How to File for Bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida | Bankruptcy Lawyers
One of the first questions you'll want to ask your Jacksonville bankruptcy attorney is, "which chapter of bankruptcy is best for me?" You will likely want an immediate answer, but the truth is that it's not possible to give an answer without first reviewing your financial situation and discussing the goals you want to accomplish with bankruptcy.
There are six basic types of bankruptcy provided for in the Bankruptcy Code, but only three types are commonly used by the average person: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13. The other three types of bankruptcy cases are for more specific purposes: Chapter 12 is for family farmers and fishermen; Chapter 9 is for municipalities; and, Chapter 15 is for cross-border cases.
You must qualify for the chapter of bankruptcy under which you want to file. There are both time requirements (for those who have filed before and/or received a discharge) and requirements regarding whether a chapter is available to individuals or business entities. A qualified Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer will answer the question of "Who May Be a Debtor?" and provide you with the advice of the best bankruptcy chapter for your situation.
Jurisdiction and Venue
If you have moved or changed residence during the 180 days prior to filing for bankruptcy, you may have to file in a different bankruptcy court than the court in the city/district where you are currently living. Military personnel who are stationed in one place, but maintain a residence in may also have jurisdiction issues about where to file their case. A competent Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer will review your residential history and other circumstances and identify the correct bankruptcy court for your case.
Decisions to be made with your Jacksonville attorney while preparing the bankruptcy case
An experienced Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney will review your situation and advise you on these topics:
Exemptions (how to apply the exemptions, both federally and/or in your state, available to you and best protect the property you would like to keep after bankruptcy)
Florida has specific statutes that provide for certain property to be protected. A Jacksonville debt relief lawyer will be fully knowledgeable on these Florida property protection statutes.
- The Florida Homestead Exemption is both in Article X of the Florida Constitution and in the Florida Statutes Title XV, Chapter 222;
- Personal Property Exemption;
- Motor Vehicles not to Exceed $1000.00, Health Aids, and Personal Property not to exceed $4000.00 if no Homestead Exemption is claimed; and
- Exemptions of Wages from Garnishment related to Child Support.
- Florida has specific statutes that provide for certain property to be protected. A Jacksonville debt relief lawyer will be fully knowledgeable on these Florida property protection statutes.
- Lien Avoidance (how to handle any liens against your property; whether or not to redeem or reaffirm liens against property or to surrender property and avoid the lien)
- Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases (should you assume or keep your agreement for executory contracts and leases or reject them?)
When the decisions have been made and you have provided the required documentation to your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer, your bankruptcy forms including the petition, schedules, forms, and statements will be prepared for your review and signature.
Your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney will also counsel you about which of your debts cannot or might not be discharged by Bankruptcy Court. Consumer Bankruptcy will not get rid of certain debts. Some debts will survive the bankruptcy process. Under the bankruptcy laws, debts that fall into these major categories may turn out to be non-dischargeable unless you can prove an exception exists:
► Debts you don't list in your bankruptcy filings (11 U.S.C. 523(a)(3)).
► Student loans unless repayment would cause you undue hardship. (11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8)).
► Most federal, state and local taxes (11 U.S.C. 523(a)(1) and any money borrowed on a credit card to
pay those taxes (11 U.S.C. 523 (a)(14)).
► Child support and alimony and debts in the nature of support (11 U.S.C. 523 (a)(5) and 523 (a)(18)).
► Fines or restitution (to the court or victim) imposed in a criminal-type proceeding (11 U.S.C. 523
(a)(7) and 18 U.S.C. 3613).
► Fees imposed by a court for the filing of a case, motion, complaint or appeal or for other costs and
expenses assessed with such filing (11 U.S.C. 523 (a)(17)).
► Debts resulting from intoxicated driving (11 U.S.C. 523 (a)(9)).
► Debts you couldn't discharge in a previous bankruptcy that was dismissed due to fraud. (11 U.S.C.
There may be a way to get these debts discharged but you absolutely should contact a Jacksonville Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer to discuss whether this is possible for your circumstances. On the bright side, filing for bankruptcy will remove most of the burdens of debt from you. You will then be able to more readily pay any of the debts listed above. Further, some of these debts are negotiable.
Credit Counseling and Debtor Education
Before your Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyer can file your bankruptcy case, you will be required to complete credit counseling from a government-approved organization. A credit counseling session can take place in person, online or over the telephone and should last about one hour.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a helpful brochure with suggestions of how to select a reputable credit counseling agency. It is important to keep in mind that credit counseling must take place before you file for bankruptcy while a second required course, debtor education, takes place after you file. The two courses cannot be taken at the same time.
Local government-approved credit counseling offices in the Jacksonville area include:
- Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, Inc., 1639 Atlantic Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32207 (904) 396-4846
Filing the Case — Electronic Filing (CM/ECF)
When your documents have been prepared by your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney, you will be asked to review and sign them. Bankruptcy courts in the State of Florida use an electronic filing system. Your Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyer will retain the "wet ink" versions of your signed documents, but will transmit an electronic version of your signed documents to the bankruptcy court.
Property of the Estate
A bankruptcy case commences when the petition is filed with the Bankruptcy Court. Upon commencement of the case, an "estate" is created that includes all of the property and equitable interests owned by the debtor at the time of filing.
After the Case is Filed — the Automatic Stay
As soon as your case is filed, an "automatic stay" goes into effect. This is one of the best protections offered by bankruptcy law. An automatic stay stops wage garnishments; it stops foreclosure actions; it stops repossessions and the sale of property recently repossessed. Your Jacksonville bankruptcy law firm will contact your creditors to stop any of these actions as soon as your case is filed.
An automatic stay does not last for an indefinite period of time. Creditors may file a motion to have the automatic stay lifted with regards to their claim. Your Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyer is your best resource for how the automatic stay will benefit your particular financial circumstances.
The Meeting of Creditors (the 341 Meeting)
Bankruptcy law requires that a person filing for bankruptcy attend a meeting of creditors so that the creditors may ask questions about debts and property. This is called the meeting of creditors, or more commonly referred to as the 341 meeting (because of the section of the Bankruptcy Code which requires it). In a typical case, whether it is a chapter 7 or a chapter 13, this is a very brief meeting lasting only a few minutes because most creditors do not attend. If a creditor or creditors attend the meeting, the meeting might last longer but only if the creditors have questions or statements.
The 341 meeting is usually held at the trustee's office or in a conference room type office at the courthouse or some other location. The bankruptcy judge is not present and the meeting is administered by the trustee. (In the majority of cases, most debtors will never appear before the bankruptcy judge as that is only necessary if some sort of objection was raised in the case.)
The meeting room location for bankruptcy cases filed in Duval County is:
300 North Hogan Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Some Jacksonville area creditors who might attend a 341 Meeting include:
FloridaBank, A Federal Savings Bank
5500 San Jose Boulevard Jacksonville, FL 32207
Rent a Center
7900 103rd Street, Jacksonville, FL 32210
General Furniture Leasing
4316 University Boulevard S, Jacksonville, FL 32216
Creditors file Proofs of Claims
Your creditors will begin to file documents called Proofs of Claims (except in "no asset" cases). Creditors are required to file these written statements within 90 days after the first date set for the creditors meeting. The claims describe the debt owed by the debtor (person who filed for bankruptcy) to the creditor (person/company filing the claim).
Each claim is reviewed by your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Lawyer to verify that the claim is accurate. It is not unusual for a company that processes thousands of these claims every day to file a claim in the wrong case. If you believe that a claim filed against you is incorrect, your Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney will file an objection to the claim. If you and the creditor cannot come to an agreement about the claim or its amount, the bankruptcy judge will review the claim and render a decision.
Jacksonville Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorneys serve Jacksonville and its surrounding areas.
Serving clients throughout Northeastern Florida, including Amelia Island, Atlantic Beach, Bakersville, Bellair, Belmore, Blacks Still, Boulogne, Brooker, Butler, Callahan, Dukes, Fernandina Beach, Fruit Cove, Green Cove Springs, Gross, Guilford, Hillard, Hillcoat, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Jasper, Kingsley Beach, Lake Butler, Lakeside, Little Tiger Island, Long Beach, Long Branch, Middleburg, Neptune Beach, O'Neil, Orange Park, Palm Valley, Piney Island, Ponte Vedra Beach, Ratliff, Sanderson, Starke, Walkill, Watertown, White Springs, Worthington Springs, Yulee, and other communities in Duval County.