What’s the process and timeline for filing for bankruptcy in Georgia?
In general, the process involves a fair amount of preliminary paperwork, the filing of a bankruptcy petition with the court and some court dates where the judge and bankruptcy trustee make decisions about the case and plan going forward.
However, don’t be discouraged. Having a basic understanding of the overall steps in the process can help you successfully navigate bankruptcy with the help of an experienced lawyer.
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Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Which is best?
First and foremost is determining which type of bankruptcy is right for your individual situation.
When you speak with your lawyer, they will advise you on whether it’s best to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 discharges your debts by selling your assets while Chapter 13 implements a payment plan over several years that will allow you to discharge your debts after completion. The court uses a “means test,” which determines whether you qualify for Chapter 7 or must file for Chapter 13.
Preparing for bankruptcy in Georgia
The general steps required in the bankruptcy timeline are relatively similar whether you’re undergoing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. The first few steps tend to occur before your lawyer files the paperwork with the court.
- Credit counseling. The 2005 Bankruptcy Act introduced a credit counseling requirement for anyone interested in filing for bankruptcy. The credit counseling must be completed within 6 months of filing.
- Means test. The means test will use your average income to determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7 (asset liquidation) or Chapter 13 bankruptcy (structured payment plan). The means test takes the median income for Georgia and compares it against your own.
- Paperwork. Filing for bankruptcy means gathering a lot of paperwork. The filing will include an itemized list of your income and all of the financial transactions you’ve had in the past 2 years as well as a list of your living expenses, assets and debts.
What to expect when filing for bankruptcy
After completing the preparatory steps for your bankruptcy filing, your attorney will take your paperwork to the court. Your bankruptcy forms, which are usually referred to as “schedules,” will include a 2-page petition that lists the property you believe is exempt from seizure.
In Georgia, you’ll pay $306 to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Filers for Chapter 13 bankruptcy will pay $281. Your income may allow you to have the Chapter 7 filing fee waived, but you cannot waive the fee for Chapter 13.
The following meetings and decisions will proceed after you’ve filed for bankruptcy.
- Assignment of the bankruptcy trustee. The court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to oversee your payments to creditors. They will review your paperwork to make sure the creditors are given as much money as possible from the sale of your non-exempt assets.
- Meeting of the creditors. A meeting of creditors (known as the 341 Meeting) will occur about a month after the initial filing. At this point, your creditors and the bankruptcy trustee will have a meeting where negotiations on payments and debts will occur.
- Creditor challenges. Creditors may challenge your right to file for bankruptcy and they have 60 days to file their challenges. If no challenges occur, Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers will receive a notice after 3 to 6 months that their debts have been discharged.
- Plan confirmation (Chapter 13). Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers will need to attend a hearing to confirm or deny a repayment plan. The plan may take several years to complete, but dischargeable debts will be eliminated if all payments are made on time and according to the plan.
How long does bankruptcy take in Georgia?
Anyone interested in filing for bankruptcy in Georgia should be prepared to spend at least 6 months to a year when filing for Chapter 7, or at least 5 years when filing for Chapter 13. These timelines may vary based on your financial circumstances or whether there are any problems with the payment plan or challenges made by the creditors.
For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the overall process is complete once the court approves the payments made by the bankruptcy trustee. For Chapter 13, the process isn’t complete until all of the required payments have been made and the court has recognized the completion of your payment plan.
It’s important to remember that filing for bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for anywhere from 7 to 10 years. Those who file for Chapter 7 will see a mark on their credit report for 10 years; Chapter 13 filers will usually see evidence of bankruptcy disappear from their credit report within about 7 years.
Issues that might delay the bankruptcy process
The most common reason a bankruptcy in Georgia might be delayed is because of the court’s belief that the debtor purposefully hid relevant information during the filing process. Trying to hide assets may mean that the court will reject the bankruptcy application.
According to the federal government’s bankruptcy code, a judge may deny a Chapter 7 discharge because of reasons like a failure to provide requested documents, concealment of property or assets or the destruction of records.
Engaging the services of a bankruptcy lawyer in Georgia is the most reliable way to file and eventually complete the bankruptcy process, no matter which type. The complexity of filing the right documents is made immensely easier with the help of an experienced attorney.
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