Filing for bankruptcy comes with its own set of costs. It may seem counterintuitive that a person who is having difficulty paying his or her bills can pay extra costs to receive relief from his or her financial obligations. However, just because someone is not able to pay his or her bills should not prevent them from hiring an attorney to file their bankruptcy case. While “do it yourself” projects may be a good idea around the house, there are reasons to let a professional handle your bankruptcy filing.
Filing for bankruptcy when someone is married can be a joint process, or it can be done by only one spouse proceeding with the case. Ultimately, it depends on the type of debt and the financial situations for both spouses. For example, if one only spouse owes a specific debt or debts, then that spouse may be able to proceed on a bankruptcy alone, especially if the other spouse has good credit and very few other debts. Proceeding with a single bankruptcy case while married can be complicated, and in certain situations, it can adversely affect the non-filing spouse, but not always.
In any marriage, parties bring in their own, individual debts, and debts are almost always incurred during the marriage, as well. One spouse may choose to take out a loan, not naming the other spouse on the debt, which means only the spouse whose name is on the debt is responsible for what is owed. If that spouse is not able to continue making payments on the debt, he or she can proceed with a bankruptcy to discharge that debt. If the debts listed in that bankruptcy case belong to the filing spouse alone and not the non-filing spouse, discharging the filer’s debts and liabilities should be a straightforward process. It becomes more complicated if any of the debts listed in the bankruptcy case belong to the non-filing spouse. In these situations, these joint debts will normally remain with the non-filing spouse.
Deciding when to file for bankruptcy can be a complicated one. Many times, it makes sense to delay filing for bankruptcy, while other times it makes sense to file right away. In some situations, people are able to work out a plan to pay off their debt without having to file at all. If someone is struggling with making that determination, a bankruptcy attorney can help talk that person through his or her life situation and can help the individual decide when a good time would be for filing for bankruptcy.
Modifying a Mortgage
Bankruptcy is often used as a means of delaying foreclosure. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, a bankruptcy filing will often allow the person to catch up on past-due payments while continuing to make current ones. However, sometimes a mortgage modification may be all the filer needs to hold onto his or her home. If the person files too quickly, he or she may have a harder time obtaining a modification of the mortgage. In fact, once a bankruptcy case has been filed, many lenders will not even talk to the borrower in terms of negotiations over the mortgage. If the borrower is anticipating a mortgage modification, it may be best to wait before filing for bankruptcy.
If someone is wanting to pursue a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, he or she will need to pass the “means test” requirements set by the bankruptcy courts in Florida. If the filer’s income is too high, he or she will be prevented from pursuing a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy case. Not passing the means test does not necessarily mean the person cannot pursue any type of bankruptcy. The filer may still qualify for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, which requires him or her to repay a portion of the qualifying debts over a three to five-year period. The means test calculates the person’s income over a period of several months. Therefore, if the person’s income has dropped recently, he or she may still be able to qualify for Chapter 7 by holding off on filing for a few months.
Keeping Certain Property
Many times, the filer may have certain property that he or she would lose in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, such as an incoming tax refund. If the case is filed too soon, that tax refund may be liquidated and used to pay off certain debts. If the potential filer expects a large income tax refund, he or she may wish to hold off on filing for bankruptcy temporarily and use that money to pay for living expenses over the course of a few months before filing. However, make sure that the expenses being paid with this refund are for necessities and not luxury items. Otherwise the bankruptcy trustee may see the filer as trying to conceal or hide this income before filing. Also, this situation only matters for property that does not fall under an exemption, including the personal property exemption for Florida filers.
New Incoming Debts
If the filer anticipates some additional debts coming in the near future, it may also be wise to hold off on filing for bankruptcy. For most cases, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case will only liquidate debts the filer has as of the date the petition was filed. Any debt that is incurred after the date of filing will stay with the filer after discharge. If the filer anticipates a major medical expense that will result in debt or necessary home improvement expense, it may be best to wait for filing until after that expense has been incurred, making it possible for that debt to be discharged.
If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.