When struggling with debt, there comes a time when personal bankruptcy may be the best choice. The most well-known types are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, but the former is most since it’s quick and simple.
Choosing to go forward with a bankruptcy filing is an extremely stressful time, but the best and first proactive step you can take is choosing an attorney. Although filing for Chapter 7 is the simplest and most straightforward type of personal bankruptcy, it’s still very complex and requires the expertise of a lawyer. Here are a few tips about what you can to do to prepare for a meeting with a Chapter 7 attorney.
Anyone who has ever done a Google search for “how to file for bankruptcy with no money” has no doubt seen the ads offering so-called free bankruptcy filings. As with most things, these are too good to be true. I have often said that when you are facing the federal courts, as you are when filing for bankruptcy, you need an attorney on your side. Very often these “free” bankruptcy filings are anything but, and they often do not even have an attorney on hand to advise you. You will end up dealing with bankruptcy preparers - who simply fill out forms and cannot offer legal advice – or paralegals who despite the title are not allowed by law to offer legal advice. Think about it – paramedics are medical professionals, but you won’t see them performing surgery or diagnosing an illness – right?
There’s a law in Florida that’s part of the statutes that regulate motor vehicles, and it’s about financial responsibility. This law allows a driver’s license to be suspended, not by the county or state government,not for unpaid court costs, fines, fees, or infractions, but by a creditor who has received a judgment against you in a court of law. It’s something many people don’t know about until it’s too late, and even state lawmakers know that it disproportionately affects the people least able to afford the loss of their licenses. Bankruptcy can help you get your license back legally and quickly.
To understand just how bankruptcy can help with your credit, first you need to understand how long certain items stay on your credit report. For entries such as late payments, charge-offs, collections, tax liens, judgments, and foreclosures the magic number is seven. These items stay on your report a full seven years. Another troublesome thing is that “hard inquiries” remain visible for two years and can cause your score to dip for as much as six months. If you have enough of these entries, your credit score can be punched down from good or fair credit into bad credit. If you are living on the financial edge, it’s going to be reflected in your report, even if you are making payments.
There are people who think that bankruptcy is the worst fate ever. It’s not, and nobody gets to the point where they’re considering filing for bankruptcy without a lot of lost sleep. What bankruptcy is a way to either say, “I have nothing to pay off this debt with, or it’s ruining my life!” or “I have this debt but I can’t pay off all of it, or it will ruin my life!” or “My business has more debts than assets, but I think we could make it if I could pay some of the debt.” In this case, the options are Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 for individuals, and Chapter 11 for businesses.
Legal fees are a big source of mystery to most people, as very few have to deal with attorneys and legal matters on a regular basis. It can be confusing, as it’s one of those thing for which there can be a number of different answers for the same question.
The process of bankruptcy, even a ‘simple’ liquidation bankruptcy – also called a chapter 7 bankruptcy – is a complicated legal process. Nobody gets there without a lot of lost sleep and worry. Among the biggest questions is how to prepare for bankruptcy, and how to recover once the bankruptcy is finished. These worries are well-founded, as exiting bankruptcy successfully takes a toll on your credit, and impacts your ability to rent a place to live, obtain a car, and rebuild your credit. Here are some tips that will help you before, during, and after your chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Q: I was working in the oil and gas industry as a machinist. The downturn hit me hard, and my last employer stiffed the contractors pretty bad. My wife and I have mostly separate finances due to my time away from home, and file our taxes as “married filing separately,” though we have a joint credit account, a joint HSA and some assets that are in both our names. She has a good job that’s making sure that the bills get paid, but I am on the hook hard for my credit cards, a truck, a fifth wheel trailer, and some equipment that I bought under my own name when times were better. I can’t ask her to pay these off, it’s thousands of dollars per month and it would total her finances, too. She’s dead set against filing for bankruptcy because she’s afraid of losing her own credit, or losing the house. Can one spouse file bankruptcy without involving the other?
About Chad Van Horn
Chad T. Van Horn, Esq. is a South Florida business leader and founding partner attorney of Van Horn Law Group, P.A. Through a combination of dedicated philanthropy, spirited entrepreneurship and legal expertise, he applies his resources and network to helping people. Learn more about Chad Van Horn.