stop harassing phone calls
stop "robbing Peter to pay Paul"
stop bill collectors and vehicle repossession
stop foreclosure and "catch up" mortgage payments
recover from a financial disaster such as divorce, major illness, or loss of employment
get rid of burdensome debts and get a "fresh start"
Article I of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact "uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies," and Congress enacted the current "Bankruptcy Code" in 1978. A fundamental goal of the federal bankruptcy laws is to provide a "fresh start" to debtors who are burdened by unmanageable debts. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that bankruptcy law "gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor . . . a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt." Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244 (1934).
The Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the local bankruptcy rules set forth the formal legal procedures for dealing with debts and creditors. The Bankruptcy Code and Rules are complex, and every bankruptcy case is complicated. Therefore, you need a knowledgeable and qualified bankruptcy attorney to guide you through the process of filing and completing a successful bankruptcy case.
Don't trust your bankruptcy case to an attorney who "dabbles" in bankruptcy cases. Put your trust in attorneys who specialize in bankruptcy cases.
Contact Ingram Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your options for dealing with debts and creditors as well as the possibility of filing a bankruptcy case to seek protection and relief from the Bankruptcy Court.
Initial Consultation / Interview
Please bring the following with you to your initial consultation:
photo ID and Social Security card
two (2) most recent pay stubs
proof of other income (e.g., Social Security, disability, unemployment, retirement, pension, child support, alimony)
most recent mortgage statement
list of all creditors and debts
During your initial consultation, one of our attorneys will analyze your financial situation and advise you as to whether a bankruptcy filing is in your best interest and what chapter would be appropriate.
Your initial consultation is free (no charge). However, if you miss a scheduled appointment, then we may require a refundable deposit before you can schedule another appointment.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (Adjustment of Debts)
Under Chapter 13, if you have regular income from any source, then you can propose a plan to repay some or all of your debts by making installment payments to a bankruptcy trustee over three to five years.
Advantages of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:
Save your home from foreclosure by:
stopping foreclosure proceedings,
curing delinquent mortgage payments over time, and
resuming regular mortgage payments that come due during a Chapter 13 plan.
Stop court proceedings by debt collectors.
Pay off tax debt and child support arrearage over time.
Modify or reschedule most secured debts to:
lower payments and/or interest rates and
repay debts over the life of a Chapter 13 plan.
Protect co-signers who are also liable on consumer debts.
Avoid direct contact with creditors while under Chapter 13 protection by making plan payments to a Chapter 13 Trustee, who distributes the payments to your creditors.
If you continue making regular plan payments to your trustee, then, under most circumstances, your creditors are forbidden from starting or continuing collection efforts. You must complete all payments required under a Chapter 13 plan before receiving a discharge of debts.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Liquidation)
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also called a "liquidation," does not involve the filing of a repayment plan as in Chapter 13. Under Chapter 7, you are allowed to keep a certain amount of "exempt" property, including a generous amount of equity in your home, a motor vehicle, clothing, household furnishings, jewelry, guns, tools used in your work, a certain amount of cash, retirement savings, life insurance, and other property.
A bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells any additional "nonexempt" assets to pay unsecured creditors. Secured debts must be resolved by either reaffirming the debt (agreeing to repay the debt), redeeming the property (paying a lump sum amount to a creditor), or surrendering the property (allowing a creditor to repossess the collateral). Therefore, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case may result in the loss of property.
The 2005 Amendments to the Bankruptcy Code created a "means test" to determine whether consumer debtors qualify for relief under Chapter 7. If your income exceeds certain thresholds, then you may not be eligible for Chapter 7 relief.
If you have little or no nonexempt property, then there may not be an actual liquidation of your assets in a Chapter 7 case. This is called a "no-asset case," in which unsecured creditors receive no distribution from your trustee. In most Chapter 7 cases, consumer debtors receive a discharge of personal liability for certain dischargeable debts within a few months after the case is filed.
The "Means Test"
Most consumer debtors who file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case must complete an income-based “means test.” The means test calculates the difference between a debtor’s current monthly income (“CMI”) and allowed expenses. The means test is used to determine whether you have the “means” to repay a portion of your non-priority unsecured debts.
In a Chapter 7 case, the means test may determine whether a Chapter 7 filing is an "abuse" of the bankruptcy laws.
In a Chapter 13 case, the means test can be used to calculate your disposable monthly income ("DMI") to determine the appropriate payment amount for a Chapter 13 plan.
When a bankruptcy case is filed, a "stay" automatically begins that stops almost all actions, such as collections, foreclosures, and repossessions, against you and your property. Once the stay is in place, creditors are prohibited from taking certain collection actions without permission from the Court.
However, a creditor may file a "362 motion" to "lift" the automatic stay, especially if there is a pending repossession or foreclosure. There are also some limited exceptions to the automatic stay, such as if a prior bankruptcy case was recently dismissed.
If a creditor continues to attempt to collect a debt after a bankruptcy case is filed, then the creditor may be in violation of the automatic stay. If the creditor continues an attempt to collect after being notified of a bankruptcy filing, then you can ask the Court to address the matter. A creditor can be fined or punished by the Court for violating the automatic stay.
A stay violation action is a complex matter that requires representation by a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Contact Ingram Law Firm if you are being harassed by creditors and need to seek or enforce the protection of the automatic stay.
A bankruptcy discharge is a release from personal liability for certain specified types of debts, which means that you are no longer legally required to pay debts that are discharged. The discharge is a permanent order that prohibits creditors from seeking to collect discharged debts. However, if you have received a discharge, then you may voluntarily repay a discharged debt, such as a debt owed to a family member or to a family doctor, even though it is no longer legally enforceable.
In Chapter 7 cases, the court usually grants a discharge about four months after the bankruptcy case was filed. In Chapter 13 cases, the court generally grants a discharge after you complete all payments under the plan, which typically occurs about four to five years after the bankruptcy case was filed. All individuals must complete a financial management course before receiving a discharge.
Not all debts are discharged. The Bankruptcy Code excepts certain categories of debts from the discharge granted to individuals, which means that you must still repay those debts after bankruptcy. The most common types of nondischargeable debts are certain types of tax claims, debts that are not listed in your bankruptcy schedules, debts for child support or alimony, debts for willful and malicious personal or property injuries, debts for governmental fines and penalties, debts for government funded or guaranteed student loans, debts for personal injury caused by the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, debts owed to certain tax-advantaged retirement plans, and debts for certain condominium or cooperative housing fees.
A slightly broader discharge is available if you file a Chapter 13 case rather than a Chapter 7 case. Debts that are dischargeable in Chapter 13, but not in Chapter 7, include debts for willful and malicious injury to property, debts incurred to pay non-dischargeable tax obligations, and debts arising from property settlements in divorce or separation proceedings.
Although a Chapter 13 debtor generally receives a discharge only after completing all payments required by their court-approved repayment plan, there are some limited circumstances under which you may request a "hardship discharge" even though you have failed to complete all required plan payments. Such a discharge is available only if your failure to complete all required plan payments is due to circumstances beyond your control. The scope of a Chapter 13 "hardship discharge" is similar to a Chapter 7 discharge.
If a creditor attempts to take any form of collection action on a discharged debt, including legal action or communications such as telephone calls, letters, or personal contacts, then you can ask the Court to reopen the case to address the matter. A creditor can be fined or punished by the Court for violating the discharge injunction.
Contact Ingram Law Firm if you are being harassed by a creditor who is attempting to collect a discharged debt.
Ingram Law Firm accepts bankruptcy cases for individuals who live in the following counties: Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, Dillon, Marion, Florence, Sumter, Lee, Kershaw, Lancaster, Chester, Fairfield, and Richland.