Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Florida: 3 Things You Need to Know

If you deal with debt, not knowing your options can be overwhelming. Therefore, we've written this article to help you navigate Chapter 7 bankruptcy and other possible alternatives. Before getting started, however, there are a few key points you should keep in mind:
Information in this article does not constitute legal advice, it is for informational purposes only, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Readers should contact their attorney for advice on any particular legal matter.

The idea of filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida can be a lot to take in. That's why we wanted to lay out 3 things you may want to know before filing: 

  1. Do you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida? If so, do you know how much it might cost to file?
  2. What alternatives to bankruptcy exist, and are any of them applicable to you?
  3. Are there specifics about filing for bankruptcy that might be unique to Florida?

We'll cover all of these questions in the article below. But if you'd like to get straight to the point, we also have a Florida Chapter 7 calculator. This will help you estimate your eligibility and the possible cost of filing. You can take the free Florida Chapter 7 Means Test Calculator below:

1) How Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Works in Florida

How Fast Do You Get Relief in A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida

It usually takes around 120 days to wrap up a no-asset Chapter 7 case in the state from start to finish. A "no-asset" bankruptcy means that you don't own any fancy houses or other valuable assets that might exceed the Florida bankruptcy exemptions. So, if you're in a situation where you don't have an excess of assets, you could be looking at a relatively speedy resolution to your bankruptcy case.

How Much Does It Cost To File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida

The price tag for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on a few factors. The largest are location, lawyer experience, and case difficulty. Nationally, Chapter 7 bankruptcies cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000.

That said, prices also vary from city to city in Florida. For example, a filing might cost $1,162 in Hialeah but up to $3,000 in Orlando.

There is also the filing fee waiver to keep in mind. If you qualify, it could help reduce the bankruptcy filing cost. Click to learn more: Florida filing fee waiver.

How Do I Qualify For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida?

When reviewing whether you qualify for Chapter 7, you may want to check the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Florida Income Limits. This test determines if you're eligible for a bankruptcy discharge (another way of saying your debts will be forgiven). If you pass the means test (you can estimate it below), Chapter 7 will cover most of your unsecured debts. Unsecured debts don't have any collateral, such as medical bills, personal loans, certain old income tax debts, old utility bills, credit card debts, and most personal judgments.

What about secured debts in Chapter 7?

If you want to wipe out secured debts such as car loans and mortgages, Chapter 7 bankruptcy might still be the answer. But the catch is that you'll have to give up the asset to the creditor, and the creditor will consider it as full payment for what you owe.

IMPORTANT: Chapter 7 Qualification via Florida Means Test

A tool to help you determine your eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida is the Bankruptcy Means Test. This form will help calculate your average annual income based on your last six months of gross income. It will then compare that number to the median income of other households in Florida. If your median income turns out to be below the Florida median income, you might qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge.

Feel free to use the calculator below:

My Income Exceeded The Chapter 7 Means Test Allowable in Florida

If your income is higher than the median income in your state, you might need to dive into part 2 of the means test or explore an alternative option. We encourage you to check out this helpful resource: passing the Chapter 7 means test when income exceeds the median.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Florida Income Limits

If you're filing for bankruptcy in Florida on or after November 1, 2023, here are the limitations for income based on household size:

# of PeopleAnnual Income
1$60,483
2$74,569
3$86,353
4$99,954
5$109,854
6$119,754
7$129,654
8$139,554
9$149,454

Will I lose my belongings if I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy? Understand Florida bankruptcy exemptions.

Bankruptcy exemptions are essential to consider when filing a Chapter 7. They allow you to shield assets otherwise prone to collection from creditors. Luckily, in Florida, the home exemption is unlimited. The only restriction is that it cannot be larger than half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere.

Furthermore, you can also protect $1,000 worth of personal property and $1,000 in motor vehicle equity. The amount for the motor vehicle exemption also increases if you are filing jointly.

The last principal exemption in Florida has to do with wages. Wages of the head of family are exempt up to $750 per week. It is also essential to consider that Florida does not allow federal bankruptcy exemptions. Therefore, you will only be able to leverage the exemptions mentioned above.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Florida Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The speed at which you can receive a discharge: In just about 120 days, you could be debt-free and on your way to building a fresh start.
  • Property exemptions: If you meet the threshold for exemptions, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may allow you to keep a good percentage of your personal property.
  • Stopping debt collection lawsuits: Once you file, the court will issue an automatic stay, preventing legal action against you, including calls and letters from collectors.
  • Loan deficiency: When you owe more on a loan than the collateral is worth, you may be stuck with a deficiency. But with bankruptcy, that burden could be lifted.

Cons

  • Income requirements for qualification: To be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must meet specific income requirements.
  • Potential loss of home and belongings: If your assets exceed the exemption limit, there is a chance that you may have to part ways with some of your property.
  • Negative impact on credit report: Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can have a lasting effect on your credit report. It stays on record for a decade, challenging securing future loans or favorable interest rates.
  • Non-dischargeable debt: It's important to note that not all debts may be discharged through Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Specific obligations, such as student loans and child support payments, are typically not eligible for discharge.

2) Alternatives to Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida

a) Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Florida

If you earn more than the income limit for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there's still a way to get some debt relief through Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Florida allows you to restructure your debts into a more manageable monthly plan. This restructuring can help you keep your home and vehicles, help stop foreclosure, and prevent repossession of your belongings. Furthermore, you might be able to reduce any unpaid child support, alimony, and car loan payments.

Can you afford Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

If you are considering a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it may be helpful to understand the cost associated. The plan can often times be relative to your income and expenses.

b) Debt Settlement/Relief

Debt settlement may also be another option aside from Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Once you pursue this option, the debt settlement company negotiates a lower amount on your total debt, saving you money in the long run. However, consider its impact on your credit score and research correctly to choose a well-reputable and transparent debt settlement company.

c) Debt Management

Another option is debt management. Whereas debt settlement companies work to lower the total amount of debt you owe, debt management companies work to lower your interest rates. These programs usually last 3 to 5 years and are pricier than debt settlement. Not all creditors may be willing to work with a debt management company.

However, if you're dealing with a bunch of high-interest credit card debt, this option may reduce that interest by around 10-20%. This could translate to an eventual 30-50% savings on the debt you currently owe and allow you to pay off these debts more efficiently. Considering your situation and determining which option makes the most sense financially is essential.

d) Debt Payoff Planning

The last alternative we'll mention is debt payoff planning. This strategy does take some effort and will require you to cut your expenses and save excess income to pay down as much debt as possible. However, you can make tangible progress every month by choosing the appropriate debt payoff plan. Another thing to remember is that as you begin to pay off your debts, you will be able to compound those payments towards the remaining debts, allowing you to pay things off faster and faster.

Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading this article, you feel more confident about Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its alternatives. As previously mentioned, if you would like an estimate of your eligibility and possible filing costs, please use the calculator below.

And as a final note, there is also the option of filing bankruptcy without a lawyer. Although most people don't choose this route, it could be feasible if you're looking to save on the fees. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, we highly recommend the following article: filing bankruptcy without an attorney.

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