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The Downside of Filing for Bankruptcy

When credit card bills and other debt feel overwhelming, you may be considering filing for bankruptcy. While this does offer you the chance to get out from under debt, we wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the downside of filing for bankruptcy so you can make a fully informed decision. 

Understanding Bankruptcy

In order to understand the benefits and downsides of filing for bankruptcy, let’s look at what filing for bankruptcy does. 

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a near-comprehensive clearing of debts, erasing medical bills, old utility bills, credit card debt, and personal loans. This option does require a means test based on your income, expenses, and family size to determine whether you have the disposable income available to pay on your debts. 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a reorganization of your debt where you pay an agreed-upon amount for three to five years, and if you fulfill this debt, the dischargeable debts will be settled and erased from your credit. 

The Advantages of Filing for Bankruptcy

Before we dig into the downside, it is important to look at the benefits of filing for bankruptcy, whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

No Harassment from Creditors

The letters and phone calls from creditors can lead to serious anxiety and stress. By filing for bankruptcy, you will no longer have contact with them. Even when you are repaying debts through Chapter 13, all payments go through a trustee who conveys the money to the creditor, and they are not allowed to contact you. 

Increased Personal Cash Flow

By filing for Chapter 7, your credit card payments, medical bills, and many other debts will be erased, meaning you won’t have to scrimp to make minimum payments or forgo other necessities to keep your head above water. 

Most Likely Keeping Your Belongings

While Chapter 7 may temporarily halt the foreclosure or repossession of your home or car, as long as you maintain good standing with your primary residence and your vehicle, in most cases you won’t lose them. That’s why, even if you are struggling to pay other debts, like medical bills and credit cards, it’s important to do everything you can to keep up with your home and car payments. 

However, if you are unable to continue paying on your car or house, you can discharge the debt if you forgo your home and car in Chapter 7. 

Clean Slate

Most importantly, filing for bankruptcy offers freedom from many of your debts and peace of mind. While Chapter 7 is often completed in six months, Chapter 13 is a longer process of three to five years, but as long as you make the agreed upon payments, those debts will be satisfied and you can emerge with a clean slate. 

Downsides of Filing for Bankruptcy

Now that we looked at the benefits, it’s important to consider the downside of filing for bankruptcy. 

Filing for Bankruptcy Hurts Your Credit

Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit for 10 years while chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit for seven years. Not only will this affect your ability to get a car loan or a mortgage in the future, but it can also hurt your ability to rent an apartment, rent a car, and even get a job as more employers do check credit reports. 

However, if you have late payments and accounts in collections, this is also harming your credit, and if you don’t have a way to clear them, bankruptcy may allow you to move forward and begin improving your credit score. 

Not All Debts Can Be Removed

Bankruptcy only allows you to discharge certain debts. The following debts must continue to be paid whether you complete Chapter 7 or Chapter 13: 

  • Alimony payments
  • Child support payments
  • Student loans
  • Property tax
  • Income tax

You May Still Have to Repay Your Debt

While Chapter 7 liquidates your dischargeable debt so you don’t have to keep making payments, it’s not available to everyone. As we mentioned above, your eligibility for this is determined by your income, family size, and necessary expenses. Otherwise, you may file for Chapter 13, which does require a monthly payment toward your debts. 

You Can Default on Chapter 13

If you miss payments while in Chapter 13, the trustee assigned to your case may file a motion to Dismiss for Material Default. If your case is dismissed, your debts aren’t discharged and you’re back where you started when you originally filed for bankruptcy.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, we can help. At Stiberman Law, we have the experience and knowledge to skillfully guide you through bankruptcy and come out with financial freedom and confidence in the future. To schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer in Florida, reach out to us at (954) 922-2283 or fill out the form below to get started.

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