How do I qualify for Chapter 13 in Florida?

Millions of Floridians struggle with insurmountable debt. If you are in a situation where you are struggling to manage your debts, you may be eligible to apply for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Doing so could help you restructure your debts, establish a repayment plan, and have certain debts discharged once you’ve completed your plan. 

To determine if you qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Florida, you need to understand the state-specific regulations and federal laws surrounding Chapter 13. 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you are in a position where you can restructure your debts through Chapter 13, and you are considering moving forward with your petition, you should consider working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Florida. As Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd, we are well-versed in Florida bankruptcy laws, and we are ready to help you prepare for a more stable financial future. 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Regulations in Florida

Filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition is a detailed process. While you have the right to represent yourself through the process, you may want to consider hiring an attorney who can practice in bankruptcy court. You need to follow all applicable laws and requirements no matter how you proceed to ensure your filing goes as smoothly as possible. 

Eligibility Debt Limits 

To learn if you qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you first need to ensure your debt meets the required limits. To apply for Chapter 13, you must owe less than $419,000 in unsecured debts and $1,277,000 in secured debts. Unsecured debts include credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans, while secured debts include debts like mortgages and auto loans. 

Note that the debt ceilings can increase over time, so the limits could change before moving forward with your petition. If your debts are higher than the limit, you do not qualify for Chapter 13.  

Credit Counseling Requirements 

Prior to officially filing for bankruptcy, you must undergo credit counseling. The required course must be completed within 180 days before the bankruptcy filing. Credit counseling helps debtors understand if filing Chapter 13 is suitable for their situation. In some instances, debtors learn that an alternative repayment plan is better for them. 

Where and how credit counseling takes place is not specifically required. You can complete an individual course or attend a structured group course. Counseling does not have to happen in person or at any specific location. Briefings can take place virtually or over the phone. Upon completion, you will be required to file a statement of compliance. 

To set up credit counseling, you will contact a counseling agency and provide them with your debt and income information. Credit counseling agencies are required to provide services at a reasonable rate. In the event you are unable to pay for the requested fee, agencies are required to provide services for free or at a reduced rate. They will review your options for repaying the debt and prepare an estimated budget. 

It is important to note that while bankruptcy law requires potential filers to participate in credit counseling, no one is required to follow the agencies’ suggestions. In the event a Chapter 13 repayment plan is possible, but a person changes their mind, they can still back out from filing an official petition. 

If you move forward with a Chapter 13 petition, you are required to complete a post-bankruptcy course known as debtor education. The debtor education course provides information on financial management tools and budgeting. 

Filing Fees

Prior to filing a bankruptcy petition in Florida, you are required to submit a filing fee. The filing fee for Chapter 13 is $313. The fee is to be mailed via certified check or money order in the exact amount to the Clerk. You also have the option to apply for filing fee installments. In that instance, a minimum payment of half of the filing fee is required when you submit your bankruptcy petition.

Bankruptcy Petition Documents 

Filing for bankruptcy involves a significant amount of paperwork. At the time of filing, the following documents are due:

    • Legible copy of government-issued photo ID
    • Voluntary bankruptcy filing petition 
    • Social security number statement 
    • Certificate of credit counseling and debt repayment plan 
    • Creditor matrix 
  • An initial report of eviction judgment (if applicable) 

Within 14 days of filing, the following documents are due:

    • Filing fee payment 
    • Pre-petition statement 
    • Assets and liability summary 
    • Schedules:
      • A/B: Property 
      • C: Property you claim as exempt 
      • D: Creditors who have claims secured by property 
      • E/F: Creditors who have unsecured claims 
      • G: Unexpired leases and executory contracts
      • H: Co-debtors 
      • I: Income 
      • J: Expenses 
      • J-2: Expenses of debtor two (if applicable)
    • Declaration for individual detector’s schedules
    • Statement of financial affairs 
    • Declaration regarding payment advice 
    • Chapter 13 statement for current monthly income and calculated commitment period 
    • Chapter 13 calculation of disposable income 
  • Chapter 13 plan 

It can seem like an overwhelming process, but with an attorney by your side, you will know exactly what to expect and what needs to be signed, filed, and processed in order for your debts to be put on a payment plan and eventually discharged. 

Chapter 13 Discharge Eligibility in Florida 

Chapter 13 repayment plans are three or five years, depending on your amount of debts and income. You will likely submit monthly installments for all secured debts and a portion of your unsecured debts. If you successfully reach the end of your repayment plan, you may be able to have any remaining debts discharged. 

Discharged debts are essentially erased. Commonly discharged debts include personal loans, credit card balances, medical expenses, and older tax obligations. Chapter 13 discharge does not allow for the removal of debts like alimony, mortgages, student loans, or child support. 

Get Help From a Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer 

If you are considering restructuring your debts via Chapter 13, a Florida bankruptcy attorney from Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd can evaluate your situation and help you decide if filing is right for your financial future. To learn more about the filing process and determine your eligibility, call (866) 930-6435 or contact us online to schedule a complimentary consultation online today.

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