A Quick Overview of the Bankruptcy Process

A Quick Overview of the Bankruptcy Process


Before you file for bankruptcy, you probably have some questions about the process. There are many laws and guidelines you need to follow, but there is still a basic format for filing. In this article, we will cover the steps of the bankruptcy process to give you a better understanding of what it looks like. If you want to learn more, our Georgia bankruptcy attorneys are here to help.

Credit Counseling

Due to the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, before individuals file for bankruptcy in Georgia, they need to receive credit counseling from a government-approved organization within the six months prior to filing. This rule applies whether you file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. After filing, you must also complete a financial management instructional course.

Read more on: The differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

The Means Test

When you file for bankruptcy, you may choose Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, depending on your financial situation. The means test calculates your ability to pay back your debts based on your income and necessary expenditures. The court will look at your finances and compare them to the median income for Georgia. If your income is less than the median, you qualify to file under Chapter 7. If your income is higher, you may only have the option of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, even if you qualify for Chapter 7, you may choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you have secured property that you wish to keep in the process.

Paperwork

When filing, you will need to acquire any relevant financial information such as income sources, large financial transactions within the last two years, living expenses, debts, and property. Keep your tax returns for the previous two years, property deeds, car titles, and loan paperwork on hand.

Filing for Bankruptcy

When you file, either you or your attorney will file a petition and other required forms with your Georgia district bankruptcy court. In these forms, you explain your financial situation and transactions within the last few years. It is important to mention all aspects of your financial status. Any withheld information can jeopardize your petition for debt relief.

If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, be aware that you must also submit a proposed repayment plan. A bankruptcy judge either confirms or denies your proposal at a hearing later on. You will need to attend this hearing.

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy carries a fee of $306. If the fee is not waived, you can pay it in installments. However, the Chapter 13 bankruptcy fee of $281 cannot be waived.

Trustee Appointment

Once you file, an automatic stay goes into effect. Creditors may no longer have direct contact with you, and foreclosure proceedings will halt. The court then appoints a trustee to your case to review your paperwork and ensure creditors are paid accordingly.

Meeting of Creditors

About a month after filing, the trustee will hold a meeting of creditors. The debtor is required to attend as well. The meeting allows creditors to question or object to the proposed plan.

The Power of The Automatic Stay

About Automatic Stay


One of the most important aspects of bankruptcy filing is the automatic stay. We will explore how the automatic stay works for you, as well as the creditors’ option to submit a motion for relief from stay.

How Does the Automatic Stay Work?

As soon as you file for bankruptcy, either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, the automatic stay goes into effect. The automatic stay keeps creditors from collecting debts during your case. When you or your attorney files, you will include a list of your creditors. These creditors will receive a copy of the automatic stay, which prevents them from taking any debt collection actions against you, such as:

  • Calling you
  • Sending letters
  • Foreclosing your home
  • Suing you for a debt
  • Filing a garnishment on your earnings
  • Continuing a lawsuit
  • Collecting on a judgment

The purpose of the automatic stay is to give you some financial relief while you develop a plan for your finances and repayment. It also benefits creditors who might not receive anything because another creditor collects all the assets first. The bankruptcy process attempts to divide payment fairly amongst creditors.

While the automatic stay provides you some much-needed breathing room, creditors still have options. They may ask the court to lift the automatic stay so they can continue collecting. The next part will cover what this means for you.

What is a Motion for Relief from Stay?

Sometimes creditors will motion for relief from stay. Not every creditor will file a motion. Most will be willing to receive payment from the bankruptcy plan. It is also up to the creditor to provide a credible reason for lifting the stay.

Secured Creditors

Secured creditors may try to lift the stay so they can collect on collateral. For example, when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the mortgage lender may ask the court to lift the stay if you are behind on your payments. By lifting the stay they can continue the foreclosure proceedings. Since you must either pay or return the property under the secured debt, the court will probably lift the stay if you cannot keep up with the payments.

However, the court may deny the motion for relief from stay if the debtor can show the ability to repay the loan with the asset’s equity. By doing so, the debtor demonstrates that the lender is sufficiently protected from financial loss.
Even when a motion comes forward, there is no reason to fight it if you have no intention of keeping the asset.

Unsecured Creditors

It is unlikely that an unsecured creditor will ask to lift the stay. If your Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not discharge a debt, a creditor can motion to lift the stay. However, since Chapter 7 cases usually last only a few months, most creditors are willing to wait until the end of the case to start collecting again.

In the case of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, according to the debtor’s three to five-year plan, unsecured creditors receive repayment for debts that are not discharged. Since they will receive partial or full payment, creditors have little reason to ask for relief from stay.

Bankruptcy and Your Credit Score


What is a Credit Score

A credit score is a mathematical algorithm, typically updated monthly, used by lenders and service providers (i.e. utility companies) to determine your character, creditworthiness, and likelihood to make payments on time.

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Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the State Of Georgia

Chapter 7 bankruptcy information for Georgia - Attorney Matthew Cherney

Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy attorney

In Georgia, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is legal proceeding asking the courts to discharge your debts. If successful, most unsecured debts will be forgiven, and the debtor gets a “fresh start”.  Once a chapter 7 is completed, the debtor is free of major debt. There are assets that you may be able to keep during and after your bankruptcy. How you structure your bankruptcy can have a major impact on the results that you get.

The State of Georgia has three United States Bankruptcy Court districts

Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Ga.

Once you figure out which district you are living in, it is time to file.  There are two ways that you can do this in Georgia, you can file by yourself or you can hire an attorney to file for chapter 7 for you.

How to File for Chapter 7 by Yourself in Georgia

If you are confident in yourself and would like to file for chapter 7 on your own, there are many resources that will help you in the state of Georgia. There are online guides from companies like Upsolve, or you can go to the State of Georgia Bankruptcy  website to find out information on the forms that you need.

Hiring an Attorney to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Georgia

If you are uncomfortable with all of the paperwork and ramifications of improperly filing for chapter 7 by yourself, you can hire an attorney to represent you. Hiring an attorney has a distinct advantage because that is what they do. An attorney will know all of the Georgia bankruptcy laws and can prepare and file all the needed paperwork on your behalf. They are also available to answer any questions throughout and even after your bankruptcy is discharged.

Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions

The purpose of filing for bankruptcy is to achieve debt relief in order to rebuild a sense of financial security.  In Georgia, exemptions in chapter 7 are very important. It is nearly impossible to do so if everything you own is taken from you during bankruptcy. Many people assume that you must lose everything including things such as your finances, your home, and your car when you file, but this is not true. According to United States Code §522, a person who files for bankruptcy may request certain exemptions, including interest on home loans and vehicles, any life insurance policies that have no yet matured, and other such assets.

It is important to note that some states will allow the person filing to choose between using Federal exemptions or state exemptions. The State of Georgia does not allow you to do this. You must use Georgia state exemptions. There are a few instances that you may be able to use federal non bankruptcy exemptions.

Some of the most common Georgia bankruptcy exemptions are :

  • Homestead
  • Vehicle
  • Wages
  • Personal

What happens to your property?

When you file for a chapter 7, you will most likely have to give up anything that isn’t exempt under Georgia law. The bankruptcy trustee will liquidate any non-exempt assets to pay your creditors.

Georgia Chapter 7 Means Test

 what is the Georgia Chapter 7 Means Test

The first step in filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to take a means test. Unless there is proof that you cannot afford to repay your debt based on your income and other factors, you cannot file under this chapter. Your income will be measured against the median income of a family living in your state that is comparable in size to your own family.

Median Income for Chapter 7 in Georgia

If your average income from the last 6 months is less than or equal to the median income, you will be considered eligible for Chapter 7.

In cases where your income is too high for Chapter 7, the court will determine how much disposable income you have in order to pay off some or all of your debt in a Chapter 13 plan should you choose to go that route. The court looks at your income and subtracts debt payments, living expenses and any other required payments to see what amount you can feasibly pay off each month.

Once a means test proves that you are eligible and you come up clean in all of the other areas determining eligibility, you must fill out all necessary forms and petition for property exemptions so that you can keep any necessary items, such as furniture or your car. This process is not simple, and a mistake could cause further harm, so make sure that you retain an educated Georgia bankruptcy attorney with years of experience in Chapter 7 laws and procedures. With such legal assistance, discharging your debt could result in the financial freedom that you’ve been dreaming of achieving.

Chapter 7 Credit Counseling

If you have taken the means test and it has determined that you are eligible for Chapter 7, the next step before you file is to take a pre filing credit counseling course. These courses are online and your attorney can usually provide you with the information on where it can be taken. After your bankruptcy has been discharged, you will also be required to take another credit counseling course. This is usually done with the same credit counseling agency that you used before you filed for your bankruptcy.

Georgia Bankruptcy Laws:

The state of Georgia has laws that will protect debtors from debt collectors, one of the most important is the Automatic stay.

Automatic Stay With Chapter 7

As soon as you file for a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia, an automatic stay is imposed. The Automatic stay prevents creditors from pursuing any collection efforts from that moment forward. This includes taking legal action against you. Although the automatic stay is considered temporary, it will protect the debtor from creditors the whole time until the chapter 7 is discharged. At that point it will be no longer needed because once the Chapter 7 is discharged in Georgia, the debt is gone forever, Creditors can no longer attempt to collect the debts that have been discharged.

Chapter 7 Trustee in Georgia

You will be assigned a Georgia Chapter 7 Trustee

Once you have successfully filed for chapter 7, one of the next steps in the process is a court appointed trustee will be assigned to your case.  It is the Trustee’s job to overlook your case and go through all off the paperwork and details to make sure that there is no fraud. The Trustee will also assist in the liquidation of your assets.

It is important that all of your paperwork is  filled out correctly and that you list all of your assets. The trustee just wants to make sure that all assets will be distributed correctly. If the trustee somehow finds out that you are hiding assets, he can ask the court to deny or revoke your discharge.

Georgia Bankruptcy – The 341 Meeting

Once a trustee is assigned to your case, a 341 meeting will be scheduled. The purpose of the 341 meeting is to let the Trustee go through the paperwork you have filed. He will ask you questions about your debt and assets. Your attorney will be present with you during this meeting but cannot answer questions on your behalf. Creditors can also attend the meeting but they usually do not. It is mandatory that you appear to answer questions from the trustee about your case.   The questions asked by the trustee are all about the paperwork that you have filed. It is very important that you are honest with all of your answers. If you chose to hire an attorney, they will prepare you with everything that you need to know about what to expect at you 341 creditors meeting.

Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Discharge

 Last step is a Georgia Chapter 7 Bankruptcy discharge

A chapter 7 discharge is a permanent order from the court prohibiting creditors from taking any form of collection action on discharged debts. This includes legal action and communications with the debtor, such as telephone calls, letters, and personal contacts. While the debtor already had any temporary collection attempts halted with an automatic stay, the discharge is permanent.

The Courts will give the debtors creditors ample time (about 60 days from the 341 meeting) to file any objections. After that period has elapsed, they will send you a letter stating that your chapter 7 bankruptcy has been discharged.

Convert from chapter 13 to a chapter 7 in Georgia

Many times when a person is in a chapter 13 bankruptcy, they will be unable to keep up with their payment plan. When this happens, it is possible to convert from a chapter 13 to a chapter 7.

Tricks for Filing Chapter 7 in Georgia

There really are no tricks to filing for bankruptcy in the state of Georgia. Ir really has to do with whether you qualify or not. If you are in a situation that you think you may not qualify for chapter 7, you can always speak to your attorney about a chapter 13. By taking the means test, you will be able to see if you qualify for a chapter 7 or a chapter 13.

We are Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney’s in Georgia

Cherney Law Firm Can help you file for chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.  We have 3 locations in the Atlanta, Georgia area and serve all of the cities in the Atlanta Metro area.

If you are considering whether a chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you and you live in the state of Georgia, fell free to contact Cherney Law Firm. We are only a phone call or e-mail away and we can answer any questions that you have.  Cherney Law has handled thousands of bankruptcies in Georgia. We have seen every situation, there is no need to feel shame, we are here to help.

How Much will Chapter 7 cost?

We have Offices in Cobb, Cherokee and Fulton Counties and we offer 100% free consultations. Let us help you relieve the stress that your debt is causing you. Wage garnishment, repossession, foreclosure, credit card debt and judgments are our areas of specialty. We accept payment plans.

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