Frequently Asked Questions About Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal process that provides debt relief—and a fresh start—to individuals and businesses in financial difficulty. Congress created bankruptcy laws to protect people who want to repay their creditors but—due to unforeseen hardships such as divorce, high medical bills, or loss of a job—are unable to do so.
Not everyone needs to file bankruptcy. Some people do not have any assets over and above what the law allows them to keep, even if they do not pay their creditors. If this is true of you, then you may not need a bankruptcy in order to protect your assets. In any case, bankruptcy should be used only as a last resort. You should explore other options first, including debt settlement programs, negotiating alternative payment plans with your creditors, and loan modifications. However, if these alternatives aren't feasible and your debt is causing you emotional distress or depression, then bankruptcy may be right for you.
The question of which bankruptcy is right for you depends on many factors specific to your case and can only be answered after learning more about your financial situation. There are specific differences between the two types of filings. Chapter 7 is normally filed by individuals who have overwhelming debt and no means of paying it back. However, if you have a steady income and can afford to make payments, Chapter 13 is a restructuring of your debt through negotiating settlement or outright discharge of certain debts in order to be able to repay creditors within three to five years.
The cost to file bankruptcy depends on whether you file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the type and number of creditors, the type and amount of non-exempt assets, the existence of any lawsuits pending against you and other factors. We will quote you a price as part of your initial consultation. Your initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation to file bankruptcy or to hire our services. Because we specialize in bankruptcies, however, we try to make the filing of a bankruptcy affordable, and we are often able to offer lower fees than most area attorneys.
No. Your home, car, household items and retirement accounts are usually protected by bankruptcy laws. Because Chapter 13 allows for restructuring of your debt, you may keep all your assets as long as you complete your repayment plan.
You can eliminate many types of debt with either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing, including credit card debt, medical bills, utility bills and personal loans. However, there are certain types of debt that you must continue to pay regardless of a bankruptcy filing. These include child support, alimony, most student loans, and income and property taxes.
If you have good credit now and are paying your bills on time, then yes, filing bankruptcy will most likely hurt your credit. However, most people who are considering filing bankruptcy already are behind on payments to creditors, and their credit is already bad or is about to go bad anyway. In this case, bankruptcy will have little effect on your credit. You can expect to have limited access to credit initially, at higher than normal interest rates. But if you carefully establish a reasonable amount of credit and pay it off regularly, your credit history will slowly improve with time. As part of your bankruptcy, you will be required to take a credit counseling course. By paying close attention and using the tools you will learn –that is, by spending less than you make and keeping track of your expenditures –you should be able to keep your finances in good order. If you are concerned about how bankruptcy will affect your credit, I will be able to give you a better opinion after our first consultation.
No. Discriminatory treatment of debtors by employers is prohibited under federal law.
No. As of the date your bankruptcy is filed, all of your creditors are prohibited from calling you, writing you letters or taking any further collection activity against you.
If you have filed a Chapter 7 before, you must wait eight years from the date of your filing before you can file again.
Contact our office at 423-623-1573 and make an appointment for a free consultation. We'll ask you a lot of questions about your financial situation so we can give you good advice about your options. To help you with the answers, you may want to bring some of your most recent pay stubs and a list of your creditors with the approximate amount owed.