10 Ways to Sabotage Yourself When Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida

Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers an opportunity for people in severe debt to begin rebuilding their credit and their financial future. But not everyone is eligible for this type of bankruptcy. If you previously filed for bankruptcy or if you have too many non-exempt assets, you may not qualify. But one of the biggest reasons people do not qualify is their own failure to comply with basic requirements. Below are ten ways to seriously sabotage yourself when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida.

1) Omitting key pieces of information on financial forms

The path to successfully preparing for bankruptcy begins with proper completion of your financial forms. Failure or refusal to include all relevant financial information on your bankruptcy paperwork can give the image that you are a dishonest person, which may ultimately result in dismissal of your bankruptcy case and possible criminal fraud charges. When completing your paperwork, make sure you are always honest about the amount of money you earn and the debts that you owe.

2) Skipping your 341 hearing

Also known as the bankruptcy meeting of creditors, a 341 hearing is a requirement outlined in Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. The meeting typically lasts less than 30 minutes and involves meeting with the trustee in your case. Your creditors may also attend, though their attendance is usually not required and they often do not appear. If you fail to attend this meeting, or if you show up late or unprepared, your case could be dismissed.

3) Refusing to complete required credit counseling

In order to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must show that you completed credit counseling during the six-month period prior to filing your bankruptcy. In most cases, credit counseling consists of a series of brief online courses. Failure to complete these courses prior to your official filing may result in your case being thrown out by the judge. You can avoid this pitfall by completing all required coursework and keeping multiple copies of your completion certificate on hand.

4) Attempting to secure new credit

Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief is based on the premise that you unintentionally accumulated debt. So the last thing you want to do is to consciously ran up debt in the weeks prior to your bankruptcy. So if you are pursuing bankruptcy, you should follow two simple guidelines:

  • Refrain from applying for new credit cards or lines of credit
  • Stop using your existing credit cards

5) Repay family and friends before your bankruptcy

While you were struggling with your debts, you may have borrowed money from family or friends. And it is natural to want to repay them. But if you repay a creditor during the weeks leading up to your bankruptcy, your gesture could be treated as a preferential payment. The best thing to do if you owe money to family and friends is to wait until after your bankruptcy to repay them.

6) Continue to make payments on your debts

Creditors can put an immense amount of pressure on you in an effort to squeeze money out of you. And you might be tempted to make a small payment just to stop your phone from ringing. But making even a small payment can jeopardize yourself when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. It is vital that you cease payments on all of your debts, even as companies continue to press you for money.

7) File at the wrong time

Timing is one of the most important aspects of a bankruptcy filing. If you file too soon, you may miss out on relief for certain income tax debts. And if you file too late and you fail to qualify, you will be legally blocked from filing again within the next 8-year period. Because the timing of your filing is such a critical issue, it is always best to seek the expertise of a trusted bankruptcy attorney.

8) Transfer an asset to a friend or loved one

Many people worry that they will lose an asset such as a second vehicle. In an effort to hang on to their possessions, they transfer the asset to a friend or family member. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, as the gesture could be interpreted as attempted fraud. As you prepare for the bankruptcy process, resist the urge to transfer an asset – even if it is one of your most beloved possessions.

9) Try to pay off an asset referenced in your bankruptcy

Another mistake some people make is to try to pay off a debt for an item that they love. But this is strategy can backfire by impacting your total expenses and eliminating your eligibility for Chapter 7. Make sure you resist the urge to pay off an asset – even if you can hardly bear the thought of living without it.

10) Go on a spending spree

In anticipation of having a fresh financial start, some people will start to overspend. There is sometimes a limit placed on the amount of money you can spend prior to a bankruptcy filing, so making a large number of purchases in the weeks prior to your bankruptcy may negatively impact your bankruptcy proceedings. Make sure you carefully adhere to any spending limitations and limit your purchases to essentials you can easily justify.

Need help filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida?

As outlined above, there are many ways to sabotage yourself when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. It is up to you to make sure that you avoid making any of the mistakes referenced above. The single best way to ensure that you refrain from making these errors is to seek the services of an expert in Florida bankruptcy law. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will provide the guidance you need to ensure that your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is as smooth as possible.

As Florida’s most trusted team of bankruptcy specialists, Florida Law Advisers, P.A. will provide you with the legal direction you need to navigate through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing process. We invite you to contact us to find out how we can help you fulfill the obligations necessary to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy so you can experience life after discharging debt. We look forward to helping you enjoy life after bankruptcy!

How Often Can You File Bankruptcy?

While it is very rare for lightning to strike the same place twice, in the world of bankruptcy there can be situations where a person who has previously filed for bankruptcy once again find themselves with too much debt and too little cash flow to service the debt payments. For that person, the burning question is, “Can I file for bankruptcy more than once and, if so, how often?”

As is the case of most questions concerning the field of law, the answer is “It depends.” The reason for such a seemingly nebulous response is because there are certain conditions that must be established before a clear and qualified answer can be given about how often you can file for bankruptcy.

Basic Conditions for Filing a New Bankruptcy

The standard rule is that there are no limits for a person filing for bankruptcy, unless a bankruptcy court has previously ordered that no additional bankruptcies may be filed. However, if a previous bankruptcy discharged debts, there will be a waiting period (which varies depending upon other factors) that must be passed before being granted another discharge of debts.

Other factors taken into account at the time a new bankruptcy filing is made include:

  • Which chapter (chapter 7 vs chapter 13 bankruptcy) you filed under before and which bankruptcy chapter you intend to file this time
  • How long ago you filed your previous bankruptcy case
  • What final ruling was made on your previous bankruptcy case, which can be either discharged, dismissed, or dismissed with prejudice

Time Restrictions For a New Bankruptcy Filing

Because individuals can file either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it must be determined the kind of bankruptcy that was previously filed and which type will be filed this time. There are four possible scenarios, each with different criteria to assess: Chapter 7 followed by Chapter 7,  Chapter 13 followed by Chapter 13,  Chapter 7 followed by Chapter 13, and Chapter 13 followed by Chapter 7.

If you previously filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 and received a discharge and want to file another Chapter 7 case, there is a minimum waiting period of 8 years from the date of filing the previous case before filing a new Chapter 7 case and receiving a discharge.

If you previously filed for bankruptcy protection using Chapter 13 and debts were discharged and plan to file another Chapter 13 case with a request for another discharge of debts, it can only be filed two years after the date the first case was filed. Because a Chapter 13 bankruptcy contains a repayment plan which often takes 3 to 5 years to discharge, the new filing, if approved, will be eligible for discharge as soon as the previous case has been closed.

If your previous bankruptcy filing was discharged under Chapter 7 and you now wish to file under Chapter 13 (this is also known as filing for Chapter 20), you need to wait at least 4 years from the date of the previous filing if you wish to qualify for a discharge. This can be useful to stave off collection demands and catch up on past mortgage and auto loan payments, even if a discharge is not granted.

If you previously filed under Chapter 13 and received a discharge, there is a six-year waiting period from the date of the Chapter 13 filing before you can file a Chapter 7 case and be granted a discharge. This six-year ruling is waived under the following circumstances:

  • 100% of all unsecured debts have been paid off, or
  • you have paid back a minimum of 70% of your unsecured debts and were deemed to have proposed your plan in good faith using your best effort

Previous Bankruptcies Dismissed With Prejudice

If your previous bankruptcy case was dismissed with prejudice, you need to deal with a whole new kettle of fish as the court will decide how long before you can file another bankruptcy case. Usual reasons for having your case dismissed with prejudice can include any of the following:

  • You failed or refused to follow court orders
  • You filed more than one case in an attempt to delay your creditors
  • You attempted to abuse the bankruptcy system in any other way or manner

If a creditor files a motion for relief from the automatic stay and you then voluntarily dismiss your previous bankruptcy, or if you refuse to obey court orders, it is typical for a 180-day bar to refiling be imposed.

Finally, if it has been determined that you committed bankruptcy fraud, the bankruptcy court can arbitrarily set a longer period of time for filing another bankruptcy case and could even disallow a discharge of debts that had requested relief in the dismissed case. Examples of bankruptcy fraud include any of the following:

  • Hiding assets
  • Falsifying the information on your bankruptcy papers
  • Filing your case in bad faith

Automatic Stay Limitations

An automatic stay is put into place during bankruptcy with the intention of protecting you against the collection efforts of your creditors. If your previous bankruptcy case was dismissed and you file another case within one year of dismissal, the automatic stay lasts only 30 days. If you have had more than one dismissal within one year of your new filing, no automatic stay will be granted.

If you have had multiple bankruptcy filings within the past year, you can file a motion to impose or extend the automatic stay in your new case.

As you can see, navigating through the murky waters of bankruptcy is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. By working with experienced experts who understand the bankruptcy process inside out, you can be assured that all appropriate options will be laid out on the table for you. For instance, instead of filing a new bankruptcy, a qualified bankruptcy attorney can also explain other alternatives to bankruptcy and review with you the bankruptcy means test to see how it applies to your specific situation.

For Florida residents, it is not that difficult to find a reputable and trustworthy Tampa bankruptcy attorney, as  Florida Law Advisors consistently stands out from the crowd. People who have previously filed for bankruptcy and are yet again facing tough times find that we can uncover the best debt consolidation solution for your situation. Contact us today and see how we can help take the pain out of another bankruptcy and get you back on your financial feet!