When your financial obligations become unmanageable, and you are overwhelmed by debt, federal bankruptcy law provides tools to help you make a fresh financial start. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows individuals who have regular income to develop a plan to restructure their debts and repay them over time.
The attorneys at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., can help you assess whether a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is an appropriate step to manage your debt and regain your financial health. We also may be able to help you negotiate with your creditors and reach a settlement that avoids filing for bankruptcy. The right option for you will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Regardless of your financial situation, we can help you choose a course of action that meets your needs and financial capabilities.
Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer to review your financial situation and discuss the options available to you. If we represent you, we will offer you flexible payment options. At Florida Law Advisers, we want to provide you with workable solutions to relieve your financial burden.
Why Choose Our Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Lawyer
Under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, a debtor may propose a plan to pay all or a portion of their debt over three to five years. The plan may include renegotiating the terms of debt to reduce payments or interest rates. Chapter 13 also allows some debts to be discharged. In the end, the bankruptcy court approves a plan to make consolidated payments to a trustee who distributes the money to the creditors.
Our Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer, Michael R. Barnett, can help you understand your options regarding filing a bankruptcy petition to reorganize your debt. He can:
- Work with you and your creditors to create a realistic plan that meets your needs and financial capabilities.
- Handle the paperwork required as part of a Chapter 13 filing and ensure that all documents are filed correctly and on time.
- Present your repayment plan to the bankruptcy court and argue for its approval.
- Provide trusted legal guidance throughout the bankruptcy process.
Attorney Michael Barnett has extensive experience with Chapter 13 filings and other aspects of U.S. Bankruptcy Law, consumer and creditors’ rights, and debt relief. He has been certified by the American Board of Certification in consumer bankruptcy law since 1993. He holds an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer rating standard among U.S. attorneys. Michael also is a published author on bankruptcy appeals.
In 2016, Michael was the inaugural recipient of the Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association’s Pro Bono Service Award in recognition of his hundreds of hours working in the pro bono courthouse clinic, helping debtors who did not have the resources to retain counsel.
Florida Law Advisers, P.A., can help you make well-founded decisions to rebuild your financial standing and move forward with your life. Call us for a free consultation with an experienced Orlando Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney.
What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
Federal bankruptcy law helps people in financial distress make a fresh start by liquidating assets to repay debts or by creating repayment plans. The various types of bankruptcies available to individuals and businesses are referred to by their chapter in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Individuals may file a Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy, depending on the specifics of their situation. An individual who has a steady income may not be eligible for a Chapter 7 filing and may need to pursue a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows the petitioner to propose a plan to restructure their debt and repay creditors. Repayment plans are structured to allow installment payments over three to five years. The bankruptcy court may grant a discharge of some debt if the individual completes the terms of the repayment plan.
The length of the Chapter 13 repayment plan is determined by income. If the debtor’s monthly income is less than the state’s median income, the plan will be for three years unless the court approves a longer period. If the debtor’s monthly income is greater than the state median, the plan generally must be for five years.
Eligibility for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
To file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, an individual must have:
- Total secured and unsecured debts of less than $2,750,000 as of the date of filing for bankruptcy relief.
- Received credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency either as an individual or as a member of a group within 180 days of filing.
- Not had a prior bankruptcy petition dismissed during the preceding 180 days due to the debtor’s willful failure to appear before the court or comply with court orders. Dismissal due to inability to make the payments in a prior case would not normally prevent refiling.
Why You May Consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is usually sought by individuals as an alternative to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The primary advantage of Chapter 13 is that, because you plan to repay most debts, you do not have to sell off assets you would be required to sell under Chapter 7.
Consolidating your debt under a Chapter 13 filing allows you to pay your debt on a schedule approved by the court and communicated to your creditors. Your creditors no longer have reason to contact you and must end all collection efforts for the duration of the repayment plan.
Chapter 13 offers individuals a number of other benefits, usually including:
- Immediate halt to home foreclosure, including a foreclosure sale if scheduled. The debtor must make mortgage payments in full and on time during bankruptcy.
- An immediate end to interest or late charges accruing on unsecured debt, such as credit card bills, medical bills, personal loans, and unpaid taxes.
- Ability to reduce interest rates and sometimes balances owed on car or truck loans.
- Ability to convert a second mortgage or home equity loan to unsecured debt and pay it with no interest if the value of the property is less than the amount owed on the 1st mortgage.
- Ability to discharge debts arising from property settlements in divorce or separation process.
- Note if there was one or more prior cases pending in the last year, additional motions would need to be filed. If there was a prior discharge within the last 4 years of a new chapter 13, or within 8 years of a new chapter 7 this may affect the ability to eliminate debt in a new case.
Debts not discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy include:
- Home mortgages except as noted above.
- Debts for alimony or child support
- Certain taxes
- Debts for most government-funded student loans are usually not eliminated
- Government benefit overpayments may not be eliminated
- Debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence for the debtor’s criminal conviction.
What to Expect During the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process
There are multiple steps to declaring bankruptcy. In Central Florida, an Orlando bankruptcy attorney at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., can assist you every step of the way. Entering a Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires:
- Documenting your debts, assets, and income. You’ll need to compile a list of your creditors, the nature of the debt, the amount owed to each, and a detailed list of your reasonable and necessary monthly living expenses, such as your mortgage, utility costs, groceries, car payments, and medications.
- Completing credit counseling. You must take an approved credit counseling course before filing for bankruptcy in Florida. A certificate of completion must be filed with the necessary bankruptcy forms.
- Designing a repayment plan.Your attorney will help you develop a plan that allows you to pay your debts without jeopardizing your ability to maintain a household or support your dependents.
- Filing a petition.Your case will begin when you submit your completed paperwork, repayment plan, and filing fee to the bankruptcy court. The court will issue a notice of commencement advising all interested parties of the filing of the bankruptcy case and a deadline to file any objections to debt discharges.
- Appointing a trustee.The court will appoint a trustee to evaluate your finances and your plan to repay your creditors. The trustee will convene a meeting with you and any creditors who wish to attend to discuss potential issues with the repayment plan.
- Confirming the plan. Once the trustee has forwarded any concerns about the repayment plan, the judge will convene a confirmation hearing to resolve any issues raised and finalize the plan.
- Paying down your debt. Once the trustee and judge approve the plan, the trustee’s job is to receive and disburse the payments you make as part of the repayment plan. In some cases, wage garnishment may be ordered.
- Concluding your bankruptcy. When you have eliminated your non-discharged debt, a judge will confirm that you have completed your repayment plan and formally issue a discharge. You will be able to conduct your financial affairs and work toward rebuilding your credit without court oversight. You can expect a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to stay on your credit report for seven years.
Get in Touch with Our Orlando Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorneys
If you are facing insurmountable debt while continuing to work for a living, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy could be a means for you to gain debt relief and secure a better financial future. Attorney Michael Barnett, an experienced bankruptcy attorney with Florida Law Advisers, P.A., is well known to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida. He can help to ensure that the unique needs of your case will be heard and duly considered.
Florida Law Advisers, P.A., is a full-service law firm serving clients in Orlando, Orange County, Tampa, Hillsborough County, and across Central Florida. We will be there for you every step of the way, making sure you understand your legal rights and options. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.