Debt happens to people from all walks of life. You are not a bad person or a failure if you find yourself deep in debt. Many people encounter situations in which they lack good options, and debt can accumulate quickly. It can be difficult to formulate a plan to get yourself out of debt and back to a place of financial stability.
If you are deep in debt and constantly harassed by creditors, you may feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Bankruptcy can lift a great weight off your shoulders and give you a new start. Many people are able to rebuild their lives with better financial practices and more understanding of their finances after filing for bankruptcy. Though many people see bankruptcy as a negative thing, it can actually be a positive new start for you and your family. However, it’s important to know that bankruptcy does have drawbacks, including some consequences that may linger for years.
The best way to handle bankruptcy is to find an experienced attorney to help you and your family navigate this difficult time. Bankruptcy is complicated and has surprising consequences. When you have a bankruptcy attorney on your side, the process can feel more manageable and less intimidating.
At Badgley Law Group, we can help you explore bankruptcy for true and lasting relief from debts and creditor harassment. We can also pursue other remedies short of bankruptcy, such as direct negotiations with your creditors or lenders to repay debts or modify the terms of your loan. We have enabled clients in Orlando and throughout central Florida to get their lives back on track through Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Our team has been working in this industry for many years. We understand the unique challenges of families in the Orlando area, which gives you an advantage in the courtroom. Our firm is passionate about helping families pursue all their options when it comes to bankruptcy and financial rehaul. When you work with us, you can be sure that you are giving yourself the best possible resources in the Orlando area.
Take advantage of a free bankruptcy consultation. Call us at 407-781-0420 to make an appointment with our experienced lawyer.
If you are in a place where bankruptcy is a possibility, it’s important to understand your options. Not all bankruptcy cases are the same, and you may have some flexibility with how you proceed. By familiarizing yourself with different bankruptcy styles, you can make empowered decisions about your financial future.
There are two major types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. They are vastly different and provide distinct advantages and disadvantages for your family.
Chapter 7 is a more commonly understood form of bankruptcy, but this doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone. Chapter 7 uses asset liquidation to pay off debts and give the filer a fresh start. The trustee of the process can sell all nonexempt property and assets during this time. This means that your home, car, and other valuables will be sold by the trustee to pay back some of the debts that you owe.
This is not to say that you will have nothing when the process is finished. Bankruptcy exemptions allow you to keep a reasonable amount of clothing, furniture, and personal items under a certain value. If your car is old and paid off, you may be allowed to keep that as well.
However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally takes most of what you own. You will no longer be in debt after the process is over, but you will not have very much left with which to start over. The process usually only takes 3-5 months, after which most of your debt will be discharged, and you can begin to build your new life quickly. The main drawback to this option is losing most of your possessions without the opportunity to retain them.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is distinct. It may not be for everyone, but it has different advantages and disadvantages than Chapter 7.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is viewed as more of a reorganization strategy, and not all people are eligible. You can only file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you have more than $419,275 of unsecured debt or $1,257,850 of secured debt. The trustee in your case will help you to set up a payment plan to pay back your debts, and you may be able to negotiate a smaller amount than you owe. You will work with this payment plan for however long it takes to pay off your debts, with 3-5 years being the normal timeframe.
Fortunately, with Chapter 13, you get to keep most of your assets, including your home. When you file for Chapter 13, debtors will stop harassing you as you are taking action to pay back what you owe. However, unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 does not give you a clean break or a fresh start. Chapter 13 is simply a way to get you out of your financial situation with help from a trustee.
This may not seem like a traditional bankruptcy filing, but it’s helpful for individuals who are in deep debt but want to keep their assets and are able to pay some of what they owe. However, many people want a faster solution, and Chapter 13 takes a long while to resolve.
Bankruptcy can offer immediate and long-term benefits, including:
If you are able to pay some of your debts but you are falling farther behind on house or car payments, you may be a candidate for a Chapter 13 repayment bankruptcy. Through a monthly payment plan, you can get caught up over time while getting immediate relief from creditor actions.
See our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information and a list of common Bankruptcy terminology to better understand your options.
Bankruptcy is not the only means of being protected from credit collections. However, in instances where bankruptcy is the best path, it is crucial that you move with speed. Some legal rights will be in jeopardy the longer you wait. One example is asset repossession or a home foreclosure. A bankruptcy filing can prevent these from happening, but only before the sale has been completed. Once the confiscated asset is sold, the debtor loses their legal interest in it and cannot reverse the process. The caveat is that recent purchases will not qualify for bankruptcy protection, so you cannot go on a spending spree in anticipation of filing bankruptcy. Our attorneys will explain bankruptcy law and the bankruptcy process, including any assets that you might have to forfeit in exchange for eliminating debts.
Not everyone with debt problems needs or wants to file bankruptcy. We can explore other remedies, such as a loan workout or loan modification program to rework the terms of your home mortgage. We can negotiate with your credit card companies, medical providers and other creditors to settle your debts for part of what you owe to avoid collection actions, garnishment, liens and the black marks on your credit score. Debt consolidation can also be a solution, but there are many unscrupulous companies that will charge big fees without shrinking your debt. Whatever the solution is – be it bankruptcy or an alternative – you can trust that we have your best interests in mind at Badgley Law Group.
Remember, creditors do not have a blank check in their quest to collect their debts from you. State law (Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act) and federal law (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) provide clear guidelines on what creditors can and cannot do even before you file bankruptcy. Actions that fail to adhere to these acts are illegal, and you should approach Badgley Law Group for assistance.
Many people believe that they cannot afford a bankruptcy lawyer or wish to navigate the process alone. This is not wise. The bankruptcy process is much more complicated than many people realize. Families lose their way during bankruptcy proceedings all the time, and many people lose assets that they could have retained. Because there are so many available options, it’s best to work with an expert attorney to determine which path is right for you. Legal help can ensure that you make the very best decisions for your family and explore all your options before making any irreversible decisions.
Many people worry about their credit score after filing for bankruptcy. This is a valid concern. It’s true that bankruptcy will negatively affect your score, but it’s not true that it will stop you from rebuilding your life. There are options for those who have filed for bankruptcy, and many people are able to rebuild good credit over time. Bankruptcy filing does not mean death to your credit; you may simply have to be more strategic when building your credit back to normal levels.
A bankruptcy filing does not even stay on your credit report forever. Chapter 7 filings remain on your report for ten years, while Chapter 13 filings remain for only seven years. As you build new habits and practices, you’ll find your score increases. It’s worth noting that most people in deep debt don’t have very good credit to begin with. Bankruptcy may be a way to fix your credit in the long run.
Jeffrey Badgley has practiced law for 35 years and represented thousands of individuals and couples on the path to debt relief. At Badgley Law Group, we have won several major victories in bankruptcy court and have distinguished ourselves in our singular pursuit of our clients’ interests. We have helped families break the shackles of debt, cut monthly debt payments by hundreds of dollars, rescue their homes, keep their cars and start new lives on confident footing.
If you are considering bankruptcy, you know you need help, but you probably have many questions. Here, we’ll answer some of the basics to help you get started. When you are ready to talk to a lawyer, we offer a free initial consultation.
Attorney Jeffrey Badgley brings 35 years of legal experience to your case. He can answer all your questions and properly file your bankruptcy petition to help you make the most of this opportunity to get out from under your debts. Call our Orlando office at 407-781-0420 to make an appointment.
Currently, the filing fee is $313 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and $338 for Chapter 7. An Orlando bankruptcy lawyer will charge a Chapter 7 filing retainer with an exact value that will depend on the amount of work anticipated. If there are no “good faith” concerns, such as credit card charges a few days or weeks before filing, the legal fees are likely to be lower.
For Chapter 13 filing, our team at Badgley Law Group may allow our attorney fees to be paid as part of the bankruptcy repayment plan in case you cannot afford to raise the funds right after filing. This flexibility is vital since the bankruptcy proceedings are already a marker of your financial strain. The last thing you need is even more monetary pressure.
There is no legal obligation for married couples to file either joint or individual petitions. Both are acceptable. It is, however, important to note that filing jointly does not exempt either partner from fulfilling all requirements.
For the vast majority of bankruptcy cases, the debtor’s only appearance in court will be attending the brief and one-off 341 meeting. This is supposed to be a meeting with the trustee and creditors, though, in reality, creditors rarely attend. However, if there’s a dispute over the facts of the case, a judge may require you to appear before them at a hearing. You will be notified of the date and time of the hearing.
Bankruptcy proceedings prohibit creditors from harassing you. However, even before you file for bankruptcy, certain creditor actions are prohibited under federal and state law. For instance, creditors are barred from using or threatening violence, using abusive language, publishing or threatening to publish a “deadbeat list” that includes you, communicating to you with unreasonable frequency, contacting you between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., communicating with you while knowing you are now represented by an attorney, etc.
When you file bankruptcy, it is best that you notify all creditors in writing and providing them with the case details, including case name, number and filing date. The court does send out notices to creditors. This may take a couple of weeks, though. If a creditor continues with collection measures, you can pursue legal action to obtain a specific court order prohibiting them from any further activity. If this does not stop them, either, the court would judge the creditor to be in contempt of court and fine them accordingly.
Yes. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that bankruptcy be reflected in the consumer’s credit report for 10 years after the filing. This is three years more than the seven years mandated for other types of credit default information. Your credit score will certainly be impaired. Nevertheless, this will not necessarily prevent you from accessing credit. Lenders will usually assign greater weight to your current financial circumstances. Actually, persons who file bankruptcy often have serious credit problems already due to missed payments, repossessions, judgments and collection accounts. Therefore, your credit score may improve not long after filing. Some or all the overdue debts will be discharged and credit reporting agencies will be advised that they are no longer outstanding. A foreclosure is a much bigger impediment to your ability to buy a home in the future than bankruptcy is.
That is unlikely. A bankruptcy filing is not a secret document. However, it is not easy for someone to find it unless they are actively searching for it and know exactly where to look. The court database is not crawled by major search engines such as Google and Bing. This means a Google search for your name will not bring up your bankruptcy as part of the results. That would only happen if you are a famous person and a news website or Wikipedia page reported on it.
Your credit report will be available to potential employers (only with your permission, nevertheless). In addition, some of the debts you may be requesting to be discharged of could have been provided or arranged by your employer. That could raise concerns of discrimination by a current or future employer.
Fortunately, most government arms are prohibited from treating persons who have filed for bankruptcy differently. In addition, private entities cannot fire or otherwise discriminate against an individual for filing bankruptcy or being discharged of their debts.
A creditor workout is a formal, negotiated debt modification that doesn’t involve a bankruptcy filing. It is an agreement between a debtor and his or her creditors on debt repayment. Workouts may be compositions, extensions or both. Compositions are contracts in which the creditor accepts partial payment in exchange for the complete satisfaction of their debt claim. Extensions extend the period within which the debtor may make payment for their claim.
The key disadvantage of credit workouts is that they are voluntary, which means creditors who do not agree with the terms can still continue to pursue collection action. This is unlike bankruptcy, where all creditors must abide by the orders of the bankruptcy judge.
Regrettably, the debt management industry has been infiltrated by agencies that make unfounded claims. Most credit repair services lack the authorization to practice law. Unlike bankruptcy proceedings, credit repair depends on the voluntary agreement of creditors to accept a lump sum in exchange for reducing the overall debt. This means that the creditors can still continue with collection action.
Credit repair services may not be worth it, especially when you consider that they may actually cost more than hiring an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer right off the bat.
A reaffirmation agreement allows you to keep secured debt such as a car loan or mortgage. It is a commitment by a debtor to their creditor that they will pay part or all the money owed despite filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The creditor, in turn, commits to not repossess the debt’s collateral as long as payments are being made. To qualify for a reaffirmation agreement, your repayments for the specific secured debt must be current.
Delayed or failed payment under a Chapter 13 repayment plan can happen. If you anticipate that you cannot make a payment on time, contact the trustee immediately by phone and in writing. Indicate what is the cause of delay and your assessment of whether the problem is temporary or permanent. If the problem is temporary, advise on when and how the delayed payment will be made. If the trustee is fine with it, that should settle the matter as long as you pay on or before the agreed date.
On the other hand, if the problem is long-term and you no longer have the ability to pay in accordance with the plan, the trustee will request of the bankruptcy court a dismissal of the case or conversion to another bankruptcy chapter (usually Chapter 7). You may also request a modification of the repayment plan to accommodate your new circumstances.
There are no required qualifications or standards for paralegals and petition preparers. Only an attorney is allowed to offer legal advice, represent a debtor in court and write legal documents on the debtor’s behalf. Orlando has many bankruptcy paralegals and petition preparers who, oddly, may levy even higher retainers than lawyers.
It depends. If you have received a discharge under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot file Chapter 7 bankruptcy for the next eight years or Chapter 13 bankruptcy for the next four years. If you have received a discharge under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you cannot file Chapter 7 bankruptcy for the next six years or Chapter 13 bankruptcy for the next two years.
Some debts cannot be discharged, including alimony, child support, student loans, most taxes, liability for DUI death or injury, criminal fines, court restitution orders and debts from fraud, embezzlement and breach of trust. There are rare exceptions. For instance, a court may discharge a student loan if the debtor shows that repayment will impose serious hardship on themselves and their dependents.
At the end of each month, compare your expenses against your total income. If the expenses exceed your income or if the difference is too small to help you accumulate a significant savings buffer over time, identify expenses that are unnecessary and that you need to cut back on. You can also contact a professional financial adviser or get in touch with a reputable, not-for-profit organization such as Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS).
Our Orlando, Florida bankruptcy lawyers can address your specific questions about debt relief through bankruptcy. We serve Orlando and central Florida. Schedule your free initial consultation at 407-781-0420 or contact us by email.
We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
Nothing legally prevents you from representing yourself in a bankruptcy proceeding, but it is a complex process with many rules and restrictions. A few wrong moves and you could emerge from bankruptcy in a much worse state than you had anticipated.
It is therefore important to consult with an affordable bankruptcy lawyer who can determine if the filing is a good idea, what chapter to file under, how to leverage exemption provisions and what protections bankruptcy will provide. You need a trained and objective eye to take a look at your assets, liabilities, income and expenses to file your petition properly.