Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Law is a very challenging and complex matter to interpret. For my civic

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1 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Law is a very challenging and complex matter to interpret. For my civic engagement project I chose to attend a bankruptcy proceeding. The economic downturn in recent years has led to an influx of petition fillings by debtors in need of financial relief. Debtors homes have been being foreclosed on and harassing phone calls from debt collectors, can put even the most common person into a frantic panic. With these thoughts in mind, I chose the topic of bankruptcy, to see if there was any type of relief for consumers and even business struggling to pay obligations due to the use of credit. First thing I had to do was research which court deals with bankruptcy and the chapter of bankruptcy for consumer debts. I approached a local attorney by the name of Jose Torroella located in Baldwin Park, FL. He advised me that most consumer debts deal with the filling of a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Under this chapter, it involves the liquidation of assets. Article 1, section 8, of the US constitution authorizes Congress to enact uniformity on the subject of bankruptcy law. In 1978 the bankruptcy code was created and was codified as title 11 of the United States code. Bankruptcy is a Federal matter in which they have power over all state law. There are 90 districts across the country. Florida is in the 11 th circuit, has 3 judicial districts and Orlando represents the Middle District. Bankruptcy courts are a special kind of civil case on the trial level of the federal system, but are arbitrated in their own court to handle the matters with more expertise. Before filling you must pass the means test (B22-A) as well as take a pre approved bankruptcy pre filling course. The bankruptcy rules establish specific forms, which are free to access on The process of filling out the forms can

2 be very tedious and time consuming for anyone that has not completed the forms before. The B22-A determines if ones income and expenses create a presumption of abuse that may prevent relief. It reduces your income by living expenses and payment of certain debts, resulting in an amount available to pay other debts. If the amount is too high than it will give a rise to the presumption of abuse. The presumption of abuse basically means that if you have enough money that you should not be granted relief under chapter 7. The presumption amount is based off the census bureau poverty guideline in comparison with debtors monthly income. The debtors pre filing course required before commencement must be taken within the last 180 days of filling the petition. This course is meant to show individuals available credit counseling and assist with successfully creating a budget. After all of this is done you may then proceed to filling the petition with its attached schedules. Once the petition is filed, the federal court system provides an automatic stay which puts the debtor under the protection of the federal court system. The automatic stay provides instant relief during the proceedings against collectors. Collectors must immediately stop all actions against the debtor. This is also used to stop a foreclosure of a home, repossession of a car and protect the debtors general well being until the trustee can decide what to do. Really helps debtors buy time and to re organize on how to proceed. I then attended a 341 creditors meeting located at 400 W. Washington St. Orlando, FL. in March. Once I arrived, the federal courthouse was much nicer than I thought. The entrance was, a big open hallway with nice marble flooring. When I reached the room for the meeting there was an initial waiting area for people that weren t

3 scheduled to begin yet. I then entered the hearing room that looked more like a small conference room with chairs and a couple of tables at the very front where the Trustee sat. The room had over 50 people sitting in chairs waiting for their named to be called. As I looked left and right at all the different people, many seemed to have a nervous look to their face. Honestly I would have to say that the whole feeling was quite eerie, almost felt as if everyone was on trial for a crime, not there under the protection of the federal court system. Each proceeding didn t even last 15 minutes. The trustee first asked all the attorneys with clients to proceed with their hearings first. After listening to a couple it became evident that many of these people spent more money than they had to by having an attorney there. Out of the 6 different cases I heard from the attorney, the only words that came out of his mouth were the name of the debtors to approach. Though, I did not know the extent of the cases, it was becoming clear that the hearings were a breeze, as long as there was nothing raising concerns, such as hidden assets or under evaluations of property. The Trustee would ask for the debtors name, check and verify assets and job information, social security number, and if he was the one that signed those documents. After that he would just tell the person have a nice day and the hearing was over. I spoke with a pro se debtor by the name of Maria, who had a situation with her case. The Trustee saw that she put a value on a piece of land that she owned, as only being worth $1,000, but he looked up the parcel online and had value of nearly $20,000. The Trustee then told Maria that she must amend the document or that it would be consider per jury. He then rescheduled Marias hearing for a later date so that she could comply with the amendment. I caught up with Maria a she was lingering around the hallway after her hearing. I told her, I was doing a project for school and agreed to talk to me as long as I didn t disclose

4 her last name. I asked why she had put the value of the property so low and she told me that a friend told her not to worry because most of the time the Trustee wont even notice. I also asked if she was nervous when she first got there. She told me she was very nervous but, after seeing how easy the process went that she loosened up. Then after the meeting, the debtor must wait for his case to be fully discharged which the clerk at the court told me takes around days. Once the discharge is received your credit will start over but will have a negative impact for 7 years. Creditors are no longer able to try and collect on past debts. Its almost impossible to get financing for a home loan for 2 years after the discharge. The end result leaves the debtor free and clear of any obligations as long as they did not have any assets exceeding the limits or liquidations to cover the rest of the debts. The rebuilding of credit can be very hard but with the right planning and budgeting can occur pretty rapidly. A family member of mine started to receive credit card offers 3 months after the discharge. After reviewing all of the pro se forms I would have to say that it can be a very complicated process but if you just read the forms and follow the directions, it is not to hard to accomplish. During my prior meeting with attorney Torroella, we went through a bankruptcy case to be completed with his software called ez-filling which only required the use of a questionnaire provided by the software and gave step-by-step instructions on the information needed as well as a credit report. After shadowing that experience, I ve become very interested in becoming a bankruptcy preparer for part time work while finishing school. I figured the whole chapter 7 process would be very intimidating but, I see that it really isn t as long as you have nothing to hide such a property. The federal bankruptcy court is there to protect your interests that are legally bound by law.

5 Works Cited 1. United States Courts. Web. 4 Apr <http://www.uscourts.gov/federalcourts/bankruptcy/bankruptcybasics/chapter7.aspx>. 2. Neubauer, David, and Stephen Meinhold. Judicial Process. 6th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Print.

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