Bankruptcy is a big decision; if you are considering filing in Florida your choice can be beneficial, or detrimental. Bankruptcy laws attempt to create a fair disposition of property and offer a fresh start. Bankruptcy’s promise of a fresh start may bring relief, protection, and alleviate some outstanding debts, the recent updates to bankruptcy laws make discharging certain types of debts considerably more onerous. Deciding whether bankruptcy in Florida is right for your specific situation requires in depth research, consultation, and objective analysis of your financial outlook.
Florida Bankruptcy Topics
- Personal Bankruptcy Options
- Keep Your Home: Bankruptcy and Foreclosure
- Florida Exemptions to Bankruptcy Liquidation
- Options for Filing Bankruptcy
- Local Bankruptcy Courts and Trustees
The majority of individuals will declare bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of U.S. Code Title 11, which is otherwise known as Bankruptcy Code.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as ‘liquidation’ bankruptcy; because the debtor’s non-exempt assets are in a financial sense liquidated, along with applicable outstanding liens and debt obligations. To prevent bankruptcy abuse, filing Chapter 7 requires individuals to take a “means test”, which determines if an individual’s income is below the median amount in the state of Florida; and if given the level of outstanding debts, repayment via Chapter 13 or other arrangements is feasible. Some filers may have little or no non-exempt property. In Florida, the median income figure used is $40,898 for an individual, $51,954 for couples, $57,937 for three person households, $68,494 for four person households, and an additional $6,900 for each addition family member.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is commonly referred to as ‘wage earner’ bankruptcy. This is because Chapter 13 is designed for individuals or sole proprietors who earn a steady wage. With a steady wage, one may ask why bankruptcy is needed. This form of bankruptcy is used to reorganize one’s debts and plan repayment. A private individual can have no more than $1,010,650 in secured debts or $336,900 in unsecured debts to qualify for this form of bankruptcy. After filing, the collections process ceases, but individuals must follow closely to the repayment plan created with the bankruptcy trustee, who in this case is a communicator between the debtor and creditors. Amendments to the Chapter 13 reorganization strategy can be made to the initially proposed repayment plan, but must be cleared by the bankruptcy court. (See more on Filing Chapter 13 in Florida).
When someone files for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, bankruptcy laws mandate relief from creditor actions, including foreclosure proceeding, until the courts can sort the financial situation. However, this does not guarantee the home will stay in possession of the debtor. If certain foreclosure actions occurred before the individual’s bankruptcy was filed, then the lender may continue with the foreclosure in rare cases. However, reorganization under Chapter 13, which specifically addresses the repayment of mortgage obligations, may allow debtors to keep their homes in light of impending foreclosure.
In the state of Florida, debtors may claim exemptions under the state exemptions list, the federal bankruptcy exemptions are not available in Florida. Total property exemptions in Florida may not exceed $4,000 (excluding equity in principal residence and pensions) include:
Type of Asset(s)
Details on Applicable Exemption(s)
100% of Unpaid wages for head of household, up to $500/week.
Real or personal property the debtor uses as a principal residence. A cap of $125,000 on property acquired within 1215 days of filing
A motor vehicle up to $1,000
All pension benefits: Federal, State, County employees; Firefighter, Police. IRS recognize “roll-over eligible” – all.
Current assets in an IRS defined 529 plan, most proceeds payable under such a plan.
Life insurance cash surrender value. Death Benefits (except those paid to deceased’s estate). Annuities (except lottery annuities).
- Use a Bankruptcy Lawyer - A bankruptcy lawyer will provide sound, accurate legal advice, which will prove much more useful that one might expect. Not only will a bankruptcy lawyer be present with you in stressful meetings and court dates for moral and advisory support, but also the attorney will be aware of state specific rules, regulations, and most importantly, exemptions and protected assets.
- Use a Filing Service - In a time of financial crisis, a filing service may seem enticing, because of the lower costs in lieu of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. However, filing services are of little actual help in that all these entities can do for a debtor is prepare and file paper work. The filing service route is not recommended, and none of their employees can provide advice for the best options and bankruptcy filing strategy.
- File “Pro Se” - Even more enticing during the time of financial strain is filing pro se. To file pro se is to file completely on one’s own accord. This means saving money without hiring a bankruptcy lawyer or enlisting the aid of a filing service for paperwork. However, this is a dangerous endeavor as most people are unfamiliar with all federal and state laws involved in filing bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida
Tampa Clerk’s Office:
Lee Ann Bennett, Clerk of Court
801 N. Florida Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33602
(No Clerk's Office - records maintained in the Tampa Division)
United States Courthouse
2110 First Street
Fort Myers, Florida 33901
Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
300 North Hogan Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
135 W. Central Blvd, Ste 950
Orlando, Florida 32801
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida
Katherine Gould Feldman, Clerk of Court
Claude Pepper Federal Bldg, Room 1517
Miami, Florida 33130
Chris LaCouriere, Deputy in Charge
299 E Broward Blvd, Room 112
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
West Palm Beach
Cameron Cradic, Deputy in Charge
Flagler Waterview Building
1515 North Flagler Drive, 8th Floor
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Florida
110 E. Park Ave., Suite 100
Tallahassee, FL 32301
220 W. Garden St., Suite 700
Pensacola, FL 32502