Filing for bankruptcy can make sense for many people who want to start over after amassing debt that realistically can never be repaid. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not happen overnight. Individuals and couples who choose Chapter 7 in Georgia should be ready to undergo the process. It can be tough to be patient. Yet following the step-by-step procedures and monitoring expectations always means a healthier outcome.
Starting Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in GA
The first step to filing for Chapter 7 in GA usually involves an initial consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer. Under state law, a person can file for Chapter 7 himself or herself. However, having a bankruptcy attorney generally makes the experience less frustrating. Lawyers who regularly work with bankruptcy cases understand the bankruptcy courts. They are also up to speed on the latest regulations and laws.
After hiring a bankruptcy lawyer to represent them, clients can expect to undergo a Chapter 7 means test. This test ensures they meet the guidelines to file for Chapter 7. If they do not, Chapter 13 may be a better solution.
People who pass the Chapter 7 means test cannot immediately file for bankruptcy. Instead, they are expected to undergo credit counseling. A bankruptcy lawyer in GA can help the client figure out which approved agency to visit.
Many individuals and couples are surprised to hear that they are expected to talk to a credit counselor. However, speaking with someone in the credit counseling world can help them avoid future debt problems. The credit counselor can also help them see how they got into their current situation.
The credit counseling session must take place with 180 days of filing for Chapter 7. Otherwise, it is not considered valid.
Filing for Chapter 7
After seeing the credit counselor, bankruptcy filers can then officially file for Chapter 7 in GA within the 180-day window. Filing involves sending documentation called a bankruptcy petition to the proper courts. Again, this is where having a bankruptcy attorney makes sense because the attorney already knows the proper channels.
Why a bankruptcy petition? It alerts the courts to be on the lookout for the paperwork that is expected to follow 15-30 days after filing.
Paperwork Post Bankruptcy Petition
Once the bankruptcy petition has been filed and accepted, quite a bit of work begins. This work includes gathering together all sorts of information, from paychecks to credit card bills. The paperwork should be to the courts within 15 days. But within 30 days after filing, the court should also receive any reaffirmation of specific debts, if applicable.
Reaffirming a debt means the bankruptcy filer wants to hold onto the debt rather than let go of it under Chapter 7. For instance, someone might be interested in trying to keep their mortgage or car loan. In that situation, those debts would be reaffirmed. Not all debts can be reaffirmed. It is important that all Chapter 7 filers discuss the pros and cons of debt reaffirming with their bankruptcy attorney.
Meeting of Creditors
Around 45 days or so after originally filing for Chapter 7, individuals and couples can expect to go to a meeting of creditors. During this legal hearing, they will swear under oath to the debts they documented when they initially filed. It is a formal declaration giving the courts the go-ahead to consider discharging the built-up debts.
Of course, bankruptcy courts are under no obligation to discharge anyone’s debts. That’s another reason to hire an attorney. No one wants to get to a meeting of creditors hearing and be unprepared. Similarly, they do not want to find out later that their debts were not discharged because of mistakes they made during the process.
Discharging Debt Under Chapter 7 in Georgia
It takes a few months after the meeting of creditors for the bankruptcy court to officially declare someone’s debts discharged. Filers can expect to attend more educational coursework to improve their understand of financial best practices. This is necessary to get applicable debts discharged.
Getting Help With Chapter 7
Under ideal situations, people considering Chapter 7 in GA can be free from debt in about four to six months. Being able to move smoothly through the bankruptcy courts relieves them of their financial and emotional burdens.
Thinking about Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy? If you are a Georgia resident, call the Law Office of Jeffrey B. Kelly at (770) 809-3099. Talking with a bankruptcy attorney can give you a better understanding of whether Chapter 7 is the best decision.