The first step in the process is to determine whether bankruptcy provides a workable solution to help you resolve some of your problems. This can be done over the phone or in person. I offer a free initial consultation to go over some of your options and possible problems based upon the facts you provide. I try to answer some of your questions about your alternatives based upon what you want to accomplish.
I will then need the information from you which is necessary for the court. The court requires that you take a short course called "credit counseling" before the case is filed. The course can be taken over the phone or on the internet in less than one hour. The course helps you prepare a budget of your monthly income and expenses.
THE PROCESS - 1) DOCUMENTATION - To prepare the documentation I need the information on the list posted later on this site. Some of that documentation may not apply to you so would not be necessary. Click here for the printable list. If you click page options, you can print it on your home printer. With your permission we can order a credit report for you as a starting point. Other creditors may not be on your credit report but still should be included. Medical bills are an example. Remember, Bankruptcy will wipe the slate clean of many creditors, but, they have to be included.
2. INTERVIEW - I will complete a questionnaire with you which lists all of your property, all of your debt, and provides a budget of your monthly income and expenses.
3. MEANS TEST - The "means test" has to be completed for the Court. This is a Court required test to determine whether the individual or couple can file Chapter 7 or whether Chapter 13 is required. The test "looks back" at income and expenses over the last six months and evaluates allowed expenses for a household based upon income, number of household members, and other factors. After completion I will advise whether Chapter 7 will be allowed or whether Chapter 13 is required. Chapter 13 may provide advantages which may also be discussed.
4. PREPARING THE PETITION - Based upon the information you provided and the credit report, the Schedules of the assets and liabilities are prepared. Sometimes additional information is necessary to complete the forms like the value of a vehicle or a copy of a judgment from the public records.
5. REVIEW - You have to review the schedules with the attorney to make sure that everything is correct and complete and then sign the schedules. This is done with the attorney and any additional questions or concerns can be discussed.
6. FILING THE CASE AND NOTIFYING CREDITORS -The Schedules are uploaded to the Court with the proof of credit counseling and the case is started. The Court provides notice to all the creditors. The Attorney may provide notice to creditors' attorneys or others including a Court which may have jurisdiction over a foreclosure or garnishment.
7. MEETING OF CREDITORS - After signing the Schedules they are filed with the Bankruptcy Court who assigns a case number and sets a date for the meeting of creditors. This is the required hearing. Creditors have a right to attend and ask questions about the debts involved and other limited questions. For most cases, creditors do not attend. The hearing takes place in front of a Trustee at the Claude Pepper Building at 51 SW First Avenue, Miami, Florida. The map below shows the location. If you are unfamiliar with driving downtown you may prefer to take the metrorail to the Government Station in Downtown Miami. This station is two blocks from the Courthouse. (It is shown on the map with a capital M)
7. THE DISCHARGE - The "Discharge" is the official document which indicates that the debt included in the schedules has been forgiven. This is normally granted sixty days after the date of the meeting of creditors.
SAVE YOUR PAPERS - You may be contacted years later by a "collection agency" who claims that the debt has been transferred and that you now owe someone else. If you send them by fax or email a copy of your schedules with the case number they will normally abate any action. We keep copies as well and the Court's database keeps them as well.