Bankruptcy Attorneys in Columbus, OH
Columbus Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you find yourself facing debts due to a mortgage, credit cards, or medical bills that you can no longer afford, you may need to take the serious step of filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can create short-term credit issues for you, but can also give you a fresh start toward a debt-free life and a brighter financial future.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, contact a Columbus bankruptcy lawyer at Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law, today. You will learn how we can help you resolve your debt situation in a way that makes sense for you.
Types of Bankruptcy Cases We Handle
Our firm has significant experience helping individuals file for either of the two forms of bankruptcy commonly available to individuals, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
- Chapter 7. Also known as liquidation, Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires a debtor to liquidate, or sell off, most of their assets. Funds are generated to pay off as much of the debt as possible. Most debts that remain after liquidation are then discharged, or eliminated, by the bankruptcy court. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is damaging to one’s credit in the short term. However, eliminating debt allows a person to exit bankruptcy largely debt-free.
- Chapter 13. Chapter 13 is also called “wage earner’s bankruptcy.” In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a debtor must come up with a plan to pay part or all of the debt over a three-to-five-year period. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can allow debtors to restructure and lengthen the repayment terms of many of their debts. Debtors generally file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy when they have sufficient disposable income to make payments towards their debt. Debtors generally keep their assets in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. As long as the debtor complies with the terms of the court-approved repayment plan, any dischargeable debts with outstanding balances are discharged at the end of the repayment period.
How to File Bankruptcy in Columbus
Filing for bankruptcy in Columbus, Ohio, usually involves these steps:
- Take a financial inventory of your debts and liabilities, your assets, and your monthly income and expenses. That will help you determine which type of bankruptcy you qualify for.
- Determine which of your assets may be exempt from liquidation if you choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Complete a credit counseling course within the six months prior to filing for bankruptcy.
- Prepare your bankruptcy petition using the forms provided by the local bankruptcy court. File your petition and the required filing fee with the court.
- Prepare a proposed repayment plan if you are filing Chapter 13.
- Attend a bankruptcy hearing, which is held by the bankruptcy trustee. Your creditors may choose to attend the hearing as well. The trustee and your creditors may ask questions about your petition and repayment plan. Your creditors may file objections to your bankruptcy. Those objections will be resolved by the trustee or a bankruptcy judge.
- Complete a post-petition credit counseling/debt education course.
How Our Columbus Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Help
You may be considering bankruptcy to help you get out from under unmanageable debt. Our Columbus bankruptcy lawyer can help you address your financial situation. Our lawyer can:
- Help you determine whether to file for bankruptcy or explore alternatives such as credit counseling, loan modification and debt consolidation.
- Run a means test to determine which kind of bankruptcy you qualify for.
- Help you gather your financial documents.
- Prepare your bankruptcy petition. If you are filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, our bankruptcy lawyer can also help with your repayment plan.
- Represent your rights and interests during the bankruptcy hearings. The lawyer will help you respond to objections to your petition or repayment plan.
What Debts Can Be Eliminated in Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy only allows you to discharge certain kinds of debts, including:
- Credit card debt
- Medical bills
- Lawsuit judgments against you
- Debts from leases and contracts
- Personal loans and promissory notes
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can also discharge debts such as:
- Marital debts (excluding alimony and child support)
- Debt incurred to pay taxes, court fees, condo or co-op/HOA fees
- Loans from retirement plans
- Debts that weren’t discharged in a prior bankruptcy
Certain types of debt may not be discharged in bankruptcy. Those debts include student loans, alimony and child support arrears, certain kinds of tax liability, and criminal fines, penalties or restitution.
Understanding Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will be expected to liquidate most of your assets. The funds that are generated will be used to pay off as much of your debt as possible. Certain kinds of assets, up to a certain value, can be kept. They are not subject to liquidation in bankruptcy.
Those assets include:
- Up to $145,425 of equity in your residence
- Up to $500 of cash on hand or deposit
- Up to $4,000 of value in one motor vehicle
- Up to $13,400 of value of household goods (e.g., appliances, furniture), with up to $625 of value per item
- Up to $1,700 of jewelry
- Up to $25,175 of a personal injury award received within the 12 months prior to filing for bankruptcy
- Up to $2,550 for equipment or materials used for work or business
- Up to 75 percent of your wages
In addition, you may use a “wildcard” exemption that allows you to exempt up to $1,325 of the value of any property. You can use this exemption on property that is not otherwise exempt. You can also add the value to another exemption.
You may keep the full value of your private pension, tax-exempt retirement accounts, IRAs, disability assistance payments, earned income tax credit and child tax credit, unemployment compensation benefits and workers’ compensation benefits.
If you jointly file for bankruptcy with your spouse, you may double these exemptions for property you jointly own.
What You Need to Know About the Ohio Bankruptcy Means Test
The bankruptcy means test determines whether you qualify to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you fail to qualify, you must instead file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The means test looks to see whether you have sufficient disposable income to support a repayment plan under Chapter 13. The means test involves several stages. Meeting the qualification at any stage entitles you to file for Chapter 7.
You must first determine your family’s average monthly income. If that monthly income is lower than the median income in Ohio for a family of the same size as yours, you may file for Chapter 7.
If your family’s average income is higher than the median income, you must go through the full means test. Under that test, you deduct your reasonable monthly expenses, such as housing costs or healthcare costs, from your income. If your total monthly income over the next 60 months falls below a certain threshold, you may file for Chapter 7. If the monthly income rises above a certain floor, you must file for Chapter 13.
Falling in between these figures requires you to perform more detailed calculations to determine whether you have sufficient disposable income to pay at least 25 percent of your debts over the next five years.
Talk to Our Columbus Bankruptcy Attorney Now
If you have mortgage, medical, credit card, personal, or other debts that you can no longer afford to pay, bankruptcy can allow you to start on the path toward financial health. At Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law, you can learn about your rights and options for dealing with your debt. You will also see how our firm can help you address your financial troubles.
Schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a Columbus bankruptcy lawyer from Amourgis & Associates, Attorneys at Law.