Answers to Common Questions About Georgia Bankruptcy and Divorce Laws
Debt problems can raise a lot of questions. Fortunately, we have the answers. Our FAQ section offers a list of the most common questions we have received about debt, bankruptcy, and divorce—as well as some answers that may surprise you. Browse or search through our questions page to learn more.
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How long does Chapter 7 bankruptcy stay on my credit report?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers a way for people struggling under a huge financial burden to wipe out most of their debts and get a fresh start. However, many people are wary of filing for bankruptcy due to the effect it can have on their credit.
The public record of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on a person’s credit report for up to seven to ten years, meaning future creditors will be able to see that a person filed for bankruptcy up to a decade after filing. Other references to bankruptcy, such as accounts and tax liens that were discharged in bankruptcy and debts to collection agencies, can remain on a credit report for seven years but will show a $0 balance. While this may seem daunting, there are ways to raise your credit score after bankruptcy effectively.
Rebuilding Credit After a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
If your credit score is 650 or higher, filing bankruptcy may have a negative impact on your credit rating. But, if your score is low, with high balances, collection accounts and judgments affecting your score, filing bankruptcy and discharging these debts may actually raise your score. (Does that make sense?) People who file bankruptcy can start rebuilding their credit almost immediately after filing.
Not all filers will see the same effect on their credit after bankruptcy. Your post-bankruptcy credit score will depend on:
- The amount and number of debts. There are many different calculations at work in determining a person’s credit score. The specifics of your bankruptcy play a huge role in the impact on your credit, such as the amount of debt discharged and the number of negative and positive accounts you retain.
- Your past credit history. If you have a good history of paying your bills on time (even before your financial troubles began), that information is not lost after bankruptcy. Your payment history on the accounts included in bankruptcy are retained in your credit report, and affect the scoring formulas in the decade after your filing.
- Your actions after bankruptcy. How you rebuild after bankruptcy can affect your score enormously. Every time you make an on-time payment to current creditors, maintain a low balance on a credit card, or make regular payments on installment loans, you will boost your score month by month.
If you are considering bankruptcy, call us today or fill out your contact information to make an appointment with a Georgia bankruptcy attorney.
What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a way for people with an overwhelming amount of debt to have their debts cleared, allowing them to start over financially. This bankruptcy eliminates certain types of unsecured debts, such as credit card debts, some taxes, medical bills, utility bills, past-due rent, and personal loans. Some types of debt will not be discharged in bankruptcy, including child support and alimony, most student loans, and debts incurred by fraud. In order to qualify, debtors will need to meet the requirements of Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Rules and Requirements of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers some advantages over Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Unlike Chapter 13, debtors do not have to follow a court-approved repayment plan for outstanding debts, and there is no limit on the amount of debt that can be forgiven. In addition, once the bankruptcy-eligible debt has been discharged in Chapter 7, the debtor is no longer responsible for repaying any of the past due debt.
In order to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to:
- Meet the income requirements. Eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on your income. Our office will compare your current monthly income to the median income for a family of your size in Georgia. If your income is less than or comparable to the median, you should be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Pass the means test. If your income is higher than the median, you can still file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy as long as you pass the “means” test. This test deducts your monthly expenses from your monthly income to determine your monthly disposable income. If your monthly disposable income is too high, you will be disqualified from Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Wait six to eight years after a previous bankruptcy. If you previously discharged debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must wait eight years before filing Chapter 7 again. If you are not eligible to file Chapter 7, you can file Chapter 13 to obtain the protection of the bankruptcy court but, depending on the time since filing Chapter 7, you may or may not be eligible for a Chapter 13 discharge.
- Be honest about your financial situation. It is vital that you do not attempt to hide any assets or conceal debts from the bankruptcy court. If the court discovers that you tried to trick or evade your creditors, transferred assets to your friends and family to protect them, or otherwise lied about your income or debts, you will be denied relief through Chapter 7.
If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debts could be discharged in as little as three months. Call us today or fill out your contact information to speak to a Valerie G. Long about your options.
What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a form of bankruptcy that allows a person to reorganize his financial situation. Those who file for Chapter 13 keep their property and their assets but a debt repayment plan is created to repay the secured debts such as cars or furniture, or catch up house payments, usually at a lower payment schedule. The repayment plan lasts 3 - 5 years with the goal of discharging unsecured debts upon completion of plan payments, but their debts are not entirely forgiven as they are in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Instead, filers pay back a portion of their debts (generally secured debts) over a three- to five-year period, after which the rest of their unsecured debt will be wiped out.
Qualifications for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
The central factor in Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the repayment plan for your debts. The payment plan is court-ordered and provides specific details on when, how, and how much you will pay each of your creditors every month. If you make all of these payments faithfully for the term of your bankruptcy, the remainder of your debts will be discharged, and you will owe nothing else to these creditors.
Not everyone is a good candidate for Chapter 13. You may be ineligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if:
- You do not meet income requirements. Chapter 13 requires debtors to make enough income each month to pay their secured debts, such as a car or house. If you do not earn enough or your income is not steady, the bankruptcy court might not allow you to file for this type of bankruptcy.
- You owe too much money. Debtors may be disqualified for Chapter 13 if their outstanding debts are too high. In 2016, the courts required a filer to have less than $1,184,200 in secured debts and less than $394,725 in unsecured debts to file for Chapter 13—and these amounts change from year to year.
We can help you decide whether Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best option for you and your family. Call us today or fill out your contact information to speak to Valerie G. Long about your financial future.
Can I file bankruptcy on child support?
Bankruptcy provides a fresh start for many people who have accrued unsecured debts. However, bankruptcy laws consider child support to be a priority debt, meaning it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. People who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy will have to include any outstanding child support obligations in their mandatory repayment plan, and those filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy are not protected from bill collectors and lawsuits that seek payment of child support debt.
Should I File for Bankruptcy If I Am Behind on Child Support Payments?
While filing bankruptcy does not discharge your past child support debts, it can still help you if you are behind on child support. Although you will still need to make ongoing child support payments during the course of your Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, either option can clear away some of your other debts and allow you to put more of your income towards child support.
Benefits of filing for bankruptcy when you owe back child support include:
- Increased debt forgiveness. Child support payments are usually a fixed, non-negotiable amount, which can reduce the amount you are able to pay to other creditors. Most bankruptcy courts forgive a large portion of debt, allowing your money go to your children.
- Dedicated payment plans. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires an organized repayment plan to ensure that you do not fall behind on payments to your creditors you want, such as a house or a car. These plans help many people stay on track financially, allowing them to stay current on the mortgage, car note, and utilities as well as child support.
- Future planning. If you stay current on your regular child support payments and have paid back all of the child support you owe, the rest of your debts will be discharged in bankruptcy, allowing you more financial freedom.
We can help you decide which bankruptcy option is right for you. Call us today or fill out the contact information to speak to a Georgia bankruptcy attorney about your situation.
What is the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?
There are two ways to classify a divorce: contested and uncontested. Uncontested divorce involves spouses who agree on the separation of their assets and dissolving of the marriage. In a contested divorce, the parties may not agree on the terms of divorce, which parent should house the children, or even whether they want a divorce.
What Steps Are Involved in Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
When couples agree to the terms of separation, they need only ensure that the terms are fair and file the necessary paperwork to make the divorce legal. In contrast, a contested divorce is often complicated and usually involves representation by a divorce attorney. If the case progresses to trial, spouses will have to endure the stress and legal fees of an ongoing court case, and they will be bound by the judge’s verdict.
The process of a contested divorce generally includes:
- Filing the petition. One spouse must prepare and deliver the divorce petition to the other. After the served spouse responds to the petition, it can be filed with the court.
- Discovery. Both spouses will be expected to provide information necessary to prove and disprove elements of the case. This can involve gathering records, contacting witnesses, and taking depositions.
- Negotiation. Once each side has an idea of the information that could come up in court, attorneys begin to negotiate settlement proposals between the spouses. Settlements are the preferred resolution to contested divorces because they are less costly than going to trial and there is no need for appeal. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to divorce court.
- Trial. Throughout the trial, both spouses will present witnesses, respond to attorney’s questions, and endure cross-examining by the other side.
- Decision. At the end of the trial, the judge will decide which spouse receives which assets, how debt will be allocated, who will receive custody of the children, and how much support must be paid.
- Appeal. If either spouse disagrees with the judge’s decision, he or she may file an appeal to a higher court.
There are far fewer steps involved in uncontested divorces. For this reason, it's a good idea for couples who do not agree on the specifics of their divorce to seek an attorney’s advice. A good divorce attorney can help you work out amicable terms for separation, allowing you to file an uncontested divorce and avoid going to court.
We can help you decide which divorce option is right for you. Fill out your contact information to speak with a Georgia divorce attorney today.
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
The time it will take for your divorce to be processed can vary depending on the details of your case. On one hand, state law requires a waiting period of only 31 days on uncontested divorces, meaning that a divorce could be final about a month after everything is filed. On the other hand, divorces are rarely finalized within a month, and any problems during the process can delay finalization by several months.
Three Things That Can Change How Long it Takes Before Your Uncontested Divorce Is Final
The first thing to realize is that the court needs to review your case before your divorce can be accepted. Your case will only be given to a judge to review after 31 days have passed—and then it will likely be added to the backlog of cases in your local court.
The time it takes to finalize your divorce will also be affected if:
- You no longer live in Georgia. To file for divorce in Georgia, at least one spouse must be currently living in the state and must have lived here for at least six months before filing. You and your spouse can still be living together at the time you file for divorce.
- You request a temporary court order. If you have reason to fear your spouse, you can ask for a temporary court order to be scheduled immediately. You and your spouse must be present at this short hearing to resolve questions of child custody, visitation, support, or property disputes. The judge will issue an order binding you and your spouse from taking specific actions (such as selling assets) until trial.
- The judge requests a hearing. While many uncontested divorces do not require hearings, a judge can potentially request a hearing for any case. The hearing itself may only take an hour, but scheduling hearings can often take weeks or months if the court has a high caseload.
No matter how long your uncontested divorce takes, it will take much longer if your divorce goes to trial. On average, Georgia spouses who cannot agree on the terms of their separation wait more than a year before they can move on. If you and your spouse have made the decision to separate, we can help you file your uncontested divorce with a minimum of fuss. Call us today or fill out your contact information to speak with a Georgia divorce attorney.
How much does an uncontested divorce cost?
The cost of finalizing an uncontested divorce can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on where you live and the details of your marriage. For instance, spouses who agree to the terms of their separation have a much better chance of spending less to make their divorces final, as do spouses who do not have minor children and do not own any property.
Factors That Influence the Cost of an Uncontested Divorce
Since contested divorces are usually settled through expensive and lengthy court cases, filing for an uncontested divorce already drastically reduces how much your divorce proceedings will cost. In fact, some divorcing couples may be able to complete their uncontested divorces for the costs of filing fees alone.
The amount you could pay to file for an uncontested divorce depends on:
- If you represent yourself. You may be able to save on costs if you do not want to hire an attorney for your divorce, but you will likely have to do much more work as a result. You will still need to purchase, print, and complete the appropriate state-specific forms and documents necessary for your divorce to be legal, deliver these to your spouse, and ensure that they are filed correctly and on time.
- If you need the help of an attorney. If you hire a lawyer to handle the filing of your uncontested divorce, your costs will be determined either by a flat fee or an hourly rate. Many attorneys can also be hired simply to look over your documents for accuracy and top spot potential problems, which may cost less than representation.
- Filing fees and additional costs. No matter whether you are represented by an attorney or not, you and your spouse will be responsible for any court costs and filing fees necessary to finalize the paperwork. Georgia filing fees for an uncontested divorce are generally around $200, and for an additional fee, the sheriff or an appointee from the court can deliver your petition to your spouse.
We can help you finalize your negotiations with your spouse and ensure that the terms of your divorce leave you with a fair amount of assets and property. Fill out your contact information to speak to a Georgia divorce attorney today about your situation.
What is an uncontested divorce?
The simplest form of divorce in Georgia is an uncontested divorce, which occurs if both spouses can agree on the terms of separation. In addition to being less costly, uncontested divorces are less complicated and typically take less time to finalize than contested divorces.
Could My Spouse and I File for an Uncontested Divorce?
You can file for uncontested divorce if you and your spouse do not need the court to divide assets or make any determinations in the dissolution of your marriage. If you qualify for uncontested divorce, you may not need to appear in court, you can file the paperwork on your own behalf, and the divorce can be made be final in as little as one month.
You probably have an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse:
- Agree over shared property and finances. You and your spouse should have a clear understanding of what will happen to any shared property after separation. Property does not only include assets—such as houses, cars, boats, jewelry, bank accounts, and furnishings—but also any debts that are in both spouses’ names.
- Agree on custody of children. Spouses with minor children will have to think very carefully about the custody arrangements they agree to before divorcing. Every family will have its own unique challenges in finding a custody agreement that works for both the parents and the children. There must be total agreement on how parenting time and parenting responsibilities will be shared, and what will happen if the terms are not met.
- Agree on spousal and child support. There are many factors that can affect which spouse is entitled to support, as well as how much these support payments should be. Spousal support, commonly known as alimony, is support paid to a former spouse to make up for the loss of shared income. Child support is a periodic, court-ordered payment from a former spouse that is used to provide food, shelter, healthcare, and other necessities.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on a particular point, you do not necessarily have a contested divorce. You can hire an attorney to mediate between you and your spouse to help you iron out the finer details, negotiating an agreeable compromise. After a compromise is reached, you can move forward with an uncontested divorce. Call us today or fill out your contact information to speak with a Georgia divorce attorney about your situation.