Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
Living in one of Florida’s largest and most commercialized cities is unquestionably expensive. Most of the time, families can adjust their household finances so that they can meet the basic standard of living that their community requires. However, an accident, illness, job loss, or loss of a family member can send a carefully maintained household budget completely out of whack. Suddenly, bills can’t get paid and creditors won’t stop calling. If this scenario sounds familiar to you and your family is currently struggling to make ends meet, know that a comprehensive solution may produce life-changing benefits in as few as 90 days. Florida bankruptcy can either reorganize your debts so they are easier to pay or erase your debts outright. Sometimes, the word “bankruptcy” turns people off because this process used to be stigmatized as an option seemingly only embraced by “lazy freeloaders.” Nowadays, nothing could be further from the truth. Especially since the Great Recession, Floridians understand that filing bankruptcy in Tampa is a legitimate financial resource used by hardworking people who are simply down on their luck. Many residents of the Cigar Capital of the World have chosen to file for bankruptcy in recent years, so if you are thinking about joining them, you are certainly not alone.
Filing Tampa bankruptcy is a big step and shouldn’t be approached lightly. You need to make sure that you feel confident about filing bankruptcy before you commit to this option. Also, you need to make sure you have chosen the right kind of bankruptcy process for your situation. To make this decision, begin by examining your finances. What kind of expenses, debts, income, and assets do you have? Could you benefit from seeking a lower monthly debt payment or do you need to have your debts erased? If you don’t make much money and your family doesn’t own much expensive property, you may want to consider filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7. This process eliminates many kinds of debt so that you no longer have to pay your creditors back, which can be a life-changing turn of events.
Tampa Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
One of the questions that filing bankruptcy in Tampa inspires is “How much does a Tampa bankruptcy lawyer cost?” If you are worried about incurring the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer, know that you only need to hire an attorney if your finances are complex or if you’d like some help with the bankruptcy process. If you are part of a low-income household and don’t own valuable property, you can file on your own. However, if you feel you could benefit from hiring bankruptcy assistance in Tampa, you can seek an attorney’s guidance for between $999-1,500. You can discuss the rates of any attorneys you may like to work with at your initial consultations with each of them.
How to File Bankruptcy in Tampa, Florida for Free
If you’d like to know more about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa, please consider the following information about completing bankruptcy forms, attending credit counseling, and managing the overall Florida bankruptcy process. As you will see, you can file for Chapter 7 on your own as long as you follow all directions carefully and meet every requirement set by the Court.
Collect Your Tampa Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in Tampa involves completing a great deal of paperwork. This paperwork has to be printed out, as it can’t be submitted to the Court online. You’ll need to fill out a lot of forms before the Court can decide your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa. Completing this paperwork will involve making lists of your debts and creditors, so you’ll need a copy of your credit report. It will also involve explaining your income and assets, as well as why your income and assets are insufficient to cover your expenses at this time. For that, you’ll need your paycheck stubs and a few recent bank statements, to see how you are spending your paychecks each week. Once the Court receives your paperwork, it will be able to evaluate your finances and decide your case.
Take Credit Counseling
If you join friends for drinks in a sports bar anywhere in Tampa, chances are that you will overhear a conversation about the coaching staff of the Rays, Buccaneers, and Lightning. Successful sports seasons are always impacted by coaches and not just the players. Similarly, a successful Tampa bankruptcy process is often significantly affected by solid credit counseling. The Court requires you to attend a pre-filing credit counseling course to ensure you understand all of your options before moving forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa. You can conveniently take credit counseling online. 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 (Florida has 3 different districts) or it will not satisfy the Court’s requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When researching how to file bankruptcy in Tampa, you may feel frustrated or anxious after learning about the number of forms you need to fill out. Thankfully, each form comes with directions that are usually easy to follow. Most of the time, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa is neither labor-intensive nor time-intensive. You’ll mainly be asked about your debts, expenses, income, and assets. You’ll answer these questions honestly and to the best of your ability. Unless your finances are unusually complex, this process is straightforward. As a result, you can feel empowered to file without the assistance of a lawyer.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee for filing bankruptcy in Tampa under Chapter 7 is $338. If you can pay that fee without much hardship, it can, and should, be paid in a lump sum. If your budget would benefit from paying this fee in installments, the Court will allow you to do so. However, if this fee is insurmountable or would cause you great hardship (even if paid in installments and only after you no longer have to submit monthly payments to your creditors) you may qualify for a fee waiver. If the Court grants your Tampa bankruptcy fee waiver request, it will evaluate your case for free.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When preparing your Tampa bankruptcy case, you must fill out physical forms. You are not allowed to fill out or submit the required bankruptcy documents online. Many American families no longer maintain printers in their homes. If you don’t have a printer at home, consider visiting one of the 27 neighborhood branches of the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative. Printing bankruptcy forms at the library is often cheap and convenient. If you’d prefer to go to a commercial service provider, office supply stores and mail delivery storefronts will usually print documents for a fee as well. Just make sure to bring a thumb drive with necessary PDFs, etc. because you can’t “hunt and peck” for each document at Kinkos like you could on a library computer.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
From visiting Ybor City to spending a day at Busch Gardens, you likely live in Tampa partially because you enjoy all it has to offer. Tampa is a large enough city that it offers an easy way to file your bankruptcy paperwork. Tampa is part of the Middle District of Florida and the courthouse where you’ll need to file your bankruptcy forms is located at 801 N Florida Avenue. When filing bankruptcy in Tampa at the courthouse, make sure to bring all your documentation and a photo ID. The clerk will be able to answer any questions you may have about filing your physical forms.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Requesting debt-relief under Chapter 7 requires more than just filling out paperwork. When you go through Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa, the Court will appoint a Trustee to oversee parts of your case. Specifically, this individual will be paid a nominal fee to conduct a meeting between you and any creditors who care to show up to that meeting. To prepare for this meeting, the Trustee will need to look at your bankruptcy paperwork. You are responsible for sending this paperwork to your Trustee according to the directions provided by the Trustee. When the Trustee receives your paperwork, they will prepare to ask you questions under oath at your 341 meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Earlier in your Tampa bankruptcy process, you were required to take a pre-filing credit counseling course. This course allowed you to explore your debt-relief options before you committed to filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7. Now, it is time to take a debtor education course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for your district. This class will help you learn about ways to ensure that you benefit from your bankruptcy process for a very long time. After filing bankruptcy in Tampa, you’ll need to repair your credit and build a strong foundation from your “fresh start.” This class will help you accomplish that important goal.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
As previously mentioned, the Trustee that the Bankruptcy Court appoints to oversee portions of your case is required to conduct a meeting between you and your creditors before your debts can be erased. Many people find that stressing about this meeting is the hardest thing about filing bankruptcy in Tampa. However, there is nothing to worry about as long as you remember to show up and you are honest and forthcoming when answering questions. The Trustee will place you under oath and ask you questions about the answers you provided in your paperwork. Your creditors likely won’t show at this meeting unless the debts you owe are unusually high or complex. Take deep breaths and you’ll be okay.
Dealing with Your Car
One of the toughest decisions you may have to make when filing bankruptcy in Tampa involves figuring out what to do about your car. If you own your car outright and want to keep it, you can, if the exemption you choose to attach to your car protects its full market value. If the exemption only covers part of this value, the remainder won’t be safe from your creditors unless you reach an agreement with the Trustee to settle this issue. If you don’t yet own your car outright, the Court will instruct you to reaffirm your debt, redeem the car or surrender your car. Keep in mind that if you choose to keep making payments on your car loan, you’ll have to convince the Court that you can do so reliably.
Florida Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Tampa
Florida Means Test
Bankruptcy discharge orders erase debt obligations and the rights of creditors to collect on those debts. This is a reality that understandably doesn’t make creditors very happy. To limit the number of people eligible to file for this extreme form of debt-relief, the Bankruptcy Code requires applicants to pass the Florida bankruptcy Means Test for before they can qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa. To pass the Florida bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7, you will essentially need to prove that your household income falls within specific income limits as applied to the size of your household. Or, if you’re above the limit, your regular living expenses still put you in the red every month.
Median Income Levels for Florida
Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Florida
Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Florida Bankruptcy Forms
As you prepare to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Tampa, you’ll need to print off all required Florida bankruptcy forms because you can’t file for bankruptcy online. Resist the urge to panic about the complexity of these forms when you first print them out. The directions for each form clearly explain each necessary step so that you can complete all the forms you need to confidently file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in Florida.
On one of your Tampa bankruptcy forms, you will be asked to identify and attach Florida bankruptcy exemptions to your property. This action (which is easy to do if you follow the directions on the form) will help you to keep most or all of your property safe from your creditors. As a result, dealing with Florida bankruptcy exemptions is one of the most consequential tasks you’ll undertake as you prepare your bankruptcy case.