Once you’ve determined Chapter 7 eligibility and have decided that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the right option for you, the first step is to file a petition with the bankruptcy court. Additionally, you will have to file several mandatory schedules that will provide the court with information about your financial affairs including income, assets, liabilities, expenditures, co-debtors, and other financially-related information. You can view the list of all information you will need to compile in order to complete the required schedules on our page titled “Information Needed to File a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition”. You will also file a schedule of exempt property. This allows you, the debtor, to protect specific assets from the claims of creditors during Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation under Florida bankruptcy law. To find out what assets may be exempt from bankruptcy liquidation, view our page on “Exempt Assets”.
Once the petition is filed with the bankruptcy court, you are granted an automatic stay and all creditors and collection agencies must cease efforts against you to collect debts. Approximately one month after filing, a meeting is set up with you (the debtor), your attorney, creditors and a trustee, who is appointed by the court to oversee the process. This meeting is referred to as a Section 341 meeting, and during the meeting you may be questioned about your financial affairs by creditors and/or the trustee. It is rare, however, that creditors attend the Section 341 meeting, and in most cases it is just the trustee that you meet with. This is the only time you will have to potentially meet with your creditors and the court-appointed trustee face-to-face and your attorney will be with you during this process. For further information about this meeting, view our page on “Understanding the Section 341 Meeting”.
Following the Section 341 meeting, the trustee will handle the liquidation of any non-exempt assets and will distribute the proceeds to creditors according to statutes set forth by South Florida bankruptcy law. All further communication with the trustee, courts or creditors will be handled by your attorney.
Once the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is complete, you will receive a Bankruptcy Discharge from the court. This is a court order that specifies that you are no longer obligated to repay any dischargeable debt. There are certain debts which are considered non-dischargeable under South Florida bankruptcy law, meaning that you will still be obligated to pay those debts. You can view a listing of the types of debts that are exempt from bankruptcy discharge on our page titled “Dischargeable vs. Non-Dischargeable Bankruptcy Debts”. Other than non-dischargeable debts, however, the final Bankruptcy Discharge eliminates you from all future obligations to creditors. This offers you a “clean slate” or “fresh start” opportunity to begin rebuilding a more solid financial future.