+ How often can I file for bankruptcy?
Generally, chapter 7 can be filed every 8 years. Your total bankruptcy history plays a part in what type of case you can file and when. The attorney will review your prior filings, if any, and advise you on when you can file bankruptcy.
+ Can I file bankruptcy on credit cards?
Yes. Credit cards can be discharged by a bankruptcy, but only if they were not used within 90 days before the bankruptcy is filed. If you think you may need to file bankruptcy, you should stop charging on any credit cards immediately. The attorney will go over your charging history with you and determine when you can file bankruptcy to include your credit cards.
+ Can I keep any credit cards?
Usually not. Bankruptcy is your chance to start over. By keeping a debt you already owe, you do not really start over. Any credit card company can choose to close your account once they find out about the bankruptcy and then you would have to pay for an account you can no longer use if there is still a balance on the account.
+ Will bankruptcy stop a garnishment?
Yes, as long as that debt is listed in the bankruptcy. Once a case is filed, our office notifies your employer so that they will stop the wage garnishment at once.
+ What is the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?
A Chapter 7 is the total liquidation bankruptcy where your non-exempt property is liquidated to pay money to your creditors. Most people do not lose any property when filing a Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 is the reorganization bankruptcy, which allows you to pay what you can afford towards your debt and discharge the unpaid portion. The attorney will help you decide which type is best for you.
+ Can I keep my house or car?
Usually. In a Chapter 7, you can generally reaffirm the debt to keep the item by signing a reaffirmation agreement and keeping the payments current. In a Chapter 13, there should not be a problem keeping anything, even if you are behind on the payments.
+ What is a reaffirmation agreement?
It is an agreement between you and a creditor to keep paying on a debt in exchange for you being able to keep an item like a house or car. It is up to the creditor whether they want to do this. The creditor cannot be forced to allow you to reaffirm a debt. If the reaffirmation agreement is considered an undue hardship on you (you cannot afford the payment), it must be approved by a judge. Once you reaffirm a debt, you have only a short amount of time to change your mind or you are stuck with debt even if the item you kept is no longer useable. You should only reaffirm a debt if you have sufficient income to pay the debt. The attorney will review your budget with you to help decide whether signing a reaffirmation agreement is in your best interest.
+ What are the benefits of filing a Chapter 13?
When you file a Chapter 13, you can pay taxes you owe or catch up a mortgage or vehicle you are behind on. As long as you complete your payment plan, you will get to keep the items you were behind on. If you miss a plan payment, your case could be dismissed and you could lose items you were behind on. It also allows you to pay your debt in three to five years, which is a usually shorter time than if you pay it on your own.
+ Do I have to go through credit counseling?
Yes. You will have to do a pre-bankruptcy counseling session before your case can be filed and a pre-discharge debtor education/financial management session before your case can be discharged. We will provide you with names of some of the approved counseling providers for both sessions. The cost for each session varies by provider but is around $25.00.
+ Do I have to go to court if I file bankruptcy?
Yes. You will attend what is called a First Meeting of Creditors approximately 4 to 6 weeks after your case is filed. A trustee is assigned to your case and it is their job to verify that all the information that is in your paperwork is truthful and complete. It is also an opportunity for your creditors to question you about the debt you owe, but very rarely do creditors actually appear at the meeting. The attorney will prepare you for the meeting and will attend it with you.
+ How does bankruptcy affect my credit?
A bankruptcy can appear on your credit report for up to 10 years. It is normally a negative factor on your credit rating, but is only one of many factors creditors look at when determining your credit risk. Normally, if you have steady employment you can usually purchase items like a house or car after receiving your discharge, but a specific creditor may want you to have your discharge for a certain amount of time before lending to you.
+ Do my spouse and I have to file bankruptcy together?
No. Any person can file a bankruptcy individually. However, if you and your spouse have joint debt, it may be in your best interest to file together. The attorney will advise you on what is best for your situation.
+ Does a cosigner of my debt have to file bankruptcy as well?
Maybe. If they wish to continue paying the debt, then they do not have to file. If they do not wish to keep paying the debt, then they will probably want to file a bankruptcy as well. Your bankruptcy case will not protect them from having to pay the debt. If the cosigner is concerned about how your bankruptcy will affect them, they should talk to an attorney.
+ What type of debt cannot be discharged?
Most taxes, child support, alimony, most student loans, court fines and criminal restitution, and personal injury caused by operating a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The attorney will discuss your situation with you and tell you about any non-dischargeable debt you may have.