Written By: Attorney Robert Stiberman | Updated October 30, 2022
This article will discuss in detail:
Why do you need a bankruptcy lawyer?
What to look for in a bankruptcy attorney?
What is it like working with bankruptcy attorneys?
The costs of hiring a bankruptcy attorney in Tampa, Florida
If you live in Tampa, Florida and are considering filing bankruptcy, hiring the right bankruptcy attorney can be one of the most important decisions you make. There’s a lot of information online about filing for bankruptcy, which can seem overwhelming, but not enough information about how to choose the right Tampa bankruptcy lawyer.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy has helped millions of Americans unburden themselves from the crushing weight of debts. It is called a straight or liquidation bankruptcy because a Trustee will seek to liquidate your non-exempt assets to repay debts. Many cases are called “no asset” cases because there is nothing to liquidate. The chapter 7 process usually takes between 4 to 6 months to completion and stops most collection efforts and lawsuits from day one.
Although the law allows individuals seeking to file for bankruptcy to file without a lawyer, or pro se, the complexities and potential bankruptcy consequences merit a detailed analysis as to why you need a bankruptcy attorney.
These are the main reasons why you need a bankruptcy lawyer:
FIling for bankruptcy requires compliance with the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the bankruptcy court’s local rules.
Tampa residents filing in the Middle District of Florida also have to comply with the court’s Local Rules.
It takes attorneys years of experience to learn to navigate the bankruptcy process and bankruptcy law is constantly evolving.
In addition to providing you with expertise on federal bankruptcy law and procedure, a bankruptcy attorney will be able to advise you on the applicability of federal or state exemptions to protect your property in bankruptcy and everything you need to know about bankruptcy.
Tampa residents living in Florida for at least 730 days immediately prior to filing bankruptcy must apply Florida bankruptcy exemptions based on Florida law. 28 U.S.C. sec 1408.
Filing for bankruptcy may or may not be the best course of action. Most bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation to determine if bankruptcy will help you achieve your goal.
Understanding what debts can be discharged in bankruptcy and what property you can keep in bankruptcy is critical in determining if bankruptcy is right for you.
Many people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy to eliminate unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills, while others may also want to discharge child support or alimony obligations.
FIling for bankruptcy requires full disclosure of all your debts and assets when you file, including any ownership interest in properties, vehicles, and businesses. You are also required to disclose potential windfalls such as expected tax refunds, active lawsuits, and potential claims you could file to recover money, as well as past activity including property transfers, gifts, loan repayments, closed businesses and bank accounts.
A bankruptcy attorney will review your debts, assets, and financial history prior to recommending if bankruptcy is right for you.
Although there are six different types of bankruptcies, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the most common. They simply have different procedures for dealing with debt.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires individuals to to pass a means test to be eligible and has the shortest time period from start to completion.
Chapter 13 involves a plan of reorganization where your property is not liquidated and has debt limitations.
Choosing the right bankruptcy can help you achieve your desired goal and by the same token, choosing the wrong bankruptcy can have serious consequences including the possible loss of property.
A bankruptcy lawyer will discuss chapter 7 vs chapter 13 bankruptcy and recommend what is best for you.
Filing for bankruptcy requires completing around 23 official federal forms as well as local forms when applicable. The forms present the court, your Trustee and creditors with your financial picture, including a list of all your assets and debts, and your intentions toward secured debt. Additionally, the forms require historic information relating to past financial activity including, closed businesses and bank accounts, transfers of property, gifts, and debt repayment.
Tampa, Florida residents filing in the Middle District of Florida, must file local forms as well.
Your bankruptcy attorney will instruct you on the documents you need to collect prior to filing bankruptcy, will prepare and file all appropriate forms electronically, and will comply with Local Rules.
Filing the voluntary bankruptcy petition will start the bankruptcy process and stop most collection efforts. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will ensure that all creditors are notified, file the necessary documents in state court where collection lawsuits may be pending, and explain what happens after your case is filed.
Your attorney will discuss what to expect at your meeting of creditors, including commonly asked questions, and will work towards complying with your bankruptcy Trustee’s requirements and steps you need to take to obtain your discharge.
One of the most important things to look for when comparing bankruptcy attorneys is their level of experience and expertise. Bankruptcy is highly technical, and requires familiarity with Federal and Local Rules.
A bankruptcy lawyer will acquire most of his or her knowledge through years of bankruptcy law practice representing clients and appearing in court, rather than from law school or reading up on the subject of bankruptcy after graduating.
Things to look for concerning a bankruptcy attorney’s experience:
Tampa, Florida is located in Hillsborough County, Florida. Hillsborough County residents filing bankruptcy in the Middle District of Florida will be assigned to the Tampa Division of the Bankruptcy court.
The Tampa Division is located in
801 N. Florida Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33602. Click here for a road map to the courthouse.
The Tampa Division of the Bankruptcy Court serves Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.
Although bankruptcy is Federal Law, the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida has a set of Local Rules and local forms that also require compliance. Failure to abide by these rules can result amongst other things in a dismissal of your bankruptcy case.
Additionally, since your bankruptcy Trustee will administer your Bankruptcy case, it is extremely helpful for a bankruptcy attorney to be familiar with the Tampa division Trustee’s requirements and operating procedures. An experienced attorney will likely have appeared in front of your bankruptcy Trustee numerous times prior to your case.
In addition to being a licensed Florida attorney, a bankruptcy attorney is required to be admitted or allowed to practice in the Bankruptcy Court for your region. Bankruptcy attorneys representing Tampa, Florida residents in the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida must be admitted to practice in that court, unless having received special permission from the Court.
Reviews, Ratings and Recognitions
Reviews are important and read more than one to get a more accurate picture. Look for a 4 star rating as a minimum and check for experiences similar to the one you are facing.
Accreditations form third party sites such as Avvo are also good things for your bankruptcy attorney to have.
Office Locations and Accessibility
It’s a good idea for your Bankruptcy attorney to have an office close to you so you can meet them in person, see where they work, meet their staff and be able to quickly drop off documents if needed.
Tip: As a Tampa, Florida resident try to find Bankruptcy attorneys in or near Tampa. Many attorney’s meet with clients in more than one location or satellite office locations.
Feeling comfortable with your attorney and working with a bankruptcy lawyer with good customer service skills is essential.
Getting along with your attorney plays a key role in an effective attorney client relationship. Filing for bankruptcy involves a great deal of communication with your attorney and attorney’s staff. You will be asked to provide documents and information prior to filing as well as information required after you file such as Trustee requested documents. If you are filing Chapter 13 you may be required to provide certain documents and make quick and necessary changes to your Chapter 13 plan more than once after you file.
Language Skills – If english is not your first language and you feel more comfortable communicating in your language, it may be a good idea to find a bankruptcy lawyer who speaks your language or who has staff that does.
Although there is nothing wrong with a lawyer working on his own, and there are many lawyers who provide professional representation without any support staff, filing for bankruptcy involves a lot of moving parts where more than one person working on your file can be beneficial.
Bankruptcy involves responding to the Trustee and dealing with court deadlines in a time sensitive manner and a good team working with you can make all the difference in the world.
At Stiberman Law we understand bankruptcy law and we practice primarily in the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida. We appear in court on a daily basis and are familiar with the Local Rules specific to this court which is critical to the best possible outcome of your case.
We take your case seriously and our process involves:
One of the main questions people ask is how much will it cost me to file for bankruptcy and can I afford it? Based on our research, if you are filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Tampa, Florida you can expect the fees to be in the neighborhood of $1500.
At Stiberman Law we understand our client’s financial challenges, have developed efficiencies to reduce costs, and are able to offer affordable rates and convenient payment plans.
If you need help filing for bankruptcy in Florida, the bankruptcy lawyers at Stiberman Law are here to help. With more than 20 years of experience in Florida bankruptcy law, we can answer your questions and guide you when it comes to your financial future. Call us today at (954) 314-4530 or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation.
Bankruptcy Attorney in Orlando, FL
Bankruptcy Attorney in Naples, FL
Bankruptcy Attorney in Fort Myers, FL
Bankruptcy Attorney in Sarasota, FL
Speaking to our law firm is always 100% confidential. We do our best to respond to inquiries in under 24 hours.
We’ll get in touch as soon as possible.