes approximately four months from the day the bankruptcy petition is filed with the bankruptcy court. A no asset case is one in which there are no assets to liquidate and distribute to creditors. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases are no asset cases. If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you will be assigned a payment plan for the term of anywhere between 36 months and 60 months. If you choose to retain us, Stopa Law Firm will let you know the required length of your plan and the amount of each payment. The bankruptcy judge will not sign your order of discharge of all remaining debts until after your Chapter 13 plan is complete.
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?
Businesses may not file bankruptcy without being represented by an attorney. Individuals, however, may file bankruptcy without being represented by an attorney. Individuals that do so are called “pro se” filers. If you are considering filing your bankruptcy petition pro se, you should consider that bankruptcy has significant long-term consequences. Additionally, pro se filers are required to follow the bankruptcy code and federal court procedure, and failure to do so could result in the dismissal of your case.
Stopa Law Firm strongly recommends that you retain a competent and experienced attorney to represent you in your bankruptcy proceeding.