Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, which means that it is basically the same from state to state. In a Chapter 7 filing, debtors places most of their remaining assets with the bankruptcy court, which divides up the assets among the persons who are owed money by the debtors. A Chapter 13 filing is used where the debtors have enough money to pay part of their debts and asks the bankruptcy court to set up a reorganization plan to pay the outstanding bills. Under both filings, the debtor emerges from bankruptcy with most outstanding bills erased.
Florida Venues to File for Bankruptcy
Florida has three districts where federal bankruptcy courts are located: the Northern District (Tallahassee), the Middle District (Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa and Fort Myers), and the Southern District (Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.) You must file for bankruptcy in the district in which you live.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Income Eligibility
- If your average monthly income is less than Florida's median income, then you are eligible to file Chapter 7.
- If your average monthly income is greater than or equal to Florida's median income, then you are not eligible to file Chapter 7 unless you pass a stringent means test.
How Long Can My Chapter 13 Reorganization Plan Last?
- If your average monthly income is less than Florida's median income, your Chapter 13 plan cannot exceed 36 months, unless the bankruptcy court finds good cause to extend the plan up to a maximum of 60 months.
- If your average monthly income is greater than or equal to Florida's median income, your Chapter 13 plan generally must be 60 months in length.
Property Protected From Bankruptcy Proceedings
Exemptions are property allowed to be excluded from the bankruptcy proceedings. In Florida, federal exemptions are not available. State exemptions include:
- Homestead — Your house, mobile or modular home, or condominium with no monetary limit (may not exceed half-acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere)
- Personal property — Prepaid accounts like hurricane savings, medical savings and college education trust deposits; motor vehicle up to $1,000; pre-need funeral contract deposits; any personal property up to $1,000 or $4,000 if no homestead claimed
- Wages — 100 percent of earnings for head of family, up to $750 a week; federal government employees' pension payments needed for support and received up to three months prior to bankruptcy
- Pensions — Tax-exempt retirement accounts like 401(k)s, profit sharing/money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, defined benefit plans, IRAs and Roth IRAs to $1,171,650, state/municipal pensions and ERISA qualified benefits
- Public benefits — Public assistance, unemployment compensation, veterans benefits, Social Security, workers compensation and crime victims' compensation, unless debts for treatment of crime-related injury are part of filing
- Alimony/child support
- Insurance — most death benefits, annuities (excluding lottery winnings), life insurance cash surrender value, disability/illness benefits and fraternal society benefits.
- Miscellaneous — damages for injuries of employees in hazardous occupations
- Any applicable federal non-bankruptcy exemptions
Florida's homestead exemption is limited to $146,450, unless the person filing for bankruptcy occupied this Florida homestead and previous Florida homesteads for a continuous 40-month period.
As Bankruptcy laws in Florida are complicated, and unique on a case-by-case basis, you should contact a Florida bankruptcy lawyer for information specific to your personal case.