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Live in Florida and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Florida debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Florida is one of the most debtor-friendly states in the country. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, you have a choice between the federal bankruptcy exemptions and the state bankruptcy exemptions. Exemptions are laws the bankruptcy court has in place to allow you to keep and protect your property.
You should carefully review both Florida bankruptcy exemptions and federal bankruptcy exemptions to determine which set of exemption laws would be most beneficial for you to apply given the property you have. For example, homeowners in the Sunshine State have a unique advantage over homeowners in other states when they use the Florida bankruptcy exemptions. The Florida bankruptcy exemptions allows you to keep the entire value of your home during your bankruptcy as long as you meet a set of requirements. These requirements include: (1) living in Florida for a certain amount of time and (2) not having property over a certain number of acres.
How to File Bankruptcy in Florida for Free
Below, you’ll find a list of helpful topics that this article covers on how to file for bankruptcy in the Sunshine State. This list includes topics specific to filing in Florida, such as the Florida homestead exemption. It only includes information for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Feel free to explore the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Collect Your Florida Bankruptcy Documents
First, you’re going to need to collect all of the documents required for filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. If you’re employed, this includes at least 60 days of pay stubs and two years of tax returns. Trustees also sometimes ask for bank statements and, if you own a home, they’re going to want to see documents relevant to the home (deed, mortgage statement). It’s good to collect these documents prior to filing for bankruptcy. If you’re unsure of how much debt you owe, you will want to obtain your credit report from Equifax, Transunion, or Experian through AnnualCreditReport.com. This is also important, so that you can be sure list your creditors and their addresses. If you work with a bankruptcy attorney or Upsolve, they will take care of this for you.
Take Credit Counseling
Before you file your bankruptcy forms, you’ll need to take the credit counseling course that’s required by Florida bankruptcy laws. You can take the course online from the comfort of your own home if you prefer. But you can also take the course in person at a local nonprofit in Florida. The Department of Justice maintains a list of all the nonprofits that are approved to provide credit counseling courses in Florida. The Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, Inc. in Jacksonville is one nonprofit that provides this credit counseling course. GreenPath is another nonprofit that has offices in Tampa and Jacksonville. But we recommend that people explore the online options that are available to them, as they’re usually the most convenient and least expensive. You can take the credit counseling course either before or after you complete your bankruptcy forms, but you will always need to take it before filing your forms. This course can range in cost from $10 to $50. If you find yourself paying about $50 in Florida, you probably don’t need to be.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When you have all of your information ready, you can fill out your bankruptcy forms. If you’re filing on your own, also known as filing “pro se”, you can access your bankruptcy forms at the U.S. Court Website. If you’re using a local Florida bankruptcy attorney, you’ll have the opportunity to have a conversation with an attorney or a paralegal about your personal financial situation. They’ll ask you about your income, expenses, assets, debts, and other personal financial information that they’ll transfer to your bankruptcy forms. If you go through the Upsolve process, you’ll be able to input this information about your personal finances on your own. There are three federal bankruptcy districts in Florida: the Southern District of Florida, the Middle District of Florida, and the Northern District of Florida. These districts have local Florida bankruptcy judges. If you’re filing for bankruptcy on your own, make sure to ask the court whether there are local Florida bankruptcy forms that you will need to file.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you earn above 150 percent of the federal poverty line, then you’ll need to pay a $335 filing fee with the court. For someone in the 48 contiguous states, this is $1,561.25 per month per single person. For a family of four, this is $3,218.75 per month. You will also need to pay for your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course and your post-bankruptcy debtor education course. If you earn below 150 percent of the federal poverty line, then you may qualify for a fee waiver, which means your $335 filing fee with the court is waived. If you submit your fee waiverapplication to the court, it will be reviewed by a Florida bankruptcy judge, who will decide whether to grant you the waiver based on your financial situation. If the Florida bankruptcy judge denies your fee waiver, you will have to pay the $335 filing fee. Fortunately, you can request to pay the fee in installments if you don’t have $335 available up front. Most people choose to pay in four installments ranging from $75 to $100.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Most people who file for bankruptcy in Florida will have to print about 23 different forms if they’re filing on their own plus whatever local Florida bankruptcy forms their district requires. If you don’t have a printer at your house, you should go to a local Staples or Kinkos and try to print your forms there. You can also try to ask around if a friend has a printer or contact your local Florida public librarian to let them know that you’re filing bankruptcy in Florida and need their assistance with printing. Unfortunately, the Florida bankruptcy courts do not permit people filing Chapter 7 in Florida to use the printers at the courthouse. If you have an attorney, they will have the ability to file your bankruptcy forms with the court electronically, so you don’t have to worry about printing out the forms yourself.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The next step in how to file bankruptcy in Florida is to actually file your forms with the court. This is an important step because your creditors will be notified that you’ve filed for bankruptcy, and they will not be able to contact you to collect debts. The automatic stay will go into effect as soon as you file your paperwork. Once you print out your forms, you can either hand deliver them to your local bankruptcy courthouse in Florida, or mail in your forms. For people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, we recommend calling your courthouse in advance to make sure that they actually allow you to file your forms with them. Some people filing bankruptcy in Florida find that some courthouses only hold 341 meetings, but do not accept bankruptcy filings. If the courthouse isn’t too far away, we suggest filing bankruptcy in Florida in person. If you’re missing a signature or you’re missing a form, you’ll find out immediately and you can address the omission. If you’re filing for bankruptcy in Florida by mail and you’ve omitted even one signature, your bankruptcy may not be successful and you’ll be required to mail in your forms again. This can cause a frustrating time delay.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, you must finish the post-filing tasks. The first post-filing task is to mail your trustee the paperwork that they request. Your trustee is the court official who oversees your bankruptcy case. You’ll receive your Florida bankruptcy trustee assignment after filing your initial bankruptcy forms. You may either receive the assignment immediately, or it may be mailed to you. It will be included in a form called Official Form 309A. You should contact your Florida bankruptcy trustee to see what paperwork they require. Some trustees will require more documents than other trustees for people filing Chapter 7 in Florida.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Bankruptcy Course 2 is a lot like Course 1. It’s also known as the “post-filing course” and the “debtor education course.” People filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida have the option of taking Course 2 on the phone, over the internet, or in person. There are brick and mortar nonprofits like the Family Foundations of Northeast Florida and GreenPath that provide Course 2 in person for Floridians who prefer to take the course face-to-face. For people filing bankruptcy in Florida who prefer an online web application or a phone conversation, even more options exist. Just like after Course 1, you’ll receive a certificate when you finish Course 2. You can file this certificate yourself with the court, or you can ask the credit counseling agency that offered you the course to file the certificate for you. Sometimes there will be an extra charge for this, and sometimes there won’t be. You should do your best to finish Course 2 before your 341 meeting, as the day of your 341 meeting is a great time to file your certificate with the clerk’s office. Do not give your Course 2 certificate to the trustee’s office when filing bankruptcy in Florida.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
One to two months after filing bankruptcy in Florida, you’ll have your 341 meeting. This is a meeting between you and the court official who oversees your bankruptcy case. Everyone filing chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida must attend a 341 meeting. For people with simple chapter 7 cases in Florida, the 341 meeting usually takes less than ten minutes. The trustee reads from a list of prepared questions. The purpose of the meeting is to make sure you were honest on your bankruptcy forms and that you followed the Florida bankruptcy laws. As long as you were honest during your bankruptcy, you have nothing to worry about. We have a video to prepare you for your 341 meeting, which runs through the general script of the questions that the trustee will ask.
Dealing with Your Car
If you have a car, the first important thing you need to do is make sure to list it on your bankruptcy forms. Even if you don’t drive the car everyday, and you don’t consider the car “your car,” as long as your name is on the title, you need to list it on your bankruptcy forms. Whether or not you’re going to be able to keep your car when filing bankruptcy in Florida depends on a few factors, including how much your car is worth and what exemptions you choose to apply. In Florida, some bankruptcy trustees do not permit the Kelly Blue Book valuation and, instead, require a valuation from the National Automobile Dealers Association. After you list your car on your forms, you have a few options if you don’t own your car in full. You’ll have to choose between redeeming, reaffirming, surrendering, and doing a ride through, or continuing to make payments after talking to your car lender.
Florida Bankruptcy Means Test
The Florida bankruptcy means test is an income test that tells you whether you’re subject to what’s called the “presumption of abuse.” If you earn above the means test cutoff for your household size, you’ll have to fill out additional bankruptcy paperwork to confirm for the court that you meet chapter 7 bankruptcy eligibility requirements. There are several online bankruptcy means test calculators for Florida, and you can also use the charts below to learn about the bankruptcy income cutoffs.
Median Income Levels for Florida
Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty levels for Florida
Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Florida Bankruptcy Forms
Since the bankruptcy code is federal law, people filing bankruptcy in Florida use the federal bankruptcy forms. People in the Southern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, and Northern District of Florida are in luck as all of the courts only require one set of bankruptcy forms. The Middle District of Florida is unique in that people filing chapter 7 in that district don’t need a statement of pay advices. In all other Florida districts, you’ll need to fill out the statement of pay advices, which can be found in the “local forms” section of your Florida Bankruptcy Court Website.
Northern District of Florida Requirements
The Northern District of Florida has no special forms. The Court for the District is held at Gainesville, Panama City, Pensacola, and Tallahassee. The court serves approximately 1.75 million people.
The Northern District of Florida has no special forms.
- You will need one copy of your forms.
Middle District of Florida Requirements
The Middle District of Florida has no special forms. However, you will have to make sure to follow these instructions for putting together your creditors matrix as the Court will not accept them in another format. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida is one of three federal judicial districts in Florida. Court for the District is held at Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, and Tampa.
The Middle District of Florida has no special forms.
- You will need one copy of your forms.
- Statement of No Payment Advices
Southern District of Florida Requirements
The Southern District of Florida has no special forms, but make sure you file the mandatory declaration regarding payment advices. The Court includes the nine counties of Broward, Highlands, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie. The district includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. It comprises 15,197 square miles and about 6.3 million people.
The Southern District of Florida has no special forms.
- You will need one copy of your forms.
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Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions
The Florida bankruptcy exemptions are quite unique. You’ll have the choice of the federal exemptions and the chapter 7 exemptions in Florida that are state-specific. People filing bankruptcy in Florida who own homes often choose to use the Florida bankruptcy exemptions, as they’re very generous to homeowners.
Further Florida exemptions.↑ Back to top
Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The cost of a Florida bankruptcy lawyer varies widely. We’ve heard of lawyers charging only a few hundred dollars for simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. It can go up to the $3,000 range. If you’re curious to know the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Florida near you, we suggest calling a few different attorneys to get quotes, as most of them provide free consultations.
Attorney Cost Range: $999 - $1,500
Florida Legal Aid Organizations
Florida legal aid organizations are particularly robust and provide free representation to low-income families who make below a certain amount of income per year, which is usually 200% of the poverty line. Some programs, like Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, are large and funded by Congress through the Legal Services Corporation, while other programs may be smaller and more local. Overall, legal aid in Florida is robust for low-income Florida residents and you should check in with organizations near you to see if you may be eligible. These programs usually provide more than just help navigating Florida bankruptcy laws.
Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
1302 N. 19th Street, Suite 400, Tampa, FL 33605
Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.
491 North State Road 7, Plantation, FL 33317
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.
128 Orange Avenue, Suite 300, Daytona Beach, FL 32114-4310
Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.
1321 E. Memorial Boulevard, Lakeland, FL 33801
Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.
2119 Delta Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32303-4209
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Florida Court Locations
Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
300 North Hogan Street Jacksonville, FL 32202
George C. Young United States Courthouse
400 West Washington Street Orlando, FL 32801
Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse
801 North Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33602
United States Courthouse and Federal Building
2110 First Street Fort Myers, FL 33901
C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse
301 North Miami Avenue Miami, FL 33128
The Flagler Waterview Building
1515 North Flagler Drive West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Winston E. Arnow Federal Building
100 North Palafox Street Pensacola, FL 32502
Florida Bankruptcy Judges
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Karen S. Jennemann|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Cynthia C. Jackson|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Arthur B. Briskman|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Michael G. Williamson|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Catherine McEwen|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Caryl E. Delano|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Roberta A. Colton|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Jerry A. Funk|
|Middle District of Florida||Hon. Paul M. Glenn|
|Northern District of Florida||Hon. Karen K. Specie|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Laurel M. Isicoff|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Jay Cristol|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Paul G. Hyman|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Erik P. Kimball|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Robert A. Mark|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Mindy A. Mora|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. John K. Olson|
|Southern District of Florida||Hon. Raymond B. Ray|
|Doreen R. Abbottemail@example.com|
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|Sherry F. Chancellor||Sherry.Chancellor@yahoo.com|
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