Can I exclude certain debts?

No. You are required to list all debts in your name when you file bankruptcy whether you wish to keep making payments on a debt (like a car or house) or not. Even if you do not list a debt (like a store card with a zero balance) it is possible the creditor may receive notice of the bankruptcy and close the account anyway. It may be possible to reopen a new account at a later date. You will need to list debts that are not dischargeable such as most tax debts, student loans and domestic obligation (child support and alimony).

Can I file for bankruptcy more than once?

Yes, a chapter 7 can be filed 8 years after a previous filing that resulted in a discharge, if the person financially qualifies. A chapter 13 may be filed 4 years after a chapter 7 was filed and resulted in a discharge. In some cases it may make sense to file a chapter 13 even though the debtor is not yet eligible for a discharge. This can be discussed in more detail with your attorney.

Can I just file in my name?

Yes. If you are married, you can file bankruptcy just in your name. However, you still will be required to include your spouse’s income for qualification purposes unless you are considered separated. If there are any joint debts discharged in your bankruptcy, the creditor can still attempt collection from your spouse if he or she has not filed.

Can you keep my name out of the newspaper?

Unfortunately if you live in Dallas, Polk or Warren County there is nothing we can do to stop a one-time public notice listing including your name, address and estimated assets and liabilities.

How do I stop all the creditor calls?

If you decide to file bankruptcy you can tell your creditors your intentions, but you don’t have to. If you have retained our office you can give them our name when they ask who your bankruptcy attorney is. They will then call our office to verify. This may slow calls down some, but after a while if a bankruptcy case is not filed the calls and advanced creditor action are likely to resume. Ultimately what stops the creditor calls is payment on a debt or a bankruptcy filing. Within a week after the bankruptcy is filed the creditor receives a mailing from the bankruptcy court notifying them of the bankruptcy and providing case information and a case number. This court order is known as the Automatic Stay prohibiting most collection efforts. This is a unique protection offered by the bankruptcy courts and creditors can receive serious penalties for violating it.

How long will bankruptcy be on my credit report?

Up to 10 years. However, that does not mean you will not be able to get credit again for ten years. Usually the first year or two is the toughest for people, if they experience any problems at all. Credit is unique for each person and certain factors may make it easier for some people to rebuild credit after filing bankruptcy. Different creditors treat bankruptcy differently, just because one company isn’t able to help you doesn’t mean the next company won’t be able to. There are steps you can take to actively rebuild your credit after filing bankruptcy, which we can discuss and will be covered in the required financial management course.

What debts are not discharged in bankruptcy?

Generally student loans, fines owed to the government and tax debts. These debts still need to be listed in your bankruptcy and in some cases tax debt, if old enough and meeting all other requirements, will be discharged. Although receiving a hardship discharge on student loans is rare, we can review to make sure you are exploring all options to make the student loan repayment as affordable as possible. Domestic support obligation such as child support and alimony are also not discharged.

What if I forget to list a creditor?

We try our hardest to get all creditors listed in the initial filing, but sometimes one will be left off. Usually we can add the creditor, as long as the debt was incurred prior to the bankruptcy filing. If the bankruptcy case is already closed, usually notice of the bankruptcy filing and possibly a letter from our office will be sufficient for the creditor. It is always a possibility to reopen a bankruptcy to add a creditor, however. Sometimes if you forget to list a creditor they will find out anyway from general credit reporting inquires.

What is a reaffirmation agreement?

Although not sufficiently summed up in one paragraph, a reaffirmation agreement is a written agreement stating that a debt will not be discharged in bankruptcy. In other words, it re-obligates someone personally on a debt after bankruptcy as if the person had never filed. Typically we only see reaffirmation agreements on secured debts like mortgages, car loans, furniture loans, etc. You can agree to voluntarily pay anything you want to after the bankruptcy, but it will not be enforceable against you unless a reaffirmation agreement is signed by you, the creditor and approved by the court. Generally, reaffirmation agreements are for the benefit of the creditor. There are some benefits to the Debtor (person who files bankruptcy), however, including the creditor continuing to report positively on a credit report if they have been previously and continuing to send monthly statements if they had been previously. Sometimes even if you want to sign a reaffirmation agreement the court will not approve it if it might be a hardship on you in the future. As a general rule, you should be hesitant to sign a reaffirmation agreement if you are upside down on a loan (owe more than the collateral is worth), struggling to make payments or think there is a likelihood you will not be able to make payments in the future. Reaffirmation agreements should be discussed with an attorney before signing.

What is the difference between chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 is generally designed for lower income cases and does not require re-payments on debts. Most people qualify for chapter 7 based on their income and expenses. If your gross income is below the U.S. Census Bureau Median Level of Income for your household size, you generally qualify for chapter 7. Even if your income is above the Median Level, you may still qualify. A less common way someone can qualify for chapter 7 is if more than 50% of their debts are business in nature. We can analyze your income sources and debts at your initial meeting to see if you qualify for chapter 7. The biggest difference between chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is that Chapter 13 is a repayment plan, somewhat like a debt consolidation plan. People who file Chapter 13 bankruptcy make a monthly payment to a person called a Chapter 13 Trustee who then makes payments to creditors based on priority under the bankruptcy code. Many times Chapter 13 is a backup for cases that do not qualify for chapter 7 because their income is too high and most cases benefit greatly from the bankruptcy court’s protection and are better off then trying to pay off all the creditors on their own. People also might be interested in filing a chapter 13 if they have filed a chapter 7 too recently and are not eligble to file again or are behind on their home and wish to get payments caught up. Click here for more information about chapter 7 or chapter 13.

Will filing for bankruptcy stop a foreclosure?

Filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy will only buy a little additional time during a foreclosure. There is nothing we can do to force a modification on a lender in a chapter 7 filing. After the court grants a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay (Court’s protective order) the Lender can resume its foreclosure. If you are behind on monthly payments, a chapter 13 filing may be helpful. In a chapter 13 bankruptcy you would have to start making the regular mortgage payment, along with all your other regular household bills. In addition, you would make a monthly payment to the chapter 13 trustee that would have to be enough over 5 years to pay off at least the amount of arrears (missed mortgage payments and fees) along with the trustees administrative fee.

Will I lose my house or car?

In most cases people can keep their house and car(s) as long as they are current on payments and can afford to continue payments. This can be discussed further with your attorney as some exceptions may apply.

Will I lose my job?

In some instances it can be unlawful to terminate someone’s employment due to a bankruptcy filing. However, Iowa is an at will employment state, meaning your employer can generally fire you and doesn’t have to give you a reason. We have had many clients, especially in the financial industry, concerned they would lose their job for filing. No one has ever reported back to us they did actually lose their job, however.