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Bankruptcy Court
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United States Bankruptcy Court
Middle District of Florida

George C. Young Federal Bldg
400 West Washington Street
Orlando, FL 32801

Bankruptcy Court Website

US Bankruptcy Court Location, Orlando Florida
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Bankruptcy - Information
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Two Paths to a Fresh Start: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

Bankruptcy law is about getting a fresh financial start. It is not about ”failure” or ”fault.” Bankruptcy law IS about protecting the rights of consumers and giving them a chance to start over again with a clean slate. There are many reasons perfectly responsible people are forced into bankruptcy. Lay offs, catastrophic medical bills, foreclosure, lawsuits, garnishments, and unconscionable credit card interest rates can push anyone past his or her ability to repay. At the Law Offices of Roy A. Praver we always treat our clients with respect and compassion, and we defend debtors’ rights.

The Bankruptcy Code provides for several types of bankruptcy. Named for the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code in which they are defined, the Chapters available under bankruptcy include Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13. For the vast majority of consumer debtor clients, only Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are options. Each of these chapters creates a different path to a fresh start because they are intended for people in different financial situations.

Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy should immediately stop all of the following:
  • Any creditors (including collections agencies) from corresponding with you at all, including phone calls, letters, etc.
  • Collection efforts from most entities you owe money too.
  • Any creditor from starting or continuing a law suit against you.
  • Repossessions.
  • Foreclosure proceedings and Trustee Sales.
  • Wage Garnishments or levies, even if garnishment orders are already in effect.
  • Lawsuits and hearings regarding collections.
 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

The powerful benefit of Chapter 7 is that it relieves the debtor of ever having to pay most types of debt. This permanent forgiveness of debt under Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is called a discharge. Chapter 7 is intended for debtors who do not have any income available after necessary expenses to make payment on their debts, and they also do not have any assets or property available to repay their debts. To qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge, the debtor must be able to show that his allowed monthly expenses exceed his income. Additionally, if a Chapter 7 debtor has any real estate or personal property of any value, the value must not exceed available ”exemption” amounts, or such assets may be taken from the debtor by the Bankruptcy Trustee, sold, with the proceeds distributed to the creditors.

Put another way, Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides the debtor with an unconditional discharge of his or her debt in exchange for a ”liquidation” of his or her non-exempt assets. Except for the debtor’s ”exempt” assets, all of the debtor’s remaining property becomes the property of the bankruptcy estate and administered by the Chapter 7 Trustee. The Trustee in turn may use the debtor’s assets to pay his or her creditors. In reality, a large majority of debtors who qualify for Chapter 7 do not possess any assets that are not exempt from taking by the Trustee. Such a debtor’s case is a ”no asset case.”

 Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

The protections available under Chapter 13 bankruptcy also provide powerful relief, but unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 is intended for the debtor who has sufficient income to pay some, but not all of his or her debts. If the debtor has steady income, and after all necessary monthly expenses, has at least some disposable income left to pay something toward all of his or her debts, then this amount is applied to a payment plan proposed by the Chapter 13 debtor and his or her attorney. Chapter 13 bankruptcy differs from Chapter 7 in several respects. Unlike in Chapter 7, the debtor filing bankruptcy under Chapter 13 keeps all property and assets owned outright. There is no danger in Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy trustee taking any property from the debtor. The only instance under Chapter 13 in which the debtor gives up any valuable asset occurs when the debtor decides voluntarily to surrender secured property, such as a home or a car, because he or she cannot afford to continue making payments for that property. The Chapter 13 debtor never has to give up anything that is already paid for.

Rather than a total liquidation of the debtor’s assets and prompt discharge, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan wherein the Bankruptcy Court “confirms“ or approves a reasonable repayment plan which may last up to five years during which time the debtor must make regular installment payments to pay down his or her debt. This means that a debtor with substantial equity in his or her home (that is, equity greater than the homestead exemption amount provided under the debtor’s state exemptions) may keep his or her property and avoid foreclosure while catching up on mortgage payments under the repayment plan. Additionally, Chapter 13 offers an additional protection to homeowners unavailable under Chapter 7. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, if the homeowner has more than one mortgage, and the first mortgage is ”unsecured,” meaning that the current fair market value of the home has depreciated to an amount less than the principle owed on the first mortgage, then the Chapter 13 debtor can have the second mortgage (together with any other ’junior’ liens against the property) “stripped“ from the property. This means that the second mortgage and any other junior liens become unsecured debt, just like credit card debt. The second mortgage holder can no longer foreclose on the property. Such a stripped mortgage gets added to all other unsecured debt, and is paid only to the extent that the Chapter 13 plan provides for some payment of unsecured debt, which may, depending on the amount of the payments called for under the Chapter 13 plan, be only pennies on the dollar.

We carefully evaluate whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is more appropriate for each client seeking bankruptcy protection. In order to make this determination, we ask our clients to provide us with detailed financial information concerning their assets, their income, their expenses, and their debts. Based on this information, we counsel our clients which type of bankruptcy is best for them and whether it is in the client’s best interest to file bankruptcy at all.

 What is the Automatic Stay?

The Automatic Stay is one of the fundamental debtor protections provided by the Bankruptcy Laws. Under the Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. 362), the filing of a bankruptcy under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code automatically triggers an injunction that prohibits most creditors from the commencement or continuation of any judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that actually was commenced or could have been commenced.

What does the Automatic Stay do for me?

Simply put, the Automatic Stay is a tremendous tool for debtors in that it serves to prohibit most contact from creditors regarding debts that are owed. It prohibits:

Please note that under a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the Automatic Stay only applies with respect to the debtor. Thus, if you have co-debtors on certain debts, they are not afforded the same protections under the Automatic Stay that you are. However, if you are filing for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, a creditor may not pursue a debt against a co-debtor or guarantor, if the debt is a ”consumer debt,” which is defined as a debt incurred by a person primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.

How long does the Automatic Stay last?

The Automatic Stay is neither absolute nor permanent. For most chapter 7 and 13 cases however, it stays in effect until the debtor gets a discharge from his or her debt, the property in question is no longer a part of the estate, or a judge lifts the stay at the request of a creditor, who must file a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay.

 Important Requirements for Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Credit Counseling and Financial Management Course Requirements

Among the changes to bankruptcy law contained in the 2005 Bankruptcy Law changes (BAPCPA), were new requirements that debtors filing for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection participate in pre-approved credit counseling and debtor education courses. These courses are administered only by private agencies who are approved by the U.S. Trustee program. A list of the pre-approved credit counseling and debtor education providers is published on the US Trustee’s website. The Law Offices of Roy A. Praver will assist you in locating an approved local credit counselor or online. Many approved credit counseling and debtor education providers provide the required courses either online, over the phone, or by a combination of these. Many also offer counseling in languages other than in English.

The initial credit counseling course must be completed by the debtor within six months prior to filing a bankruptcy petition. Many of the government approved credit counseling and debtor education programs are available online, and the typical debtor can complete each of the respective courses in two hours or less. Once the debtor has satisfactorily completed the first of these programs, the credit counseling provider will issue a Credit Counseling Certificate which must be filed along with the bankruptcy petition. If the certificate is not filed with the petition, the US Trustee will file a motion with the bankruptcy court to have the debtor’s case dismissed.

After the initial credit counseling certificate is issued, and the bankruptcy petition is filed, the bankruptcy petitioner will be given a date for his or her Meeting of Creditors (also known as a 341 Meeting for the section of the Bankruptcy Code which requires the meeting), which is generally scheduled for about a month after the bankruptcy petition is filed. Roy A. Praver will always appear at your Meeting of Creditors with you. After the creditors meeting, the debtor has 45 days to complete the second of the new debtor education requirements by passing an approved financial management course. Upon satisfactory completion of this course, the provider will again issue a certificate of completion to the debtor which must then be filed with the Bankruptcy Court before the debtor may be granted a Chapter 7 discharge.

Debtor Means Testing

Put simply, to be eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a debtor’s household income must be insufficient to pay his or her debts. In order to determine whether a debtor can afford to pay any of his or her debts, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy law compares the debtor’s annual income to the annual median income based on family size of the state where the debtor lives. Provided that the debtor’s income is lower than his or her state’s median annual income for the same family size, and provided that the debtor’s actual monthly living expenses leave no disposable income with which to pay toward unsecured debts such as credit cards, medical bills, and judgments, then the debtor will generally qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge. Current state annual median income by family size information is regularly published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

If the debtor’s annual income is greater than his or her state’s median income for the same size family, then the debtor must pass a ”means test” in order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge. The means test takes into account the current monthly income of the debtor together with the state median income for the debtor’s state. The means test also compares the debtor’s income with IRS published ”standards” for allowable living expenses on both a national and a local basis. The local living expense standards take into account such items as metropolitan housing costs and transportation expenses. Note that here in Central Florida generally, living expenses are calculated to reflect the higher cost of living relative to other areas. The means test is aimed at determining whether, based on the debtor’s income and the IRS determined ”allowable living expenses”, the debtor can afford to pay his or her unsecured debts.

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 Additional Information

Look through the links below to additional information about your rights on filing Bankruptcy. Once you have looked through the information then call the Law Offices of Roy A. Praver to setup your free bankruptcy consultation to determine if filing Bankruptcy is the correct step for you.
 Contact Us

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you do not have to make this decision alone. The Law Offices of Roy A. Praver can provide you with the help and support you need to handle your financial situation. Contact the Law Offices of Roy A. Praver today at 321-383-3445 to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

Titusville, FL Office
O: 321-383-3445
F: 321-268-9564

Prior to your appointment, we ask that you send us an email and briefly describe or list any questions you have about bankruptcy. Most of your questions can be answered from information provided on our website, but please feel free to contacts us. We are always here to help you.

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