How much does it cost to file Chapter 13 in Florida?

If you’ve considered filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it would make sense that you’re curious about what expenses to expect. Florida bankruptcies are standardized to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code’s Chapter 13 guidelines, including what fees are charged and how other related expenses are handled. 

As part of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing process, the court has to assess all of your expenses, including what you pay an attorney. Accordingly, all Chapter 13 case lawyers must report their fees to the court for approval, and if the court finds that their price is too costly, they can require the attorney to refund all or a portion of the fee. 

While filing alone (without the help of an attorney) can be significantly cheaper (the filing fee for a Chapter 13 is $313), the overall risk of managing the extensive paperwork, developing a working payment plan, and preparing for creditor meetings makes it more difficult to successfully complete their filing. Most petitioners who begin their bankruptcy without an attorney end up seeking out legal advice down the line. In fact, over 97% of a sampled group of petitioners completed their bankruptcy case with an attorney. 

Having an experienced attorney on your side means you’ll have on-hand legal resources, and a team ready to help solve any complex problems that may arise during your bankruptcy case. Talk to an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney to learn more about what costs to expect and how to otherwise prepare for your Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

Chapter 13 Filing Costs

Bankruptcy filing fees are set according to a fee schedule established by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The schedule is regularly updated, but the amounts tend to stay static for at least a year.

According to the most recent update of the schedule, published in 2020, petitioners can expect to pay a $78 filing fee they file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There are also other incidental costs, including the costs of requesting and copying paperwork, and court charges that add up to a total of $310. Additionally, your case trustee may make a charge of $15-$20, depending on your case.

Reasonable Attorney Fees

How does the court determine reasonable Chapter 13 attorney fees? The process starts with a hearing to go over the lawyer’s fee application. The document is assessed based on factors like how much time it should take for their services to be completed, and then their time is multiplied by an average hourly rate in order to come up with a general guide that can be compared to the lawyer’s application. 

Many courts have begun to utilize an efficient system of outlining a general guide for ‘presumptive fees’ to speed up the hearing. Presumptive fees are just a guideline of expense that the judge deems to be reasonable. If your lawyer agrees to represent you in your case for the presumptive amount or less, the judge will automatically approve the application without looking into further details of your case. This type of proceeding is sometimes referred to as the “no look” fee. 

The presumptive fee is not consistent across the state but generally ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. Note, too, that Chapter 13 attorney fees are usually applicable for a payment plan, and are sometimes tacked on to the agreed ‘credit reorganization’ payment plan. This number ranges by district, and if you aren’t exactly sure what district you’ll be petitioning under, you should ask your attorney for further guidance. 

Why You Might Pay More For Your Bankruptcy Case

Presumptive fees are a general guideline, and not a limit or restriction. If an attorney can document why any given case is more extensive than average, they may apply for added compensation. 

If a case becomes more complicated as it plays out, a lawyer may also have grounds to apply for additional payments beyond the presumptive guideline. Certain cases automatically come with more work: being the sole proprietor of a business, having a lawsuit against you, having student loans, or having less equity in your home than you owe are all unique case scenarios where an attorney may choose to charge more for their services. 

Your attorney will likely have you pay a retainer fee for their services, and any additional charges after that will be added to your reorganization plan. This way, you can properly assess if Chapter 13 is the right option for you, without having to worry about coming up with attorney fees on the spot once you agree to begin. 

Typical payment plans for a Chapter 13 take anywhere between three and five years, but outstanding circumstances may apply to your case, skewing this time frame.  

How Long Does A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Take?

Most petitioners complete their payment plan before 36 months, but the maximum time frame a petitioner may have to complete their payment plan is 60 months. 

The exact terms of cost are agreed upon by the petitioner, their representation, and the bankruptcy court. During this period, you’ll be paying back a portion of what your creditors are due. 

This Chapter of bankruptcy, the reorganization plan, is designed to help the petitioner and the creditors meet in the middle. This way, the collectors receive some of their money back, and the petitioner walks away with a fresh financial start. 

One of the most appealing benefits to a Chapter 13 is the opportunity to keep property that may have otherwise been surrendered. This chapter can help a family prevent foreclosure proceedings in some instances by enacting an automatic stay when the petition begins, and by offering help to cure any delinquent payments. You are still responsible for paying any mortgage payments (on time) during your bankruptcy process, and you cannot halt foreclosure procedures that have already begun. Further, Chapter 13 allows some individuals to reschedule most of their other secured debt, like a vehicle loan, into the ongoing payment plan. 

Get Your Questions Answered By An Experienced Florida Bankruptcy Attorney

The more research you do, the more questions you’re likely to encounter. That is why our bankruptcy team at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd offers a completely free case review at your convenience. 

We want to help you jumpstart into your bankruptcy journey, and we’ll offer our years of experience to help answer any questions about the Chapter 13 process that you may have before committing. We have been assisting Florida petitioners for over 35 years, and we are dedicated to helping our clients receive the best outcome possible from a bankruptcy petition.  Contact us online or call (866) 930-6435 to schedule your 100% free case review today, and start your journey into finding the financial relief that you’ve been looking for.

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