Question:

What is the procedure for filing bankruptcy in Florida?

Steps to Filing Bankruptcy in Florida

The process of filing bankruptcy is different from state to state. They all share some characteristics, but Florida in particular has a very set process with steps that must be followed. Here is a quick breakdown of this process.

  1. Gathering Paperwork – The first step is to itemize your income sources; major financial transactions for the last two years; monthly living expenses; debts (secured and unsecured); and property (all assets and possessions, not just real estate). Also put together your prior year's tax returns as well as any mortgage or deed notes that you hold.
  2. Filing Bankruptcy - Once you have all of your information you should then determine which property you believe is exempt from seizure based on the Florida exemptions. Florida has guidelines for what types of property can be included and which are exempt from bankruptcy procedures. Next, you will need to complete the two page form and submit it to your local district bankruptcy court. These forms, or schedules, ask you to describe your current financial status and recent financial transactions. Be accurate because if your creditors or judge discover that you have not been entirely forthcoming, it could jeopardize the outcome of your petition.
  3. Automatic Stay – After you have filed your paperwork with the bankruptcy court, an automatic stay immediately takes effect. This will prevent creditors from making direct contact with you or staking a claim on any of your property from the day of filing forward. This will stop any foreclosure proceedings.
  4. Assignment of a Bankruptcy Trustee – Once you file, the court will assume legal control of your debts and property. A trustee will be appointed by the court to see that your creditors are paid as much as possible. This person will review your paperwork, particularly the assets you have in your possession and the exemptions you wish to claim, and can challenge any element of your case as they see fit.
  5. Meeting of Creditors - Roughly a month after filing, the trustee will call a first meeting of creditors, which you are required to attend. Objections are typically resolved by negotiation between the debtor or the debtor's counsel and the creditor. If a compromise can not be reached, the judge will intervene.

After the last step above, your bankruptcy filing should take no more than six months to be completed. At that time, all of your debts will be discharged and you can start over towards a new financial future.

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