On August 18, 2012, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts issued a press release declaring Bankruptcy cases continue to break federal court caseload records - total bankruptcy filings and non-business filings hit highs. The highest rate of increase for Florida bankruptcy cases during 2011 occurred in the Northern District (Pensacola, Tallahassee, Panama City and Gainesville Divisions), followed by the Middle District (Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Meyers Divisions). The lowest rate of increase for the state occurred in the Southern District (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach Divisions). Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 accounted for over 99% of Florida bankruptcy cases filed in2012. Statewide, only Chapter 11 (business case) filings decreased, accounting for .55% of total volume of all Florida bankruptcy cases.
Current Florida bankruptcy laws allow full and final discharge of debts in Chapter 7. Chapter 13 combines past due amounts into one monthly payment, at reduced interest, for up to five years. Additionally, partial payments are available which discharge remaining balances at the end of the plan term. The maximum payment in Chapter 13 is determined based on net income after paying living expenses. In ether chapter, all Florida bankruptcy cases are subject to court review. Also be aware that Florida bankruptcy courts may set a hearing if an objection is filed by a trustee, creditor, party in interest, or upon their motion. After all objections are resolved to the satisfaction of the court, discharge of debts or confirmation of the plan is mandatory. Conversely, if objections are not resolved, cases are usually dismissed. Most often, the success of each case is determined by careful planning before selecting chapter, options and filing date.
New bankruptcy laws nationwide are expected to limit the value of the homestead exemptions. Also, new Chapter 7 restrictions will prevent anyone earning over the state median income from filing, Chapter 13 payments will be increased, and judges will lose judicial discretion imposing mandatory sanctions upon debtors in many new circumstances. These new laws narrowly missed passage each year since 2001, and may become effective at any time. Now, more than ever, timing and planning are critical.
Most Florida bankruptcy attorneys who special in consumer/debtor cases offer free initial consultations. Virtually all private attorneys welcome opportunities to meet qualified potential clients. After debtors become familiar with current requirements, initial consultations offer an excellent opportunity to explore options and receive free legal advice, before deciding upon any course of action. If you have considered filing, make a detailed list of questions. Meet with several lawyers. By comparing costs, benefits and options without obligation, your most profitable path will become clear.
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