March through May of this year has been the busiest months for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Florida. Tampa’s bankruptcy filings are only second to Orlando’s in the region. As many individuals and families are still dealing with the down economy and deflated home values, bankruptcy becomes the only option to get a fresh start.
The goal of most individuals in a bankruptcy is to eliminate all debt, except for those debts they wish to keep like a car loan or a mortgage. Dependent on a person’s income, the chapter of bankruptcy will be determined. However, regardless of which chapter is used, some debts cannot be discharged. The most common non-dischargeable debts are:
Taxes and fines, including ones you paid through a credit card
Alimony, child support, and other divorce decree debts
Government-backed student loans
Debts not properly listed in the bankruptcy petition
Debts caused by malicious injury, fraud, or DUI
Condo or co-op fees accrued after the bankruptcy filing
An individual is still responsible for these debts and they will continue to increase during the bankruptcy filing and proceedings if unpaid. All other debts can be discharged, thus releasing the individual from personal liability for those debts. Every individual has a different mix of debts and scenarios, so it’s wise to get an experienced bankruptcy attorney to represent you prior to filing for bankruptcy.
In a bankruptcy you’ll need to provide many financial documents as evidence to support your case. Having a skilled bankruptcy lawyer review the documents thoroughly will help your chances of a successful filing. Tax documents, bank statements, paystubs, and other relevant information is needed. Tax records are particularly important, so if you haven’t filed them because you did not have the money to do so, you could be unable to complete a bankruptcy.
Approximately one month after filing your petition, you will attend a meeting of the creditors at the courthouse. Under oath, you will meet with the bankruptcy trustee and your attorney. If any of your creditors wish to appear and ask questions, they may do so, but it most cases no creditor shows. A knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney will help prepare you for this meeting ahead of time. What’s crucial is to be honest, thorough, and adhere to what the court asks of you during the meeting. If you hide assets or falsify your circumstances, your bankruptcy could be challenged.
Brandon bankruptcy attorney O. Reginald Osenton has counseled clients throughout the Tampa Bay area through the complexities of bankruptcy filing and the creditors meeting for more than 20 years. Osenton Law Offices holds free monthly bankruptcy seminars to help individuals and families explore their options.
For more information:
Osenton Law Offices, P.A.
500 Lithia Pinecrest Road
Brandon, Florida 33511
O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit Brandonlawoffice.com.