Frequently Asked Questions

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Divorce is a part of family law in Florida. The legal term for divorce in Florida is dissolution. Most family law attorneys deal with divorce cases but if you want the best, you must hire lawyers who concentrate on divorce cases. Uncontested divorce is the simplest form of divorce in Florida. It is inexpensive and quick. If you are located in the Tampa Bay area of Pinellas County, a St. Petersburg divorce attorney can help keep your divorce simple.

Residency Requirements

In Florida you must meet the residency requirements if you want to file for divorce. Your divorce petition will not be entertained by the court if you do not meet the residency requirements. You must be a resident of Florida for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the divorce. If your spouse is in the military, it will affect your divorce proceedings in many ways. While it is still possible to get an uncontested divorce there are certain procedures which must be followed for the divorce to be valid. It is best that you consult with an experienced St. Petersburg divorce attorney. The spouse on active duty must be personally served unless he or she has signed an affidavit waiving personal service. Section 21 of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act provides for postponement of the divorce proceedings for the entire time ones spouse is on active duty and for 60 days thereafter. An active duty spouse can however waive this right. An experienced St. Petersburg divorce attorney can review your circumstances and let you know if you meet the residency requirements for divorce under Florida family law.

Uncontested divorce in Florida is simple and can be obtained in three steps:

  • You file the petition and start the proceedings by serving the petition on your spouse.
  • You and your spouse negotiate and sign a marital settlement agreement which determines the division of property and issues relating to alimony, child support, child custody and visitation, all papers are filed with the court.
  • You attend a brief court hearing to testify to your Florida residency and that the agreement was signed voluntarily.

Our Role:

There is no trial in an uncontested divorce. Once you file the marital settlement agreement in court, it must be approved by the court. Unless there is some clause in your marital settlement agreement that violates some federal, state or local law, your marital settlement agreement will be approved. A marital settlement agreement is probably the most important document in an uncontested divorce. A martial settlement agreement contains the agreement reached between the spouses on property distribution, support and custody. It should provide for:

  • Distribution of assets and debts
  • Child support and Visitation rights
  • Alimony and child support payments
  • Parenting responsibilities
  • Mechanisms for resolving future conflicts

An experienced Florida divorce attorney can assist you with the paperwork and the drafting of the marital settlement agreement. Your martial settlement agreement must be approved by the court. The court will not approve your martial settlement agreement unless it is in accordance with law. The attorney will take care of the filing and service. The attorney can also advise you on whether you meet the state residency requirements. Your divorce won't be valid unless the court that grants it has what's called "jurisdiction" over you and your spouse.

If you are located in Tampa or Pinellas County and you are contemplating divorce and your spouse is willing to co-operate, contact an experienced St. Petersburg divorce attorney. The attorney can assist you with the marital settlement agreement and help you keep your divorce simple. Remember the State of Florida is a no fault state. There need not be any fault for seeking divorce in Florida. So if you and your spouse mutually agree to separate, then you can easily obtain a divorce in Florida. You will not be required to prove fault. An experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyer can get you a divorce with just a signature when there are no contested issues between you and your spouse. In an uncontested divorce the court hearing does not take longer than 10 minutes. An uncontested divorce may sound simple but do not attempt self filing. It can prove costly. Divorce laws are complex. Consult with an experienced St. Petersburg divorce attorney

Under Florida family law you can seek divorce on the grounds of desertion. An experienced Clearwater divorce attorney can assist you with the procedure. Most lawyers practicing family law will be able to handle divorce cases but if you want the best you should look for attorneys focusing on divorce proceedings. If you are based in Tampa Bay or Pinellas County, you should consult with an experienced Clearwater divorce attorney.

Desertion

In Florida for the purpose of divorce, desertion is different from separation in anticipation of a divorce. An experienced Clearwater divorce attorney can review your circumstances and determine if you can file for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Generally the desertion must be for a period of one year or more. There are two forms of desertion under Florida divorce laws: constructive and actual. In case of constructive desertion your spouse need not physically leave the marital home but fails to perform his or her responsibilities as your spouse. For example if your spouse willfully refrains from having sex with you, it is a case of constructive desertion. Cruel treatment is also a form of constructive desertion. If your spouse packs his or her belongings and leaves the martial home it will amount to actual desertion. The desertion must be voluntary and your spouse must have no intention to return to the marital home.

Proving desertion in a court of law is not easy especially if it is a case of constructive desertion. You must prove:

  • Intention: Your spouse wanted to terminate the marriage
  • Time Period: Your spouse has deserted you for the past 12 or more months.
  • Consent: You did not agree to the desertion
  • Cause: You are not the cause of the desertion.
  • Reconciliation: Reconciliation is impossible.

You will need the services of an experienced Clearwater divorce attorney to successfully prove desertion.

Testifying in Court

If your deserting spouse challenges your divorce petition, then you will be required to testify in court. How you testify will have a big impact on the outcome of your case. An experienced Clearwater or St. Petersburg divorce attorney can advise you on how to testify and what questions to expect. The attorney will advise you on how to conduct yourself during the testimony. Your appearance is very important. Make sure that you are dressed properly. It is best to be dressed in a suit or in formals. Colorful clothes or t-shirts with messages across it should be avoided at all costs. You do not want to stand out in court.

Remember this is a court. Not a sport stadium or a circus. It is best you attend the hearing alone with your attorney. If you want some support, you can take someone along but don't take all your friends and relatives to watch you testify. Sit next to your attorney and wait for your turn to testify. During the testimony you will be asked questions and you must answer them. Make sure you understand the question before answering them. Your answers will play a key role in the outcome of the case. Request the questioning attorney to repeat the question if you haven't followed it. When you request ensure that it does not sound like a demand. Your response must be restricted to the question. Do not give out information that is not requested. You can damage your case by disclosing too much information. Do not give any wrong answer. You will be committing perjury by giving wrong answers. If you do not know the answer just inform the court. Speak clearly and with confidence. Wait until you are told by the judge to leave the witness box.

An experienced Clearwater divorce attorney understands that divorce is an emotionally straining affair. It can put you under tremendous strain. So before you testify the attorney will tell you not to lose your composure in court. Since your spouse has deserted you, it is likely that you may hate your spouse from the bottom of your heart and might get upset on seeing your spouse. Never show your inner feelings openly in court. Abusing your spouse or using foul language against your spouse can prove costly.

Child Support

f you do not have any children from the marriage, then the divorce should be easy. But if there are children from the marriage, then you will have to decide on the issue of child support. Generally when a person deserts his or her spouse, the children are left with the spouse. However if the deserting spouse takes the children along, then the issue of child custody must also be decided by the divorce court. An experienced Florida divorce lawyer can ensure that you get the custody of your children and your deserting spouse is made to pay child support, including retroactive support. If you are located in Tampa or anywhere in Pinellas County, an experienced Clearwater divorce attorney is what you need.

UA marital settlement agreement (sometimes shortened to "MSA") is the document that spells out everything you and your spouse agree to regarding property, custody, and support. It describes:

  • how you intend to divide your property and debts
  • your agreements about child and spousal support
  • how you will share parenting responsibilities, and how you will deal with any issues that come up relating to raising your children, and
  • how you will deal with any conflicts that arise later.

Commonly, these agreements contain a lot of detail. For example, yours might set out whether support will be paid by check or by automatic transfer and how you'll choose the real estate agent who will list your house. Once you've finalized your MSA, you submit it to the judge, who approves it and makes it part of your final divorce order. Because the agreement has the force of a court order, both parties are likely to comply with its terms, which gives everyone some degree of confidence about the future. A Clearwater divorce lawyer can help you draft a valid MSA.

Creating the Agreement

To create a marital settlement agreement, you and your spouse must make hard decisions about your property and your children. There are many issues to consider and negotiate. To make sure that your agreement addresses everything it should, refer to the checklist below. You may not need to include every single item in the agreement itself-for example, if neither of you changed your name when you married, you need not include a section about returning to your old name. But you should touch on all of them in the negotiations, if only for the purpose of confirming they don't apply to you. When you've covered everything, your agreements must be put in a final document. A Tampa divorce lawyer will prepare the settlement agreement for you.

Negotiations

Negotiating with your spouse and putting together an agreement will take time, so be patient and put the priority on doing it right, not doing it quickly.

You've probably worked hard to get to the point where you're preparing a settlement agreement, and you don't want to end up in court fighting about it later. Disputes could arise about just about anything, including one parent wanting a change in the visitation schedule or support. Include a simple agreement that if you have a problem with the terms later, you'll mediate. Try to agree on a mediator in advance, or to a person who'll break a tie between you if you can't agree.

There are a few important provisions that should be in every legal agreement to help avoid confusion later. Lawyers call this standard language "boilerplate." For example, it's important to agree that you've both made full disclosure of all the required information about your finances. You should confirm that the written agreement you've made is the only one you have, that there aren't any side agreements that contradict what you've written, and that you intend the agreement to be incorporated into your final divorce order. This last provision is critically important.

You should also say what state law you'll use if you end up in court over your agreement. If one person moves away later and you don't have this provision, you could end up fighting about where you're going to fight. Making sure you have all the required standard language is one of the reasons that it's a good idea to have a Clearwater divorce lawyer review your agreement.

When you've done everything you can do to prepare a draft MSA, it's time to take it to a lawyer for review. You don't absolutely have to do this-if you do your paperwork correctly, a judge will approve your divorce without checking to see whether a lawyer's been involved. but it's highly recommended, because your MSA controls everything involved in your divorce and can have an enormous impact on your future. it's time and money well spent. If you are located in the Tampa area, a Tampa divorce lawyer or St. Petersburg divorce lawyer is your best source of advice.

The cost of hiring a St. Petersburg divorce lawyer will depend on many factors including whether you opt for an annulment of a marriage or divorce. In Florida it is possible to get a civil annulment. If you are located in Tampa Bay or surrounding areas in Pinellas County, an experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyer can assist you in getting your marriage annulled. There are many attorneys in Pinellas County but when it comes to divorce your best option is to hire someone who focuses on divorce matters. Divorce law is complex and only lawyers who concentrate on divorce laws understand the complex maze of divorce laws in Florida.

Annullment

A St. Petersburg divorce lawyer will generally charge you less for an annulment of marriage. Most people choose annulment over divorce because of religious reasons. Generally most annulments take place immediately after the marriage. However there are cases where spouses have sought annulment after many years of marriage.

With the help of an experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyer you can apply and successfully get your marriage annulled on the following grounds:

  • Fraud or misrepresentation: Certain facts which if known to you would have prevented you from entering in to the marriage were not disclosed to you or your spouse lied about such facts.
  • Non-consummation of the marriage: You spouse is physically incapable of having sexual intercourse and you were unaware of this fact at the time of marriage.
  • Incest, bigamy, or underage party: You are related to your spouse by blood or your spouse is married to someone else. You can also get an annulment if you or your spouse is under the age of consent and didn't receive a parent's approval.
  • Unsound mind: You or your spouse did not have the mental ability to understand what was happening at the time of the marriage due to drug or alcohol use.
  • Force: You were compelled to get married to your spouse by force.

Divorce

Divorce differs from annulment of marriage. In Florida divorce is referred to as dissolution of marriage. All divorce cases have to go through some kind of court proceeding. An experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyer can assist you get a divorce in Florida. The fees of a St. Petersburg divorce lawyer for a divorce proceeding will depend on many factors including whether the divorce is uncontested or contested. The cost of an uncontested divorce will be less than a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce both spouses agree on all issues of the divorce including asset distribution, child custody, child support, alimony and resolution of future disputes.

The attorney will assist you and your spouse by preparing the marital settlement agreement which is the most important document in an uncontested divorce. The martial settlement agreement must not contain any clause that violates any law. The law of the land is ever changing and only experienced attorneys are aware of the changes. Hence even if your divorce is an uncontested divorce, you should hire the services of an experienced divorce lawyer. Remember merely preparing the marital settlement agreement is not sufficient. Your case must be presented to a judge and the judge must grant you a divorce. An experienced Florida divorce attorney can assist you with the entire process if you are located in the Tampa area of Florida. If your divorce is contested then the attorney fees will increase.

The attorney will have to argue your case for child custody, child support and alimony - all of which will be strongly contested by your spouse. It can take many hearings for the court to reach a decision. There is no way to put an exact figure on the cost of a contested divorce. If the divorce proceedings go on for a long period time, then the cost will also increase. The attorney fees will either be a fixed fee or an hourly fee. If it is a contested divorce, then the attorney is most likely to charge you an hourly fee. An experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyer can also assist you with a collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, your attorney will work with your spouse's attorney to reach an amicable settlement on the various issues of divorce and then file a divorce petition. There is no trial or arguments in a collaborative divorce.

The role of a Qualified Divorce Lawyer:

Besides filing the paper work and presenting your case to the court, the attorney has other important roles. An experienced St. Petersburg or Clearwater divorce lawyer will review the facts of your case and let you know if you meet the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Florida. He or she will also explain to you the tax implications of a divorce and assist you navigate the tax consequences of a divorce.

A contested divorce in Florida can involve many complex issues. Not all lawyers can assist you in dealing with these issues. If you are located in Tampa Bay or anywhere in Pinellas County, an experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer is the best person who can assist you. There are many attorneys in the Tampa area but only an experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer can guide you through the complex maze of a contested divorce. A Clearwater divorce lawyer is experienced with the local judges and courts. Divorce in Florida is regulated by family law.

Property Division

An experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer can explain to you the concept of marital property and marital debts. Marital property is the collection of assets spouses gather during the marriage and includes real estate, money, investments, pension plans, etc. All obligations that you and your spouse incur together during your married life will be considered as martial debt. Martial property and debts belong to both spouses. An important part of the divorce process is the division of martial property and debts. Having an experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer handling your case will ensure that you get your rightful share. Any asset or debt that you had prior to your marriage or which you may acquire after separation will be considered as separate property or debts and each spouse will be responsible for their separate property and debts.

Child Custody

An experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer understands that it is in the best interest of the children that the spouses reach a temporary agreement about how they will share time with the children. An early agreement on this issue will help ease the children's insecurity. An experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer will ensure that whatever temporary agreement you reach with your spouse is written down and enforced. In Florida the primary caretaker generally stays in the house with the children. In most cases the parents can reach an agreement on who the majority time sharing parent is, but if not, an experienced Clearwater divorce lawyer can help you. If the custody is being shared, the closer the non-custodial parent can live, the better it is for the children. This will cut down on the disruption to their studies and social lives.

If you want sole custody of your children, an experienced Florida divorce attorney will advise you not to move out of the marital home and leave the children behind. Leaving your children behind will be result in the court concluding that you are not a good parent who can take care of the children and also that your spouse can take care of the children without your assistance. Most judges favor leaving things status quo. So if the children are staying with you when you separated from your spouse, it is likely that the final order will direct likewise.

If you are located in Tampa area, consult with an experienced Clearwater divorce attorney when you want to move out of your marital home but you want to share custody of the children. In such cases, the lawyer can draft an agreement which you can have your spouse sign saying that later decisions about child custody will not be affected by your moving out of the marital home.

In Florida while determining child custody, the court will consider various factors including but not limited to:

  • The needs of the children
  • The parental suitability of each spouse
  • The parent who can provide for the children best
  • The previous role of each spouse in the upbringing of the children
  • The location of each spouse's home
  • Any agreement between the spouses

There are more than 13 factors that the court must take in to consideration in determining custody for your children. The main thing the court must determine is what is in the children's best interest. If you cannot agree where the children will live then the judge will do so. The court will then also select a visitation schedule, any limitations on communication with the children and a holiday time sharing schedule.

Child Support

Generally if there are children from the marriage, then one spouse will have to pay child support to the other. Child support is ordered to ensure that the children are taken care of. Generally the non-custodial spouse will have to pay child support to the custodial spouse.

Factors considered by the court while determining child support in Florida include:

  • The needs of the children
  • The children's medical or health requirements
  • The educational needs of the children
  • The cost of day care
  • The other support obligations of both spouses
  • The income of the spouses and their deductions

A Clearwater divorce lawyer can assist you in getying a just distribution of marital property and debts and also ensure that you get child custody and support.

Depending on your case, there are specific steps you need to take with your attorney to complete the bankruptcy proceeding and get a discharge. In some cases, discharges are basically automatic. Once you have received one, the clerk of the court will mail copies of it to your debtors and to the U.S. Trustee and the trustee assigned to your case. The discharge order does not specify which debts have not been discharged, in cases where a judge determined certain debts were not dischargeable. The order merely informs creditors that their debts owed by you have been discharged and they must not do anything further to try to collect those debts. Creditors who fail to heed the order can be sanctioned. You and your Tampa bankruptcy attorney will also receive a copy of the discharge.

Generally, a debtor is entitled to a discharge in a Chapter 12 or 13 case once he or she has completed the payment plan. Creditors cannot object to discharge in Chapters 12 or 13 cases. Creditors can object to the payment plan, but once the payments have all been made, creditors cannot object to discharge. Some debts are not eligible for discharge. Debtors are still responsible to pay debts that have not been discharged. Federal law lays out several types of debts that cannot be discharged in individual bankruptcy cases. Congress exempted these types of debts for public policy reasons.

There are 19 categories of debts that cannot be discharged in Chapters 7, 11 and 12 cases. Generally, certain tax debts cannot be discharged. Debts owed for alimony or spousal or child support, government fines and penalties, debts owed because of misconduct or criminal acts, certain types of government-guaranteed student loans, and condominium and cooperative housing fees are among the kinds of debts that generally cannot be discharged. Debts owed as a result of drunk driving are also ineligible for discharge. Additionally, any debts not listed by the debtor in the bankruptcy case cannot be discharged. Creditors can also request that a debt be taken out of the bankruptcy case if they can prove that the debt is due to maliciousness or fraud.

A more limited list applies in Chapter 13 cases, meaning more types of debts can be discharged. For example, debts for willful and malicious injury to property, debts incurred to pay non-dischargeable tax obligations, and debts arising from property settlements in divorce or separation proceedings can all be discharged in a Chapter 13 case. Usually debts in a Chapter 13 case are only discharged after the debtor pays them according to the payment plan approved by the court. There are cases where an unpaid debt will be discharged because of a hardship. Hardship discharges are only available when the hardship is a circumstance beyond the debtor's control. Certain debts aren't eligible for a hardship discharge in Chapter 13 cases. The exemptions are similar to the exemptions in Chapter 7 cases. A Tampa bankruptcy attorney can review your case and inform you on the debts that cannot be discharged.

A judge may deny a discharge for a variety of reasons, including failure to complete a financial management counseling class. Additionally, in Chapter 7 cases, a judge may deny a discharge in cases of suspected fraud, concealment of assets, destruction of records, failure to account of lost assets or violation of a court order. There are also time restrictions built into bankruptcy law that prohibit a discharge within a certain time period of a previous discharge. Debtors receive a discharge in 99 percent of Chapter 7 cases that aren't dismissed or converted.

Creditors' Meeting

The creditors' meeting is scheduled by the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator within a few weeks of the court receiving the bankruptcy petition. During the meeting, the debtor will be put under oath and must answer questions from the trustee and from any creditors who attend the meeting. In many Chapter 7 cases, no creditors attend the meeting and it's quite short. If the bankruptcy petition is a joint petition of a husband and wife, both must attend the creditors' meeting. The trustee is required to inform the debtor of the potential consequences of bankruptcy. The trustee may also ask for additional documents and records from the debtor. Within ten days of the meeting, the trustee will inform that court of whether the debtor passes the means test. A Tampa bankruptcy attorney can attend the creditors' meeting along with you and help you deal with the creditors' objections to your bankruptcy petition.

In Chapter 7 cases, creditors can object to debts being discharged. There are very specific time limits to file such objections. Additionally, the trustee or the U.S. trustee can object to certain debts being discharged. If a creditor files an objection to a debt being included in a Chapter 7 cases, a lawsuit is filed that will begin what's called an adversary proceeding.

Means Test

If a debtor files for Chapter 7 and has a monthly income is more than the state median, a judge will apply a means test to determine if the Chapter 7 filing should be considered abusive. Application of the means test is complicated and differs somewhat by state. Generally, if the debtor's current monthly income is more than $10,950 or 25 percent of debtor's non-priority secured debts, he or she may not be able to declare Chapter 7. The monthly income is figured by deducting certain allowed expenses. A debtor may petition the court to include other expenses in order to qualify for Chapter 7. If the debtor's Chapter 7 filing is deemed abusive because of the means test, the case will generally be converted to a Chapter 13 case or dismissed. A Tampa bankruptcy attorney can review your case and advise you on your eligibility for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Trustee

In a Chapter 7 case, the case trustee is appointed by the court to administer the case, sell the debtor's assets and use the proceeds to pay the creditors. Most Chapter 7 cases are no asset cases, however, meaning there are no non-exempt assets to be sold. In these cases, creditors generally won't bother to file claims to recover their loans because there are no assets and none will be paid. The trustee's goal is to get the maximum return for the creditors by selling the assets at the highest possible price. The trustee will sell all unsecured assets and any secured assets that are worth more than the security interest on the lien.

If assets are subsequently discovered, the creditors will be notified and given the chance to file proof of their claims in the case. While there may be no legal requirement for a creditor to file a proof of claim in a bankruptcy case, there are often reasons to do so. A creditor with claims against someone who has filed for Chapter 7 protection should contact a qualified Tampa of St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney.

There are six classes of creditors and in each class, the creditors must be paid in full before the creditors in the next lower class can recover anything. The debtor is only paid after all creditors have been paid, so generally the debtor's main concern is that certain assets are protected and that most if not all of the debts are discharged.

If you are drowning in debt, then bankruptcy may be the only way out. Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a debtor initiates by filing a petition in the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy is also an option if you are facing foreclosure. A St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney can help you file for bankruptcy protection if you are located in Tampa Bay or surrounding areas of Pinellas County.

Bankruptcy and the Married Couple

In Florida married couples can file for bankruptcy either as individuals or file a joint petition in a bankruptcy court. The federal bankruptcy code allows married couples to file a joint bankruptcy petition. An experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney can assist you determine if you should file a joint petition or an individual petition. To file a joint petition, you must be legally married. Merely staying together will not count. If you file a joint bankruptcy petition, it will be treated as a single filing and you will have to pay the filing fee only once.

An experienced Florida bankruptcy lawyer will explain to you that the biggest advantage of a joint filing over individual filing is that in individual filing the non-filing spouse will not be protected by the automatic stay nor be eligible for the benefits of the discharge. If the individual bankruptcy petition is filed under Chapter 13, the non-filing spouse will be protected if he or she is co-debtor for joint consumer debts.

During your initial meeting with an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney, the attorney will assist you determine whether to file a joint bankruptcy petition or individual petition. The attorney will consider the following factors to help you reach a decision:

  • The amount of debt owed
  • Joint Assets
  • Individual Assets

Generally an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney will advise that you file a joint bankruptcy petition if one spouse has few resources or the financial affairs of the spouses are mixed up with the other. Another advantage of joint filing is that it can prevent situations where creditors attempt to collect one spouse's debt by going after the other's assets. The attorney will advise you to file an individual petition when the spouse in debt has most of his or her debt in his or her name alone or if the spouse who is not in debt has many protected assets or inheritances on the horizon.

The Role of a Qualified Bankruptcy Attorney

TAn experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney will help you determine the right bankruptcy chapter based on your circumstances. If you want to file under Chapter 7, you must pass the bankruptcy test. The attorney will explain the details of the means test. If you do not pass the means test, it does not mean that you cannot file for bankruptcy. It merely means that you cannot file under Chapter 7. You can however still file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy code.

The fact that you are deep in debt should not prevent you from hiring an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy lawyer if you are filing for bankruptcy protection in Pinellas County. The benefits of hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney are immense. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know the means test?
  • How long does it take to discharge a bankruptcy?
  • Do you know the Summary of Schedules?
  • Do you know the Schedule D, E or F?

Unless you can answer these questions without looking elsewhere for answers, you are better off hiring the services of an attorney to file your bankruptcy petition. If you want to protect your assets, then your petition must be properly filed.

St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorneys are professionals and understand how to work with the legal system to make the process of discharging debt as quick and painless as possible. Bankruptcy lawyers have the required knowledge and skill to get you a discharge. The bankruptcy court procedures are complex and even a minor error can result in your petition being dismissed. The qualified bankruptcy advice you will get from an experienced attorney can be priceless for pre-bankruptcy planning and for chalking out a successful bankruptcy strategy. The fees you pay to an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be nothing compared to the consequences on your personal life if bankruptcy proceedings go wrong.

There are many attorneys in Tampa area but only bankruptcy attorneys understand the complex nature of bankruptcy laws. Not all lawyers are well versed with bankruptcy laws. If you are located in the Tampa area and you are considering bankruptcy filing, then contacting an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney is your best option. Do not waste any more time.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a type of bankruptcy proceeding often referred to as the wage earner's plan. In a Chapter 13 proceeding, the debtor files a repayment plan in the bankruptcy court and makes payments according to the plan. Chapter 13 bankruptcy helps you pay off the debt in installments. If you are facing foreclosure, Chapter 13 will allow you to keep your home if you include the mortgage in your repayment plan. If you have a regular source of income, then Chapter 13 is your best option as it allows you to retain your assets unlike Chapter 7 where the bankruptcy court appoints a trustee who takes over and sells your non-exempt assets to pay off your debts.

An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney can help you get a bankruptcy discharge. There are many attorneys in Florida but if you are located in Tampa Bay or Pinellas County, an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney is your best option. Not all lawyers have the knowledge and skill required to get a bankruptcy discharge. You will need one that focuses bankruptcy. If you are based in Tampa and considering bankruptcy filing, you should consult an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney.

Chapter 13 procedure is complex. A small error can cause your petition to be dismissed. Having an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney assist you can be invaluable. You must file your Chapter 13 petition in the bankruptcy court. Your petition must be accompanied by the following documents:

  • List of assets and liabilities;
  • Details of current income and expenditures;
  • Details of unfulfilled unexpired leases and contracts;
  • Financial statement.

An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney can help you prepare and file the petition along with the necessary documents. An automatic stay comes into operation immediately upon filing of a Chapter 13 petition in the bankruptcy court. Your creditors cannot take any further steps to collect the debts nor can they contact you.

Repayment Plan

You must submit a repayment plan along with the petition. If your repayment plan is not ready at the time of filing, you may file it within 15 days of the filing. If your repayment plan is still not ready, an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney can request the bankruptcy court to extend the time. Your repayment plan will require you to contribute a portion of your future income to make the payments under the plan. The payments must start within 30 days of filing of the repayment plan. You will be making the payments directly to the bankruptcy trustee who will then distribute it amongst your creditors.

About 30 days after you file the petition, a creditors meeting will be held. At this meeting the creditors can object to your repayment plan. An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney can draft your repayment plan and deal with the objections raised by the creditors. Generally creditors have 90 days from the date of filing of the Chapter 13 petition to file their claims. This period is extended to 180 days if the creditor is a government entity. Generally all Chapter 13 repayment plans require the payments to be made within 3 years. However in some case the bankruptcy court may allow the payments to be made within 5 years.

Cram Down Provision

An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney will also advise you on the cram down provision of Chapter 13 bankruptcy and use it to your advantage. An experienced Florida bankruptcy lawyer will use the cram down provision to legally reduce the balance on a secured loan. Generally under Chapter 13 bankruptcy you can retain the collateral of a loan if your repayment plan provides for repayment of the loan or the market value of the collateral.

An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer can use this cram down provision to reduce or strip second mortgages in Florida. The cram down provision can also be used to reduce mortgages on investment and rental property but cannot be used to reduce the mortgage on principal residence. Using the cram down provision, the mortgage is split into two parts: secured and unsecured. The secured part is the part of the mortgage which is equal to the present value of the property. The part in excess of the present value of the property is the unsecured part. You will only need to pay the secured part in full. As for the unsecured part, an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney can assist you discharge it by paying pennies for the dollar. This works well for debtors with second mortgages or mortgages on investment property. Cram down provision rules are complex and you will require the services of an experienced attorney.

If you are facing foreclosure in Tampa Bay or surrounding areas in Pinellas County and you have run out of options, then your best chance to prevent foreclosure is by filing for bankruptcy. You will require the services of an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy lawyer for this. Not all lawyers in St. Petersburg can assist you with bankruptcy. You will require the assistance of attorneys who concentrate on bankruptcy. Once a debt is discharged in bankruptcy, it can no longer be enforced against you.

Filing for a Florida Bankruptcy

An experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy lawyer will review your circumstances and advise you on the right chapter to file. Generally individual debtors file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is often referred to as liquidation. When you file a Chapter 7 petition, the bankruptcy court will appoint a bankruptcy trustee who will take over all your non-exempt assets and sell them to pay off your creditors; however, most of your debt will be exempt and protected. Based on your circumstances a certain amount of equity in your home may be exempt. Chapter 13 is often called the wage earner's plan. Chapter 13 involves the payment of the debts according to a repayment plan. If your mortgage is included in the repayment plan, you will be able to retain your home.

The bankruptcy petition must be accompanied with the following schedules:

  • Details of all your debts
  • Details of your income
  • List of your assets
  • Details of your monthly living expenses including food, housing, clothing, taxes, utilities, medicine, transportation, medicine, etc.

Your bankruptcy petition must be properly prepared and filed in the bankruptcy court. Even a small mistake can cause the petition to be dismissed. This will defeat the very purpose of filing. An experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy lawyer knows how to prepare and file the bankruptcy petition. The lawyer will generally provide you with a standard question and answer form. Once you complete the form and return it, the attorney will prepare the petition based on your answers.

Immediately upon filing of the bankruptcy petition a stay will come into operation by law. This stay will prevent your creditors from taking further steps to collect the debt or contacting you. This means that your lender cannot take any further steps to foreclose on your home once you file for bankruptcy. Generally if you want to save your home from foreclosure, an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney will advise you to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You must have a regular source of income for Chapter 13 filing as it involves making regular payments under a repayment plan. The repayment plan must be approved by the bankruptcy court. You must make the payments according to the plan to the bankruptcy trustee. The bankruptcy trustee will distribute the payments to the creditors.

Credit Score

While bankruptcy can help stop or delay foreclosure, it will have an impact on your credit score. Generally bankruptcy will reduce your credit score by 160 to 220 FICO points. So a person with a credit score of 600 before filing will see his or her credit score being reduced to 380 to 440 FICO points. However, an experienced St. Petersburg or Clearwater bankruptcy attorney will tell you that it is not as bad as you think it to be. Generally by the time you file for bankruptcy your credit score would have reduced by 100 FICO points as most creditors would have reported your defaults. Filing for bankruptcy will not make it worse.

Bankruptcy can have a positive effect on your credit score. When you come out of bankruptcy, the credit bureaus while determining your credit will compare you with others who are in a similar financial state - other bankruptcy filers. You will not be compared with person with excellent or good credit. If you are lucky, your credit score might even increase after bankruptcy. Once a debt is discharged in bankruptcy, the balance of the debt will appear as zero on your credit report. Foreclosure will also affect your credit likewise but it will not discharge your other debts.

Foreclosure process in Florida starts when you default on your monthly mortgage payments. Your lender will send you a letter informing you of your default and ask you to correct the default. If you do not correct the default and continue to default on the next month's payments, the lender will send you a notice of intent to foreclosure and ask you to pay the default amount within a specified period. If you still fail to pay the amount, then the lender will take steps to foreclose your home. The lender will take possession of your home and sell it by public auction to recover its dues. It can be frightening. However an experienced St. Petersburg bankruptcy lawyer can stop the foreclosure by filing for bankruptcy if you are located in the Tampa area.

If you are located in the Tampa Bay area of Pinellas County and you are considering filing bankruptcy, consult with an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer if you want the best advice on buying a car. There are many attorneys in Florida but you must contact someone who focuses in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law is complex and only experienced bankruptcy lawyers can guide you through the complex maze of bankruptcy law in Florida. Bankruptcy allows you to legally discharge a debt. It can also be used to stop or delay foreclosure in Florida.

Before Filing

The first step in a bankruptcy proceeding is the filing of the petition in the bankruptcy court. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, you can claim certain assets as exempt assets. You can retain such exempt assets and the trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court cannot take over and sell such exempt assets. An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer can assist you claim exemption for your car. Florida bankruptcy law allows for exemptions of cars up to $1000. If your equity in the care is $1000 or less than you will be able to keep it without any problem. Your equity is the market value less any loans against the car. If your equity exceeds $1000, an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer can apply exemptions from other categories. If not, an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer can negotiate with the trustee and enable you to retain the car by paying the amount in excess of the exemption amount.

Talk to an experienced Clearwater bankruptcy attorney if you are located in the Tampa area if you intend to buy a car before filing for bankruptcy. If your car is an unsecured purchase made within 90 days before the filing, the bankruptcy trustee will question the purchase as it will be considered as an attempt to divert your funds. An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer may be able to convince the trustee and the creditors that it is a legitimate purchase and not made to divert the funds. If you have an older car that is debt free and cannot be exempt, then you may be able to trade it in for a newer car with careful planning with the help of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer will ensure that your purchase is properly planned and does not violate the law. However bankruptcy lawyers will never advise you to buy a new car because the law bars them from advising a bankruptcy filer to incur new debt.

During Bankruptcy Proceedings

If you do not have a car or you want to purchase one during the bankruptcy proceeding, an experienced Florida bankruptcy lawyer will advise you to wait until the creditors meeting is over. However getting finance for buying a car while you are in bankruptcy can be difficult. Even if you do manage to locate a lender, you will end up paying a high interest rate. There are lenders specializing in lending to people in bankruptcy. If the reason for your bankruptcy was sudden illness or something beyond your control, the lender may be willing to lend you the money. The lender will require you to explain how you intend to repay the loan.

After Bankruptcy

If you have obtained a discharge, then you can easily buy a car. There are no legal restrictions. Many people will tell you that once you come out of bankruptcy you will find it difficult to get credit as bankruptcy will remain on your credit for 10 years and your credit scores will be less. This is not necessarily the case. Talk to an experienced Clearwater or St. Petersburg bankruptcy attorney. He or she will explain how you can improve your credit. All lenders will consider your credit before providing credit.

An experienced Clearwater bankruptcy lawyer will tell you that there are lenders in Tampa who are willing to finance your car purchase and will advise you to look beyond the car dealer for finance since the dealer generally offers only its own limited range of loan products. There are lenders who focus on providing car loans for people who have just come out of bankruptcy. Such lender will offer you finance because they know that your unsecured is already reduced by bankruptcy and you have a lower debt to income ratio making it easier for you to meet future financial commitments. Lenders want to earn more by way of interest. Since you have just come out bankruptcy the lender can and will charge you more as interest. Lastly the loan is secured by your car which the lender can repossess in case of default.

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