A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.
Clients who typically choose this type of debt relief have fallen behind on their mortgage, car payments, income taxes or other obligations. Or they may not qualify for Chapter 7 relief. They want to keep their property, but need additional time to catch up. Chapter 13 provides a means of paying tax and other non-dischargeable debt over time, often without interest or penalties.
A bankruptcy attorney can help you manage personal or business debts you are unable to pay. Bankruptcy laws allow people and businesses to (1) get a “fresh start” by relieving most debts; and (2) repay the money owed to all creditors as fairly as possible. When you file for bankruptcy protection, all other legal actions against you are put on hold. Creditors cannot sue you, garnish your wages, repossess your car or home entertainment system, or start or continue with a foreclosure action against your home. There are different types of bankruptcy filings and each has its own advantages. Since bankruptcy can significantly impact your future purchasing power and credit rating, you should see a bankruptcy attorney to make sure the benefits of filling bankruptcy outweigh the consequences.
If you file for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 a so-called “automatic stay” is placed on all your creditors, including the foreclosing lender, by the court. In fact, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is actually designed to stop foreclosure and may provide you with the protection and relief you need to stay in your home while you catch up on your mortgage.
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After the bankruptcy is annulled or the bankrupt has been automatically discharged, the bankrupt's credit report status is shown as "discharged bankrupt" for some years. The maximum number of years this information can be held is subject to the retention limits under the Privacy Act. How long such information is on a credit report may be shorter, depending on the issuing company, but the report must cease to record that information based on the criteria in the Privacy Act.
Chapter 7 means the court sells all your assets—with some exemptions—so you can pay back as much debt as possible. The remaining unpaid debt is erased. You could lose your home (or the equity you’ve put into it) and your car in the process, depending on what the court decides. You can only file Chapter 7 bankruptcy if the court decides your income is too low to pay back your debt. This type of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years.
If you're trying to figure out if you should file, your credit is probably already damaged. A Chapter 7 filing will stay on your credit report for ten years, while a Chapter 13 will remain there for seven. Any creditors you solicit for debt (a loan, credit card, line of credit, or mortgage) will see the discharge on your report, which will prevent you from getting any credit.
Bankruptcy in the United States is a matter placed under federal jurisdiction by the United States Constitution (in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4), which empowers Congress to enact "uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States". Congress has enacted statutes governing bankruptcy, primarily in the form of the Bankruptcy Code, located at Title 11 of the United States Code.
Chapter 9: This applies only to cities or towns. It protects municipalities from creditors while the city develops a plan for handling its debts. This typically happens when industries close and people leave to find work elsewhere. There were 20 Chapter 9 filings in 2012, the most since 1980. Detroit was among those filing in 2012, and is the largest city ever to file Chapter 9. Detroit’s GDP shrunk by 12.2% in the 10 years prior to declaring bankruptcy. The average major metro growth in that time was 13.1%.