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Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 27, 2020
Home to the historically black Hampton University, Hampton has always championed the cause of the underdog. But if you are considering filing bankruptcy in Hampton you don’t need to be a college graduate to succeed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is one of two common consumer bankruptcies that stop creditors from harassing you, reorganize your personal finances and wipe out your debt. By far the most common bankruptcy in the United States is Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 eliminates an individual’s debts by “liquidating” or selling all of their unprotected assetsand distributing the sale proceeds to their creditors. Despite how harsh this sounds, the reality is that most individuals who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton never have any of their property sold or liquidated because of the generous exemptionsmost states offer for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the second most common consumer bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows an individual to slowly pay down their debt over a three to five year period without being harassed or sued by their creditors. In almost every instance the combined monthly payment is significantly less than it was, and you are not required to sell or surrender any of your property, including your home. However, most individuals do require the assistance of an attorney to help them prepare a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and reorganization plan.
Hampton Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Upsolve has always believed that hiring a bankruptcy lawyer can be a great investment if you can afford it. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Hampton is between $800 and $1,200. However, Upsolve also believes that just because you can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you should not be denied your right to the fresh start that comes with filing your own Hampton bankruptcy. If you have a particularly complicated bankruptcy involving such things as a pending lawsuit, or a foreclosure, then seek the advice of a competent Hampton bankruptcy lawyer. If your situation is not complicated and you have less than $10,000 in debt, rent your home, and earn what the average person in Hampton earns for a living, then you may consider asking a Hampton bankruptcy lawyer whether your case is straight forward enough that you should be able to file without a lawyer.
How to File Bankruptcy in Hampton, Virginia for Free
If you are considering filing bankruptcy in Hampton on your own, you might be surprised to learn that most of the steps you will have to take are the same steps you would take even if you hired an attorney. The steps presented below will walk you through the requirements of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton on your own. Each step explains what you need to do and why you need to do it, so that you can file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy, even if you don't qualify for our assistance and can't afford to hire an attorney.
Collect Your Hampton Bankruptcy Documents
To prepare your own Hampton bankruptcy forms, you are going to need some documents. Many of these documents are records you probably don’t use every day, such as the certificate of title to your car or the recorded deed to your home. Other documents you need are records you probably see on a regular basis, like your pay stub or mortgage statement. If you can’t locate a document you need to prepare the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton, get a replacement. You can replace a lost certificate of title through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. You can get a certified copy of your recorded deed through your county Register of Deeds office. Obtaining copies of official records like these can take several days to a week, so order them now so that you’ll have them when you start on your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms.
Take Credit Counseling
While the overwhelming majority of people who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton are forced to do so as a result of financial difficulties beyond their control, such as unemployment or a medical ordeal, the government believes everyone who files Chapter 7 bankruptcy would benefit from credit counseling. As a result, everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy must complete an approved credit counseling course. This course must be completed before you file your Virginia bankruptcy and a certificate of completion must be filed with your Hampton bankruptcy petition when you start your case. In most instances, the course can be taken online, over the telephone or in person. The course usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour and costs between $15 and $35. In Hampton, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Hampton Roads, located on 2021 Cunningham Drive, Suite 400, offers the course online or in-person for $35 per person or $55 per couple. You can locate other approved credit counseling agencies through your local United States Trustee.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The step where people working on filing bankruptcy in Hampton most often procrastinate is in completing their bankruptcy forms. When you first begin to fill out your bankruptcy forms, you may be intimidated by the number of pages you will have to complete, and the complex legal terms used in some of them. This is unfortunate, as most of the forms ask you for everyday information that you have probably used dozens of times on things like employment or credit card applications. This includes your name, address, where you work, and how much you earn at your job. What makes completing your bankruptcy forms so intimidating is that unnecessary legal terms are often used in the questions. For example, Schedule D requires you to list your “priority” and “nonpriority” creditors. Priority is a term that is really only significant in bankruptcy cases where funds are distributed to creditors. It refers to what rank a creditor has compared to the other creditors when it comes to getting paid. Examples of priority creditors are the IRS or someone who is owed child support. So, when you are completing your Hampton bankruptcy forms and it asks you to list your non-priority creditors, that’ll be everyone else. Overall the best way to complete your bankruptcy forms is to take your time and provide the most accurate information you can.
Get Your Filing Fee
There is a $335 filing fee that must be paid when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton. The Newport News Division of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia does not accept cash, but you may pay the fee by cashier’s check or money order made payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.” If you want to pay the fee in installments after filing bankruptcy in Hampton, you can request to divide the fee into four separate payments. You must complete a request to pay the filing fee in installments and indicate on that form the amount of each payment and date you would like to make each one of them. The payment schedule you request must result in the last payment being made no later than 120 days after you file your petition. If your income is less than 150% of the poverty level and you are unable to pay the fee in installments, then you can request a fee waiver. You must file this request when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. The bankruptcy clerk will file your petition and enter your fee waiver request, but you will receive a separate order from the Court letting you know if your request was approved. If it’s not approved, and the Court is not allowing you to pay the fee in installments instead, you must pay the filing fee within three (3) days of the order denying your fee waiver, or your Virginia bankruptcy case will be dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Before you file your Hampton bankruptcy case with the Court you will need to print an original and at least one copy of all your bankruptcy forms. Make sure you sign the original petition, schedules, and statements for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton on all the pages that require your signature. If you don’t have a access to a printer that can handle a large number of pages, the Hampton Public Libraries offers printing for $0.15 per page. Whether you print your documents at home or at the library, you should only print on one side of each page and keep everything in order, so your Schedule G does not show up before your Schedule E, for example.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Residents of Hampton must file their Virginia bankruptcy petition, schedules, and statements in the Newport News Division of the United States Bankruptcy Court. The Court is located on 2400 West Avenue, Newport News, Virginia, a mere nineteen-minute drive down Victoria Boulevard from the Virginia Air & Space Center. It’s open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You should dress appropriately. Bring both copies of your Hampton bankruptcy forms, along with your filing fee and certificate of credit counseling. If you don’t have the money to pay the filing fee, make sure you also bring your request to pay the filing fee in installments, or your request for a fee waiver.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
You are required to send your court-appointed Trustee a copy of certain required documents. A Trustee is an individual appointed by the Court to review your Hampton bankruptcy forms for the Court and communicate with your creditors as to whether there are any assets in your case that will be sold to pay them. In order to do this, they must be provided with a copy of your most recent federal income tax return and any other documents the Trustee asks for, at least 7days before your meeting of creditors. The specific documents the Trustee wants to review before meeting with you vary from Trustee to Trustee. The best way to make sure you provide them with everything they need is to keep an eye out for any correspondence from their office and if you don’t hear anything, call their office and ask.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The Office of the United States Trustee maintains a database of approved credit counseling agencies capable of administering the second bankruptcy course that you are required to complete as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton. Often referred to as the Post-Petition Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Course, this course focuses on financial management and covers topics like creating a budget, how to manage credit, and how to deal with an unexpected financial crisis. The course usually costs at least $15 but no more than $50. You can expect to spend at least 2 hours completing this course. Most credit counseling agencies offer the course online, over the telephone, or in-person as part of a class. You will not receive a discharge in your Virginia Bankruptcy until you have completed this course and filed your certificate of completion with the Court.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies culminate in what is known as a 341 meeting of creditors. The 341 meeting of creditors takes place between 21 and 40 days after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton petition is filed. You will receive the details about the meeting, including the date, time and place of the meeting on Form 309A – Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, which you will receive a few days after filing bankruptcy in Hampton. At the 341 meeting, the Trustee will swear you in and ask you some questions about your case. While it is rare for creditors to attend this meeting, they have a right to do so. If any creditors do appear, they will also be allowed to ask you some questions regarding your case and your financial affairs. You’re required to cooperate with the Trustee at the 341 meeting by truthfully answering all of their questions. You should also bring any financial records or documents used to prepare your Hampton bankruptcy forms. Put simply, the creditors’ meeting is a get-together between you and the Trustee that will allow the Trustee to give the Court a clear and accurate report of your current financial situation. It’s serious, but it’s not as scary as it sounds, and is usually over in less than 10 minutes.
Dealing with Your Car
What happens with your car in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton depends on whether you own your car or lease it, and whether you’re still making payments on a loan. If you are still making payments on your loan, or it’s paid off, then your car must be listed on Schedule B as an asset and on Schedule C to identify which exemption you are claiming to protect it. If you are still making payments on the loan, you must list it on your Statement of Intentions and indicate whether you want to reaffirm, redeem or surrender the car. If you lease your car, on the other hand, you simply have to let Court and the bank know whether you want to keep (assume) the lease or get out of it early by rejecting it. The car and the terms of the lease will also be listed on Schedule G as an executory contract. An executory contract is a contract, like a lease, that is yet to be completed. If you are still paying for your car and want to keep everything the way it was before filing bankruptcy in Hampton, you have to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. This agreement obligates you to continue paying the loan even after your Virginia bankruptcy is discharged. In exchange, you are allowed to keep the car, and may even get some favorable reporting for your credit. You may also choose to redeem the car. If you redeem the car you must pay its market value to the lender. The rest of the loan is discharged. Finally, surrendering the car simply means giving it back to the lender and having your obligation to pay the loan discharged.
Virginia Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Hampton
Virginia Means Test
In 2005, Congress added a requirement to all individual bankruptcy cases known as the Means Test. Means Testing was added to make sure people who could afford to pay their bills couldnt’ abuse the Bankruptcy Code. The Virginia bankruptcy Means Test is a three-step process that uses your monthly household income to determine if you should be able to pay your bills. If you fail the Means Test then something known as a presumption of abuse arises and you must proceed to step two. A presumption of abuse means that your household income seems to be high enough that you should be able to pay your bills. Step two of the Virginia bankruptcy Means Test involves deducting certain expenses from your household monthly income and comparing the result to your debt. If you still exceed the allowable monthly household income, then you would be required to rebut the presumption of abuse by showing special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of your currently monthly income before you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton.
Median Income Levels for Virginia
Virginia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Virginia
Virginia 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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Virginia Bankruptcy Forms
Let’s discuss the Virginia bankruptcy forms you’ll need to prepare your Hampton bankruptcy case. The set of forms include the petition, the statement of financial affairs and the schedules. Remember, to complete all of these bankruptcy forms you will need to provide the following information: a list of all your creditors, the type of debt owed to the creditor and the amount owed; where you work, how much you earn and how often you are paid; a list of all your property; and a list of your monthly expenses. You will also need to tell the Court if you are being sued, have won the lottery or are expecting an inheritance. All of this type of information is provided on a form known as the Statement of Financial Affairs.
Something that may play a big role in your decision whether to file a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton are the Virginia bankruptcy exemptions. Exemptions are laws that allow you to keep your property even though you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Hampton. The property you are allowed to keep and how much of it is protected is outlined in specific sections of the Code of Virginia. By way of example, a partial list of these exemptions and the property they cover are: clothing up to $1,000; household furnishings up to $5,000; firearms up to $3,000; family portraits and heirlooms up to $5,000; burial plot; wedding and engagement rings, family Bible; animals owned as pets, and medically prescribed health aids. If there is no value listed for a type of property, then you are allowed to keep that property regardless of its value. For example, wedding and engagement rings are protected regardless of their value.