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Filing Bankruptcy in Miami, Florida

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Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated September 30, 2020

Unfortunately, the promise of the American Dream isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work or how fiscally responsible you are, you can find yourself struggling to meet your family’s most basic needs. If creditors are harassing you and you are running out of creative solutions to manage your overwhelming debt, know that you’re not alone. Many hardworking and responsible adults explore filing bankruptcy in Miami because sometimes Florida bankruptcy is simply the best option available when one’s financial situation just doesn’t add up. Depending on your household size, income, expenses and the value of your property, you may be able to eliminate your eligible debts in as few as 90 days while retaining ownership of most or all of your property.

You have some options when it comes to Miami bankruptcy, as you may be able to choose whether to reorganize your debt under Chapter 13 or eliminate it without a payment plan under Chapter 7. Not everyone is eligible to file for both of these options, as only low-income filers can take advantage of the benefits of filing under Chapter 7. However, if you qualify for this opportunity, it’s worth your strong consideration. Filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 eliminates many kinds of debt and being relieved of the pressure of paying back your creditors can be life-altering. If you don’t earn much income and you are otherwise eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it may allow you to stop spending your days worrying about how you’re going to make this month’s debt payments. This will free up time so that you can start focusing on building a strong financial future for yourself and your family. Since the Great Recession of 2008, the process of filing for bankruptcy has all but lost the stigma it was once associated with. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to hesitate when it comes to researching your bankruptcy-related options.

Miami Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost

Hiring an attorney is widely perceived as a very costly investment. However, different attorneys charge different amounts for their services and often charge less than what one might expect for fairly straightforward guidance and support. For example, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer tasked with helping a family filing bankruptcy in Miami isn’t outrageous. Generally, you can hire bankruptcy assistance in Miami to help you with a Chapter 7 case for around $1,000. However, it’s important to understand that you can avoid dealing with the Miami bankruptcy lawyer cost associated with filing if you complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork yourself. There is nothing wrong with hiring an attorney to help you if you’d prefer to have that assistance. However, low-income individuals who don’t have particularly complex financial situations can usually file without an attorney’s help. The paperwork involved in this process is straightforward and comes with clear directions.

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How to File Bankruptcy in Miami, Florida for Free

Learning more about the paperwork, time-investment and benefits associated with Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami helps individuals struggling with debt make informed decisions about whether Florida bankruptcy is right for them.  If you think bankruptcy might be an option worth considering, please review the following information about the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process in Florida to learn more.

Collect Your Miami Bankruptcy Documents

When you prepare to do your taxes, you assemble all the documents you’ll need to reference to complete your tax forms. After all, you can’t accurately report your income and exemptions to the Internal Revenue Service if you don’t have your tax-related documents in front of you. When preparing to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami, you’ll similarly need to gather reference documents so you can report your income, expenses, property, and debts to the Court. Filling out paperwork is the most time-intensive part of filing bankruptcy in Miami, so it’s helpful to gather necessary reference documents proactively. That way, when you sit down to complete your forms, you’ll have all the information you need to do so efficiently. In general, you’ll want a copy of your current credit report, recent pay stubs, your most recent tax return, recent credit card statements and your most recent bank statements at the ready. 

Take Credit Counseling

The Court requires anyone filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami to take a pre-filing credit counseling course within the six months before a bankruptcy petition is filed. This educational requirement can be conveniently completed online and aims to ensure that anyone filing for Miami bankruptcy understands their debt-relief options. Chapter 7 bankruptcy isn’t the best option for everyone, so it’s important to feel confident that this path is right for you before you file paperwork with the Court. When choosing a course, make sure it has been approved by the Department of Justice for the Southern District of Florida or the Court won’t recognize your participation.  

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

It surprises many people to learn that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami is such a straightforward process that many low-income filers successfully obtain bankruptcy relief without hiring a lawyer. “But,” you may be saying, “I don’t know how to file bankruptcy in Miami!” When you gather the standard, federal bankruptcy forms the Court requires, you won’t need to have an intuitive understanding of the bankruptcy process because each form features step-by-step directions. Just because you’ve never filed for bankruptcy on your own before doesn’t mean you can’t. By remaining calm, focused and dedicated to following every direction to the letter, you can save a great deal of money on legal fees by completing your bankruptcy paperwork yourself.

Get Your Filing Fee

Filing bankruptcy in Miami under Chapter 7 requires that applicants pay a filing fee of $338. However, low-income filers may qualify for a fee waiver which permits the Court to process their case for free. Even if your household doesn’t qualify for a fee waiver, you may be able to ask the Court to approve a fee installment plan so that paying this fee becomes more manageable. Please don’t let the filing fee requirement keep you from filing Miami bankruptcy. While it’s frustrating to be asked to pay a fee so that you can explain to the Courts why you shouldn’t be held accountable for your outstanding debts at this time, the investment in your financial future that this fee represents is a powerful thing. 

When was the last time that you visited any of the 50 branches of the Miami-Dade Public Library System? When filing for Miami bankruptcy, you can’t submit your paperwork online, so printing your necessary documents at the library is a great option if you don’t have easy access to a printer at work or in your home. You may fill out your forms first electronically as PDFs or you may print them out and fill them out in legible handwriting. If you’d prefer not to visit the library, you can also opt to print your forms at a commercial establishment, like a Fed-Ex store, for a fee. 

Go to Court to File Your Forms

While you can submit your bankruptcy paperwork to the Court via postal mail, submitting it in person allows you to get the bankruptcy process started more quickly and allows you to get a copy of your forms stamped for your records. Miami is part of the Southern District of Florida, which has a branch office located at 301 North Miami Avenue. As the courthouse is a federal building, so it’s closed on weekends, federal holidays, and during severe weather events. It’s important to plan for filing bankruptcy in Miami at the courthouse accordingly. Also, take care to bring a photo ID with you and to be prepared to walk through a metal detector upon arrival.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

Everyone who files for Florida bankruptcy is assigned a Trustee by the Court. A Trustee is modestly paid to oversee some parts of your bankruptcy case and to conduct a brief meeting between you and any of your creditors who care to attend the mandatory 341 meeting. Generally speaking, the Trustee helps the Court to determine if you should be granted debt relief via Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami and is entrusted with selling assetsnot protected by exemptionsso that the profits of those sales can be passed along to creditors. To execute their duties properly, your Trustee will need to look over some of your personal financial documents, including recent pay stubs and tax returns. Once the Court assigns a Trustee to your case, you’ll be informed about which documents to forward and where to send them. 

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Are you concerned that after your bankruptcy is complete you might not be able to avoid falling on hard times again? To help ensure that the benefits of bankruptcy extend well into a filer’s future, the Court requires you to attend a debtor education class. The benefits of filing Miami bankruptcy under Chapter 7 are significant because debt elimination allows you the opportunity to build a stronger, more stable financial future that is not weighed down by debt. When you take a course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Southern District, you’ll learn how to manage your finances more efficiently in the wake of your courageous decision to file for bankruptcy.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

You may be understandably intimidated by the idea of attending a meeting with your Trustee and creditors. However, it’s unlikely that your creditors will show up unless your debt is particularly complex. Chances are, your Trustee will just ask you questions for 10-20 minutes while you are under oath. The 341 meeting is an important part of filing bankruptcy in Miami, but it’s generally predictable and a low-stress affair. As long as you tell the truth, dress respectfully (to make a favorable first impression) and don’t forget your photo ID and your original Social Security card, this part of the process should be straightforward.

Dealing with Your Car

Bankruptcy often compels people to make tough decisions when it comes to their vehicles. For many low-income filers, trying to figure out how to handle outstanding car payments is one of the toughest parts of filing bankruptcy in Miami. If you don’t owe any more payments on your vehicle and an exemptioncovers the value of your car, the Court will let you keep it. But when you still owe car payments, the Court will insist that you choose one of three options. If you can find a way to pay the market value of your vehicle in one payment, you can choose to redeem the car. This is the most straightforward option, but it isn’t realistic for many filers. Many filers choose to surrender their car and simply return it to the creditor. This option is generally best if you can’t reliably make your payments moving forward as you won’t have to pay what’s left owing on the loan. However, if you believe you can make your car payments in-full and on-time from now on and can explain to the Court that it won’t be a hardship, you canreaffirm your debt and potentially be granted permission to keep paying your car loan per the terms of your agreement.

Florida Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Miami

Florida Means Test

TheFlorida bankruptcy Means Test helps to ensure that only those who can’t repay their creditors through a Chapter 13 repayment plan are considered eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami. The Florida bankruptcy Means Test examines a household’s size and compares it to factors like income limits when determining who is eligible to file for Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13. An experienced attorney can help anyone who fails the Chapter 7 Means Test explore viable bankruptcy alternatives.

Median Income Levels for Florida

Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Poverty Levels for Florida

Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Florida Bankruptcy Forms

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Miami requires you to fill out standard, federal bankruptcy forms. The only special Florida bankruptcy form you need to fill out for the Southern District is a Declaration Regarding Payment Advices. All the other forms you need are standard for filers across the U.S.

Florida Exemptions

In Schedule C of your Miami bankruptcy forms, you will identify which Florida bankruptcy exemptions protect your property from being sold by your Trustee. Exemptions generally protect either all or the vast majority of property owned by low-income households. When filling out Schedule C, only concern yourself with Florida bankruptcy exemptions, as the Southern District does not recognize the federal bankruptcy exemption model. 

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

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