Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
If you’re thinking about filing for Florida bankruptcy, you may be wondering whether it’s the best option for you and your family. Historically, filing bankruptcy in Ocala was treated as a dramatic, “last option” solution to financial challenges, partially because there were many popular misconceptions about what filing for bankruptcy involves and who is eligible for this kind of relief. Additionally, popular culture often portrayed bankruptcy as a debt-relief solution only embraced by people uninterested in paying their bills. Thankfully, these misconceptions have been dispelled and pop culture references have all but disappeared in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. Nowadays, Americans understand that even the hardest working and most fiscally responsible adults can fall on hard times both in an instant and through no fault of their own. So many Americans have now filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy that this process is more understood and widely embraced than ever before.
If you don’t earn much income and you’re struggling to make ends meet and make your monthly debt payments at the same time, you may want to strongly consider filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala. If you’re eligible for this form of debt-relief, the Court can erase your eligible debts in as little as 90 days. Also, most low-income filers are permitted to keep either most or all of their property safe from being sold for the benefit of their creditors. If filing Ocala bankruptcy and eliminating eligible debt sounds like a prospect that is too good to be true, that’s because there are so many benefits associated with this process. It’s simply important to note that because this process eliminates the ability of creditors to collect on legitimate debts that not everyone is eligible to file for Chapter 7 relief. Only low-income households that can’t pay back their creditors over 5 years through a Chapter 13 repayment plan are eligible to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7.
Ocala Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Because you are considering taking legal action, you may understandably be wondering “How much does an Ocala bankruptcy lawyer cost?” The short answer to this question is that hiring bankruptcy assistance in Ocala for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case that isn’t unusually complex costs around $1,000. However, the more nuanced answer is that you may be asking the wrong question. You may benefit instead from asking, “Do I need to worry about the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in the first place?” There is nothing wrong with hiring a lawyer if you would like some help filing your case, or if your circumstances are a little more complicated than most. But it’s important to understand that the Chapter 7 process is so straight forward that filing bankruptcy in Ocala under Chapter 7 can usually be completed by the filer, without the expensive assistance of an attorney.
How to File Bankruptcy in Ocala, Florida for Free
Before you commit to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala, please consider the following information about the Florida bankruptcy process. Learning about the Court’s expectations, the paperwork involved, and the major steps of the process will help you make an informed decision about whether this path is right for you.
Collect Your Ocala Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in Ocala requires a lot of paperwork. The Court must be given access to complete and accurate information about your financial situation before it can decide whether to grant you bankruptcy relief. To ensure that your forms are accurate, you’ll need to reference personal financial documents concerning your income, debts, and expenses. By providing the Court with this information, you’ll be able to explain why you’re a solid candidate for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala. Recent bank statements will help you to account for your household expenses and recent pay stubs will help you to accurately report your income. Requesting a free credit report will allow you to easily draft a list of your creditors. The more financial documents you gather before you start filling out your paperwork, the easier that paperwork will be to complete.
Take Credit Counseling
There are many debt-relief solutions available to individuals and families struggling with overwhelming debt. It can be difficult to know whether filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala is the best option for your situation unless you learn about both the bankruptcy process and bankruptcy alternatives. The Court is invested in making sure that your situation is a good fit for Ocala bankruptcy. As a result, it requires anyone filing for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7 to attend a pre-filing credit counseling course during the six months before submitting a bankruptcy petition. When researching credit counseling courses, just make sure that the one you choose has been approved by the Department of Justice for the Middle District of Florida so you get credit for your participation.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When researching how to file bankruptcy in Ocala, you may feel frustrated or anxious after learning about the number of forms you need to fill out. Know that the paperwork that the Court requires comes with clear and very detailed directions. The Court will ask about your debts, expenses, income, and household assets. Each of the initial forms will ask about a specific area of your finances. In the later forms, you’ll give the Court a broader idea of why you can’t pay your creditors either at this time or over 5 years through a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Rest assured that paperwork associated with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala is generally so straightforward that you can complete it without hiring an attorney for assistance.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing legal action of any kind generally costs money. Courts don’t operate for free, so anything from requesting a name change to suing someone tends to require submission of a filing fee. Filing bankruptcy in Ocala under Chapter 7 costs $335, unless you live below 150% of the poverty line and the Court approves your formal request for a fee waiver. In that case, you will be able to file your Florida bankruptcy case for free. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you can alternatively ask the Court to allow you to pay your filing fee in installments over time and after filing bankruptcy in Ocala, so that your payments are more manageable.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court system is unquestionably behind the times. When filing for Ocala bankruptcy, you won’t be able to submit your paperwork online. Although you can fill in fields on each of your forms online, they will need to be physically printed out before you can submit them to the Court in person or via postal mail. If you don’t have easy access to a printer, you can print necessary forms at a commercial service provider or any of the 8 branches of the Marion County Public Library System. You can also print blank forms at the library and fill them in with legible handwriting instead of filling in the fields online before printing.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Although you’re filing bankruptcy in Ocala, you’ll need to travel to Jacksonville if you want to file your bankruptcy forms in-person. If you choose to file your paperwork through the postal mail system, you can certainly do so. However, there are benefits to filing your documents in person. Specifically, you can ask the clerk to stamp an extra set of your bankruptcy forms for your records, you can ask the clerk any questions you may have about this part of the process and you can ensure that your documents don’t get lost in the mail. Also, if you’re eager for your bankruptcy case to progress quickly, skipping the wait time for processing forms submitted by mail is a nice way to speed things along.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala, the Court appoints a Trustee to manage parts of the process. For example, if you own any property that isn’t exempt, your Trustee will be charged with deciding whether to sell it so that your creditors can be repaid from the sale. However, as most low-income filers of Chapter 7 Florida bankruptcy can exempt most or all of their property, the role of the Trustee in their cases primarily involves conducting a short meeting between each debtor and their creditors. Once the Court appoints a Trustee in your case, you’ll be given information about the kinds of documents you need to forward to them so they can prepare for your 341 meeting. Recent tax returns, recent pay stubs and other proof of income and expenses are generally requested.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
One of the major fears that many bankruptcy filers have involves taking another financial tumble in the wake of receiving bankruptcy relief. This is understandable. After all, filing for Ocala bankruptcy provides individuals and families with a fresh start. However, bankruptcy filers understand just how easy it is to fall on hard times. It’s partially because the Court also wants your financial future to be successful that it requires you to take a debtor education course at this point in the bankruptcy process. Just like your pre-filing credit counseling course, this class may be taken online as long as it has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Middle District of Florida. This course will help to ensure that your financial future is stronger than it has been recently.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When you meet with your Trustee during your 341 meeting, one or more of your creditors may be present, but it’s unlikely. Most of the time, 341 meetings between Trustees and low-income Chapter 7 filers are short, relatively informal one-on-one meetings because creditors don’t usually opt to attend such meetings unless the debt in question is particularly complex. During this meeting, you’ll be placed under oath and asked questions about your finances. Filing bankruptcy in Ocala is an official legal process, so the Court needs to verify that the information you have submitted is accurate. As long as you speak honestly and are respectful of your Trustee, this meeting shouldn’t serve as a cause for concern.
Dealing with Your Car
America is a society notoriously preoccupied with cars. It’s therefore understandable if you’re worried about how filing bankruptcy in Ocala will affect your car. If you own your car outright and an exemption covers its full value, the Court will let you keep. However, you’ll need to mull three available options if you’re still making payments on a car loan. First, you can opt to keep making timely payments per the terms of your loan if you can explain to the Court why you’ll be able to make reliable payments after your bankruptcy case is complete. This process is called reaffirming your debt. Alternatively, you can redeem the car by paying the market value of the car in one payment and discharging what’s left on the loan as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala. Finally, you can surrender your car by returning it to your creditor. This may be your best option if you don’t rely on your car and you want to be freed of the burden of making high monthly payments.
Florida Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Ocala
Florida Means Test
Only filers who pass the Florida bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7 are eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala. The Florida bankruptcy Means Test helps to determine whether a debtor can reasonably be expected to complete a Chapter 13 repayment plan or whether they should have their debts dischargedimmediately under Chapter 7. An important part of passing the Means Test involves meeting the income limits outlined in the Bankruptcy Code. If you don’t pass the Means Test for Chapter 7, you can discuss alternative bankruptcy options with an experienced attorney.
Median Income Levels for Florida
Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Florida
Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Florida Bankruptcy Forms
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ocala is particularly straightforward because unlike the other districts in Florida, the Middle District does not require filers to submit a statement of pay advices or any other local Florida bankruptcy forms. All the forms you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief are standard, federal forms. Just make sure to construct your creditor matrix according to the District’s particular format.
Everyone who files for Ocala bankruptcy can keep eligible property (including most non-luxury items) safe from creditors due to the benefit of exemptions. When Florida bankruptcy exemptions are applied to your property, your Trustee can’t sell that property for the benefit of your creditors. You will use a form referred to as Schedule C to identify which Florida bankruptcy exemptions apply to your property. Florida doesn’t recognize federal bankruptcy exemptions, so you’ll only need to deal with those exemptions specific to filers residing in Florida.