Ways & How

how to file bankruptcy in Florida

how to file bankruptcy in Florida

The federal law on bankruptcy was codified under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The code has six chapters that deal with different bankruptcy cases. However, the states in the U.S. can craft their own laws in support of the federal law that will answer the needs of their respective constituents. Thus, the process on how to file bankruptcy in Florida may differ a little from other states. Any Florida resident can file bankruptcy in Florida. But, if you have resided in Florida for the past two years prior to the filing of the application, you can claim the asset exemptions imposed by Florida state law. If you fell short with the number of residency years, you can only claim the exemptions imposed by the federal law or the exemptions of the state where you have lived prior to your transfer to Florida. To successfully institute bankruptcy in Florida, here are the steps needed.

  1. Understand the two education requirements imposed by the new bankruptcy code. These are the credit counseling and financial management courses, which must first be completed.

    These two, along with the “Means Test,” are indispensable under Chapters 7 and 13 bankruptcies.

  2. Secure and prepare the information and documents that affect your present financial status. These are your bank financial statements, debt information and records, medical bills, credit card statement, auto loan, insurance documents and retirement or pension-related statements.

  3. Engage the services of a lawyer. Choose an experienced and seasoned lawyer on bankruptcy cases, although the fee may be higher. Present the documents you gathered in relation to your present financial status. Carefully study your options and decide which bankruptcy chapter is applicable to you.

  4. Study the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. If you choose to file your bankruptcy application without the assistance of a lawyer, then you must study this code. Be inquisitive on how to go about the process and gather the right information. Then determine under what chapter your application will fall.

  5. Know where to file your application. In the Northern District of Florida, there are Bankruptcy Courts in Panama City, Pensacola, Gainesville and Tallahassee. In the Middle District, go to Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Myers. In the Southern District, proceed to West Palm Beach, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale.

  6. Prepare a list of your creditors and properties. Write the names and addresses of your creditors. Indicate the amount of your debt to each of them. Likewise, prepare a list of your non-exempt properties. The list is important before you can take the “Means Test.”

  7. Secure and fill out the forms required. Obtain a bankruptcy kit or just download the forms from the Internet. You may also get the forms from the office of the bankruptcy court where you will file your application later. For Chapter 7, completely fill out the Individual Debtor’s Statement of Intention.

  8. Take the “Means Test.” This test will determine your eligibility in Chapter 7. If ineligible, your case will fall under Chapter 13. Furthermore, the new bankruptcy law requires the debtor to submit to this test in addition to requirements in step one. The test will determine whether your income is higher than the state median family income in Florida.

  9. Make a repayment plan. The plan is important in Chapter 13. It must be based on monthly debt payments that will run for a period of five years.

  10. Undergo 90-minute credit counseling. The counseling is a requirement under the new bankruptcy law. This counseling should be done prior to the filing of your application either under Chapter 7 or 13. Ask for a certificate of completion and present the same when needed.

  11. Prepare a filing fee and file your application. The payment of the filing fee can be arranged, especially when you are in deep financial distress. Submit your completed form of Individual Debtor’s Statement of Intention and the other supporting documents for applications under Chapter 7. For Chapter 13, file the repayment plan together with the other supporting papers.

    For married couples, they can jointly file their petition for purposes of paying only one filing fee. The couple shall jointly file their application if they are jointly liable for the debts incurred. However, if only one spouse is indebted, his or her bankruptcy will not affect the other spouse who did not file bankruptcy.

  12. Undergo financial management course. This is a necessary requirement imposed by law. The lessons you will learn will help you manage your finances in the future.

  13. Attend the creditors’ meeting and court hearing. The meeting is a court ordered meeting and you will be asked whether your declarations are true or not. Non-appearance during the meeting can be a ground for the dismissal of your application. During the court hearing, the judge will either approve or deny your application.

These are the steps on how to file bankruptcy in Florida. What is important is to stay honest on your application. The court can eventually see and assess the truthfulness of your declarations, which will affect the success of your application.


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