A Comprehensive Guide of Georgia Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

Overview of Chapter 12 Bankruptcy in Georgia


Are you a family farmer or fisherman in Georgia facing financial challenges due to debts? Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides efficient and cost-effective financial reorganization, particularly compared to other alternatives like Georgia Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Chapter 12 facilitates the reorganization of business operations for farms and fisheries. It aims to restructure financial obligations, preventing liquidation or foreclosure due to debts.

Understanding Chapter 12 bankruptcy is crucial for fishermen and farmers seeking debt relief. At Cherney Law Firm, LLC, we support clients considering Chapter 12. Learn more below about the Chapter 12 bankruptcy process, benefits and challenges, and how our experienced bankruptcy attorney can assist you.


Understanding Georgia Chapter 12 Bankruptcy


Understanding Georgia Chapter 12 Bankruptcy sectWhat Is Chapter 12 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy is designed for farmers and fishermen with “regular annual income.” It enables them to reorganize their business operations while retaining ownership of their assets.

Following Georgia bankruptcy laws, they need to develop a debt repayment plan. It should be structured around their income and financial responsibilities. These plans take three to five years, after which any remaining debts are discharged. Debtors will collaborate with the bankruptcy trustee and creditors to develop this plan. 

Unlike Chapters 7 and 13, Chapter 12 provides distinct advantages for fishermen and farmers. It eliminates obstacles faced while seeking reorganization under Chapters 11 or 13. 

Compared to Chapter 11, Chapter 12 is less complex and cost-effective. Thus, it is better suited for family farmers and fishermen. Chapter 13 is for wage earners with smaller debts, which is typically less helpful for family farmers. 


Eligibility Criteria for Chapter 12 in Georgia

Farmers and fishermen must meet specific requirements to qualify for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Eligibility criteria are categorized into two groups: individuals (or individuals with a spouse) and corporations or partnerships.

Individual Farmers or Fishermen

To qualify for Chapter 12, individual farmers or fishermen must:

  • Be engaged in a farming or commercial fishing operation;
  • Total debts (secured and unsecured) must not exceed $11,097,350 (for family farmers) or $2,268,550 (for family fishermen);
  • At least 50% (for farmers) or 80% (for fishermen) of total debts arising from a farming or fishing operation;
  • More than 50% of gross income in the preceding tax year (or the 2nd and 3rd prior tax years for family farmers) should be derived from farming or commercial fishing operations.

Corporations or Partnerships

To qualify for Chapter 12, corporations or partnerships must:

  • Have more than half of the outstanding stock or equity is owned by one family or one family and its relatives.
  • The family and relatives should conduct the farming operation or commercial fishing operation.
  • Over 80% of the corporate or partnership assets should be related to farming or fishing.
  • Total indebtedness should be at most $11,097,350 (for farming operations) or $2,268,550 (for commercial fishing operations).
  • At least 50% (for farming operations) or 80% (for fishing operations) of total debts should arise from the farming or fishing operation.
  • If the corporation issues stock, it cannot be publicly traded.


Limitations and Requirements

Debtors may face restrictions, such as not filing a petition within 180 days of a dismissed bankruptcy petition. Credit counseling within 180 days before filing is mandatory, except for emergency situations. If a debt management plan is developed during counseling, it must be filed with the court.


The Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Filing Process


Pre-Filing Considerations

Before initiating Chapter 12 Bankruptcy in Georgia, individuals should:

  • Assess their financial situation;
  • Explore alternative options;
  • Prepare documentation;
  • Undergo credit counseling;
  • Create a repayment plan;
  • Check eligibility;
  • Understand exemptions.

Addressing these pre-filing considerations allows you to make informed decisions. Seeking professional guidance from experienced bankruptcy attorneys can also be crucial. 


Georgia Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Filing Procedure

The filing process for Georgia Chapter 12 bankruptcy involves the following steps: 

  1. Complete Credit Counseling: Within 180 days before filing for bankruptcy, you must complete a credit counseling course with an approved credit counseling agency.  
  2. Compile Necessary Information: Gather information for Official Bankruptcy Forms. These include creditor details, income sources, property lists, and monthly expenses.
  3. Petition Filing: Submit your petition to the bankruptcy court with all necessary documentation and pay fees. The petition filing fee is $200 and a $75 administrative fee. The fees can be paid in installments with court permission.
  4. Trustee Appointment: An impartial trustee will be appointed to administer the case.
  5. Co-Debtor Protection: Chapter 12 includes an “automatic stay” provision protecting co-debtors and preventing the collection of “consumer debt” without court authorization. However, specific actions listed in 11 USC § 362(b) remain.
  6. 341 Meeting of Creditors: This is held 21 to 35 days after filing. The trustee will put the debtor under oath, and creditors may ask questions. The debtor and, if applicable, both spouses should attend.
  7. Repayment Plan Confirmation Hearing: After the creditors’ meeting, a hearing is held to confirm the debtor’s repayment plan. 
  8. Claims Filing: Unsecured creditors must file claims within 90 days of the creditors’ meeting. Governmental units have 180 days from the case filing date to file a proof of claim.
  9. Post-Confirmation: After plan confirmation, the debtor should follow the approved repayment plan. An appointed trustee oversees the repayment plan.


Documentation and Legal Requirements for Filing Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

You will need to submit the following documents and information:

  • Submit details on business creditors or lenders. Specify each creditor’s claim and the corresponding purchase information.
  • Provide annual income information.
  • Provide information about business assets and property.
  • Outline monthly expenses
  • Provide individual financial information:
    • Even in joint filings, each spouse should present their individual financial information.
    • If only one spouse files, the other should still provide income and expenses for a complete financial overview.


What Happens After Filing Chapter 12 Bankruptcy?

After all payments have been completed under the repayment plan, the debtor will receive a discharge. It releases the debtor from most debts. Certain debts, like child support and taxes, remain non-dischargeable. 


Role of the Bankruptcy Trustee

A bankruptcy trustee facilitates a fair and efficient Chapter 12 bankruptcy process. The trustee oversees the bankruptcy case and evaluates financial documents. They also organize creditor meetings, manage payment distribution, and ensure plan adherence. Additionally, they mediate disputes and submit a final report summarizing the case.


Benefits and Challenges of Chapter 12 Bankruptcy


Advantages for Family Farmers and Fishermen

Chapter 12 provides family farmers and fishermen with:

  • Structured repayment plans;
  • Potential debt discharge;
  • Asset retention;
  • Flexibility in adjusting repayment terms;
  • Negotiation with creditors.


Potential Challenges in Chapter 12

Some of the potential challenges in Chapter 12 cases include:

  • Complex financial structures;
  • Creditor opposition;
  • Unpredictable market conditions;
  • Operational disruptions.


Strategies for Success in Chapter 12

  • Seek legal guidance;
  • Conduct a detailed analysis of financial structures;
  • Maintain transparent communication with creditors;
  • Build flexibility in repayment plans;
  • Plan to minimize farm or fishing operations disruptions;
  • Comply with the legal intricacies of Chapter 12 proceedings.


Navigating Complexities: Georgia-Specific Regulations


Effect of Local Rules in Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a federal process governed by the US Bankruptcy Code. However, each bankruptcy court has its own set of local rules. Adherence to these rules is essential for a successful filing.

Local rules may streamline or modify certain procedural aspects. As a result, it may impact the efficiency of Chapter 12 filings in Georgia. Additionally, state-specific exemptions ensure appropriate protection for essential assets if the case is converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation. 


Balancing State and Federal Laws

Understanding how Georgia-specific regulations intersect with federal bankruptcy laws is crucial. State and federal requirements may present compliance challenges. This may emphasize the need for meticulous planning and legal guidance. 

Seeking advice from legal professionals can help you stay informed about Georgia-specific regulations. By balancing state and federal laws, you can increase the likelihood of a successful Chapter 12 bankruptcy filing in Georgia.


The Role of a Bankruptcy Attorney in Chapter 12 Bankruptcy


The Role of a Bankruptcy Attorney in Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

Filing for bankruptcy poses many challenges and legal requirements. Thus, it is advisable to seek legal guidance from a bankruptcy attorney. At Cherney Law Firm, LLC, we assist clients in making informed decisions.

Our bankruptcy attorney will: 

  • Assess the debtor’s financial status;
  • Analyze income, debt levels, and the nature of their agricultural or fishing operations;
  • Determine eligibility for Chapter 12 bankruptcy;
  • Assemble necessary documents; 
  • Compile financial records;
  • Assist in developing a repayment plan;
  • Advocate for the debtor in court proceedings;
  • Negotiate with creditors;
  • Communicate with the bankruptcy trustee.

Our services extend beyond Chapter 12 bankruptcy. We also offer support in Chapter 7, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. We allow our clients to explore various options based on their unique situations, crafting legal and financial solutions.


Contact Cherney Law Firm, LLC, Your Bankruptcy Attorney in Georgia


Georgia Chapter 12 bankruptcy offers a solution to family farmers and fishermen facing financial challenges. Navigating the filing process requires understanding federal regulations and local court rules. Cherney Law Firm, LLC is a reliable partner to guide you through the process. 

Our experienced bankruptcy lawyer offers tailored legal solutions and strategic approaches to challenges. We aim to help our clients secure a favorable outcome and improve their financial situation. 

If you are considering Chapter 12 bankruptcy, do not hesitate to contact us.

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