Bankruptcy - Frequently Asked Questions

What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is the legal method for a debtor to discharge or relieve debt. Bankruptcy is a way for people or a business who owe more money than they can pay to either work out a plan to repay the money over time or to have their debt wiped out. While no debtor is guaranteed a total discharge, most debtors who file for bankruptcy are given such relief. One of the primary purposes of the bankruptcy act is to relieve the honest debtor from the weight of oppressive indebtedness and to provide the debtor with a fresh start.

Who can file for bankruptcy?

Any person, partnership, corporation or business trust may file bankruptcy,. In addition, charitable or social organizations may also file for bankruptcy. United States citizenship is not a requirement for filing bankruptcy.

What if I am married?

If you are married you may file a joint petition with your spouse. A joint petition is the filing of a single bankruptcy petition by an individual and spouse. In order to qualify for a joint petition you must be married on the date that the joint petition is filed. Unmarried persons, corporations and partnerships must each file a separate case. If you are an individual and have a business, you may not file a single petition for yourself and your business; each must be a separate bankruptcy case.

Will I lose my house, car, and other personal property?

Each state has laws that determine which items or property are exempt. For example, many states exempt personal items such as furniture and clothing. In addition, other kinds of property are exempt up to a limit. These exemption limits mean that any equity you have in the property above the limit is not exempt. The Bankruptcy Court can take the property and sell it, pay off any creditors, give to you the exemption amount, and keep the rest for other creditors.

Will filing bankruptcy affect my credit rating?

Unfortunately it will. However, most individuals are able to rebuild their credit within a few years. If you are currently contemplating bankruptcy, then it is likely that your current credit rating has already been affected. A discharge of your current debt may provide the opportunity to rebuild your credit with steady, regular payments on a new account.

How long will a bankruptcy show on my credit reports?

The Bankruptcy Court has no jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies. The Fair Credit Report Act, 6 U.S.C. Section 605, is the law that controls credit reporting agencies. The law states that credit reporting agencies may not report a bankruptcy case on a person’s credit report after ten years from the date the bankruptcy case is filed. Other bad credit information is removed after seven years. The larger credit reporting agencies belong to an organization called the Associated Credit Bureaus. The policy of the Associated Credit Bureaus is to remove Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 cases from the credit report after seven years.

How often can I file bankruptcy?

Once a discharge is granted, a debtor cannot file another bankruptcy for eight years. The filing of a Chapter 13 may be permitted within the six year period.

When do I get relief from creditor harassment?

Once retained all creditors should contact our office instead of calling you. When the bankruptcy is filed an “automatic stay” goes into effect. This is essentially a freeze. Creditors cannot call, sue, garnish, or take any action without court approval.