Tampa Bankruptcy Attorney Answers Your Questions
The decision to declare bankruptcy can be difficult. In addition to the many questions that may concern you, there are numerous falsehoods about bankruptcy circulating that can confuse you even further. As a Tampa bankruptcy lawyer with more than 12 years of experience, I understand that confronting a financial crisis can be overwhelming. The following is a listing of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered from my clients.
Is filing for bankruptcy dishonest?
Not at all! In fact, it may be the best decision to help you get back on your feet so you can become a responsible borrower once again. People encounter overwhelming debt for a variety of reasons, including a sudden job loss, unforeseen medical crises, or divorce. Far from an avoidance of responsibility, bankruptcy provides avenues in which you can finally take control of your debt challenges and gain a financial fresh start.
Can I stop creditors from harassing me?
Yes! The moment your file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay in put into effect. Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, creditors are prohibited from continuing any collection activities until further notice. Additionally, any type of creditor harassment is illegal and subject to penalty. This includes threats, contacting a third party to discuss your debt, and using abusive language. If you have been the victim of phone call harassment or any other unlawful collection agency tactics, I can provide the assertive representation you require to halt your creditors’ illegal activities.
Who is eligible to file for bankruptcy?
Generally, most individuals or businesses facing insurmountable debt may petition for bankruptcy. Unless you have declared bankruptcy in the recent past, you most likely will be eligible. Each type of bankruptcy—such as Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13—has its own set of guidelines and requirements. For example, in order to quality for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must pass the means test (meaning your income must be below a certain level). If you are wondering if your financial crisis qualifies for bankruptcy relief, I can analyze your debt situation and determine if it would be your best option, as well as which type of bankruptcy you would qualify for. If not, I can explain some alternatives to bankruptcy that might be available to you.
Will I lose everything I own?
Contrary to popular belief, bankruptcy may not require you to forfeit all of your belongings. In fact, in some cases, bankruptcy may even be the only way to safeguard property from creditors. Filing for bankruptcy in a timely manner may help you prevent liens against your home, repossession of your car, or garnishment of wages, depending on the specific details of your case. Federal law also offers protection for certain types of assets including:
- Retirement benefits, Social Security, and veterans’ benefits
- Death and disability benefits
- Public assistance or federal aid
If you are at risk of losing certain assets, this can be determined before you file your bankruptcy petition. As a Tampa bankruptcy attorney, I, Dion R. Hancock, Esq., can advise beforehand as to the effects a bankruptcy would have on your property.
Will bankruptcy affect my ability to find employment?
It shouldn’t. Federal bankruptcy laws are in place to protect individuals who are seeking legal avenues to address their financial difficulties. It is illegal for a prospective employer to discriminate on the basis of a past bankruptcy. Additionally, no government agency may discriminate for this reason in relation to the granting of licenses, permits, student loans, or other grants.
Does bankruptcy eliminate all my debts?
Not exactly. Bankruptcy can discharge only what is determined to be unsecured debt. Unsecured debts do not have collateral backing them. Examples of unsecured debt can include credit card debt and medical bills. Certain types of debt will need to be paid regardless of whether your file bankruptcy or not. These types of debt include child support payments, tax obligations, and student loans. You should keep in mind that you may be able to use bankruptcy to catch up on payments for secured debt, such as late mortgage payments. This is done through Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which offers restructured payment plans.
I have filed for bankruptcy in the past? Can I do so again?
Yes. However, filing for bankruptcy should never be taken frivolously. You should carefully review your finances and take a detailed look into what brought you into another financial crisis. Consulting with an insightful attorney can help you determine if declaring a second bankruptcy would be your best option. Each type of bankruptcy has its own guidelines on when you can file again:
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy: You may refile after 8 years. However, if your previous discharge of debt was under Chapter 13, you only need to wait 6 years.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Can be filed every 2 years unless it is following a previous Chapter 7. In this case you must wait 4 years before filing.
I’m married. Do I need to file a joint petition?
It depends. If both parties accrued the debt, then the bankruptcy petition should be filed jointly. However, if the debt has been assigned to only one of the spouses, then he or she may file a single petition without the other spouse.
How long will a bankruptcy appear on my record?
A bankruptcy will be a part of your credit report for 10 years. While there is no way to accurately predict all the long-term ramifications of a bankruptcy, the negative attitude that was once associated with declaring bankruptcy is lessening. Many creditors would rather see an individual take corrective legal measures to address debt, rather than allowing it to accrue exponentially.
Does a petition for bankruptcy become public knowledge?
No. The only people initially notified of a petition for bankruptcy are your current creditors, the bankruptcy courts, and the IRS. Afterwards, if a bank or credit company requests a copy of your credit report, they will see it notated on your history. Your friends and family will not be informed of your bankruptcy unless you choose to tell them. There are limited instances in which an employer might find out, such as if your bankruptcy puts an end to your wage garnishment.
Have additional questions? Contact Attorney Hancock today!
Hopefully, these answered your initial questions regarding bankruptcy. As a dedicated bankruptcy attorney in practice for more than two decades, I realize you might have some additional issues and concerns that are unique to your debt situation. If you would like further information, contact my office today to schedule a free case evaluation.