Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Information for Virginia Residents

When people think of bankruptcy protection and getting a fresh start chapter 7 bankruptcy relief is typically what comes to mind. The upside to filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy is that it allows you to eliminate your unsecured debt. In other words, credit card debt, medical debt, pay day loans, and personal loans will be eliminated once a chapter 7 discharge order is entered by the court. Similarly, judgments previously obtained against you will become unenforceable, garnishments will cease, and if the circumstances are right, old tax debt obligations may be eliminated as well. Moreover, if your previous home was sold in a short sale, was taken over by the bank following a foreclosure the chapter 7 bankruptcy will relieve you of your personal legal obligations on the mortgage(s) loan.

However, some debt, such as alimony, child support, and recent income tax liability cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. The same can be said for student loans in most cases. Barring exceptional circumstances they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Regretfully, not everyone can qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy. There are income limitations based on your household size. Generally speaking, if you do not make a whole lot of money, chances are that you will automatically qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you make an amount of money that is above Virginia’s median income for your household, then you will have to take the Means Test. If you “pass” the Means Test, then you are entitled to chapter 7 bankruptcy relief. If your income for your household size is particularly high and you cannot “pass” the Means Test, then your only remaining option is a chapter 13 bankruptcy. Please see my blog post Virginia’s Means Test: Will You Pass The Test? for a further discussion on the Means Test.


Another question that comes up from time to time is the frequency with which you can file again and obtain a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge. If you previously filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy case and got a discharge, then you have to wait eight years from the time of filing before you can file another chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you previously filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy and got a discharge, then you only have to wait four years to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Finally, in keeping with the motto of “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” the bankruptcy court expects you to turn over to the bankruptcy trustee all assets that cannot be exempted (protected by the bankruptcy system in other words). However, the assets that cannot be exempted are typically only those of significant value.

Your older model car, the couple of thousands of dollars you have in the bank, your clothing, home furnishings, wedding ring, and retirement accounts, among other assets, are protected and will not have to be surrendered. That is why 99% of chapter 7 bankruptcy filings are described as “No Asset Cases.” Meaning the individual filing will not be expected to turn over any assets to the bankruptcy trustee. You get to keep everything you own upon the filing of your bankruptcy case.

As for how long the process takes, typically about 100 days from the time that your case is filed with the court until you get your discharge order, and the case is closed.

Please note that this page is a mere general overview of how a chapter 7 bankruptcy works in Virginia. There are many pitfalls as well as twists and turns that you need to be aware of.

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Figuring out if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves a few steps, including the "means test," which considers your income, expenses, and family size to see if you can reasonably pay off your debt. If your income is below the median for a household of your size in your state, you might automatically qualify. Otherwise, a more detailed examination of your finances will be necessary. Beyond income, your debts, assets, and recent financial transactions also matter.

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, many types of debt can be wiped out, or "discharged," such as credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans. However, some debts like student loans, alimony, child support, and certain tax obligations usually can't be discharged. It's important to know what can and can't be eliminated to make the most of your bankruptcy filing.

During the initial consultation, you should expect a comprehensive discussion about your financial situation. I will ask you about your debts, assets, income, and living expenses. This is the time to be transparent about your financial history so your lawyer can give you the best advice. It's also the perfect opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the bankruptcy process, legal fees, or what to expect going forward.

When going through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, common mistakes to avoid include running up credit card debt just before filing, transferring or hiding assets, and failing to list all creditors in your paperwork. Any of these could jeopardize your case and lead to serious legal consequences. An attorney can guide you through the do's and don'ts to help you avoid these pitfalls, and The Law Offices of Robert S. Brandt can help you avoid the kinds of mistakes that could jeopardize your case.

If you have more questions or need further assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to The Law Offices of Robert S. Brandt. Open communication is crucial to handle your case effectively. If something new comes up, like a change in income or additional debt, tell me right away so I can adapt their strategy accordingly. Remember, your attorney is there to assist you and make the bankruptcy process as smooth as possible, and I know how important it is to resolve your case as quickly as possible.

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