Generally, I start with an initial telephone consultation. Then if you want to move forward, we schedule an in-person conference at my office to go over the legal services agreement and your documents and for you to make the first payment. After that I represent you against your creditors until you are paid in full and then about two weeks after that I file your case.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12 applies to “family farms” and “family fishermen” and gives them a chance to propose a plan to repay all or part of their debts. The court has a strict definition of who qualifies and it’s based on receiving regular annual income as a farmer or fisherman. Debts for individuals, partnerships or corporations filing for Chapter 12 can’t exceed $4.03 million for farmers and $1.87 for fishermen. The repayment plan must be completed within five years, though allowances are made for the seasonal nature of both farming and fishing.
Chapter 13 means the court approves a plan for you to repay some or all of your debts over three to five years. You get to keep your assets (stuff you own) and you’re given time to bring your mortgage up to date. You agree to a monthly payment plan and must follow a strict budget monitored by the court. This kind of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years.
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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.
There are two alternative systems that can be used to "exempt" property from a bankruptcy estate, federal exemptions (available in some states but not all), and state exemptions (which vary widely between states). For example, Maryland and Virginia, which are adjoining states, have different personal exemption amounts that cannot be seized for payment of debts. This amount is the first $6,000 in property or cash in Maryland, but normally only the first $5,000 in Virginia. State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, such that there may be significant differences in the outcome of a bankruptcy case depending upon the state in which it is filed.
In Canada, bankruptcy always means liquidation. There is no way for a company to emerge from bankruptcy after restructuring, as is the case in the United States with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Canada does, however, have laws that allow for businesses to restructure and emerge later with a smaller debtload and a more positive financial future. While not technically a form of bankruptcy, businesses with $5M or more in debt may make use of the Companies Creditors' Arrangement Act to halt all debt recovery efforts against the company while they formulate a plan to restructure.
Your lawyer will probably have you fill in a questionnaire about your property, debts, expenses and income. A good lawyer will be able to determine quickly what kinds of debts will be dischargeable in bankruptcy. The lawyer should advise you to get credit counseling before you file, and will may even have a computer terminal in their office where you can do the counseling right there, online. Many lawyers have preferred credit counselors that they work with.
Debtors do not necessarily have the right to a discharge. When a petition for bankruptcy has been filed in court, creditors receive a notice and can object if they choose to do so. If they do, they will need to file a complaint in the court before the deadline. This leads to the filing of an adversary proceeding to recover monies owed or enforce a lien.