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FAQ's, GENERAL LEGAL INFORMATION, AND RESOURCES

The following questions are those that our staff find to be regularly asked by potential clients. If you should have questions other than those included below, please contact us for further information.

 

What is the cost for an initial consultation?

Normally, there is no charge for an initial consultation. If your matter or case is accepted, your fee arrangement will be discussed.  In a contingency fee agreement, you will not be required to pay any attorney’s fees unless we successfully settle the case or win at trial.  In other non-contingency case, a fee arrangement will be explained and detailed billing will be provided.  In some circumstances, there may be a hybrid arrangement of these typical fee structures.

What is a contingency fee?

With injury cases, most attorneys do not charge hourly fees. When a case is accepted on a contingency basis, it means you will not pay any attorney’s fees unless we successfully negotiate a settlement on your behalf or win your case at trial. Should we prevail, the contingency fee will be a specific portion of the recovery. There is no fee in your case if not settled or won at trial.

Is there a reason to contact an attorney immediately?

If you have been served with a lawsuit, then you normally only have twenty (20) days to respond.  Since you would suffer default for the failure to respond, seeking immediate legal advice would be critical.  Likewise, if you have a claim to file against another party, that claim is subject to an applicable statute of limitations.  If you have been injured by the negligence of another person or while at work, you should not delay in contacting an attorney. By waiting too long, you may lose your legal rights, as all cases involve sensitive and serious legal deadlines. In addition, it is important to allow your attorney the opportunity to gather critical evidence that may disappear as time passes.

How long will it take to resolve or try my case?

Every case has its own time frame. Where possible, and when appropriate, settlement options are explored and mediation is normally required in any legal proceeding prior to trial.  A case is not scheduled for trial until you the case is at issue and ready for trial.  At that point, the judge normally sets the trial procedures and time frames for the case.

FAQs Bankruptcy Information

 My Credit Rating - is it ten years before I can obtain credit if I file bankruptcy?

Not necessarily true. While every creditor views a bankruptcy discharge differently, the key is to use this new financial freedom wisely!

Surprisingly, there is no prohibition from applying for new credit as soon as the bankruptcy is over and our clients are normally offered credit cards immediately after the case is completed.  Many debtors see their credit rating improve within a year after filing bankruptcy. When a debtor's debts are discharged in bankruptcy, the credit report will show that the debts listed were included in the bankruptcy and the obligation to pay discharged. Importantly, the debtor's debt load will be significantly less, thereby often increasing his or her credit rating.

If a debtor chooses to reaffirm certain debts, such as a debt that may be secured by a house or car, a debtor can improve his or her credit rating by paying these obligation on time in the future.  Ultimately, having less debt, paying obligations on time after the bankruptcy and having increased disposable income, a recently discharged debtor can build a good credit rating which can help a debtor stay toward the path of financial independence.

Our office always suggests that you take action to improve your credit and such help is available to our clients as we complete the process to restore and rebuild your creditworthiness and credit score with the major credit reporting agencies.

Will I lose my property if I file bankruptcy?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a "liquidation proceeding." You will be allowed to keep your property so long as the fair market value of each item does not exceed the exemption amount for the state in which you reside (each state has different laws and applicable exemptions).

Unlike a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case allows you to retain all your "non-exempt" assets. However, over a three to five-year period of time, you pay to the court the value of those non-exempt assets for distribution to your creditors.

How can I afford legal fees if I am considering bankruptcy?

Many people wonder, “How can I be expected to pay a lawyer if I am considering going bankrupt?” The truth is that bankruptcy our firm understands your financial issues and is willing to help with an affordable, reasonable arrangement.

If you have an income, home, personal possessions – bankruptcy can help protect you from losing those items.

Can bankruptcy help me if I am being sued or harassed by creditors?

If you are being sued in any court by a creditor, mortgage company, former landlord, or virtually anyone, the lawsuit is stopped or "stayed" – as it is called in bankruptcy – by filing any type of bankruptcy, whether in Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, The lawsuit cannot go forward without permission of the Bankruptcy Court. If the debt that was the subject of the lawsuit is a typically unsecured debt (credit card or hospital bill), it will usually be discharged in the bankruptcy and the lawsuit is moot.

Certain types of debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy and consultation with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is necessary.  If a lawsuit was filed and a judgment was rendered against you, you can include the debt in your bankruptcy case and usually have the debt discharged in bankruptcy.

Can bankruptcy discharge tax debts?

Yes, some taxes are dischargeable! Income taxes, property taxes and licensing fees to governments may be dischargeable. In order for taxes to be dischargeable, it is important for all returns to have been filed (even if the money due was not paid). However, withholding taxes, sales taxes and payroll taxes, for example, are not dischargeable.

Can bankruptcy stop wage garnishments?

Yes, filing bankruptcy stops most wage garnishments immediately. If an employer withheld money and did not send it to the creditor or court, the moment you file bankruptcy you may be entitled to the return of those funds. While a bankruptcy filing cannot generally recover money already paid to a creditor, it can stop any further deductions from your check.

 How are Domestic Obligations (Child Support and Alimony) affected by bankruptcy?

Domestic obligations which include child support and alimony are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, payment of past due amounts can be scheduled through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Enforcing child support and alimony orders against one who files bankruptcy can be technically complex and the filing of certain actions may be required to ensure that any amounts due are not discharged.

How long can I stay in my home if it is in foreclosure?

The answer depends on which state you live in and whether you are in bankruptcy.

If you are not in bankruptcy and the home is located in Florida, the bank is required to complete a judicial foreclosure process to regain possession of the property.  Our law firm is able to assist with defending your foreclosure and exploring your loss mitigation options.

If you are in bankruptcy, it will generally extend the time you can stay in the home for at least 90 days in addition to the time periods mentioned above.

If you have decided to surrender your home through the bankruptcy process, during the period of time and up to the foreclosure, you can generally stay without making further payments to the mortgage company. Essentially, you may live there without making payments until required to leave.

Can bankruptcy stop foreclosure?

If you are behind on a home mortgage and facing foreclosure, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be used to force the mortgage company to stop the foreclosure and accept a payment plan on the missed payments. It is important to remember, that while those missed payments can be paid over a period of up to five (5) years, you are required, while in Chapter 13, to make your full mortgage payment each month going forward. This is why individuals in Chapter 13 must have regular income – Chapter 13 is for those who can pay their current expenses and have enough income left over to pay the back-owed amount over time.

Can I convert a Chapter 13 case to Chapter 7?

Those clients in Chapter 13, under the right circumstances, may convert their case to a Chapter 7. This usually occurs if clients decide they no longer want to keep a home that was being protected in Chapter 13. Perhaps the ongoing mortgage payment was too high, a debtor lost a job or a couple decided to separate. This process is sometimes informally referred to as filing a "Chapter 20".

How long does the bankruptcy process take?

At our law firm, we can prepare and file a bankruptcy as quickly as you can provide us the necessary information.  Emergency bankruptcy filings are available and we can even file a case on the same day you contact us in certain circumstances.

Typically, once a client contacts us, we forward a set of forms to the client by electronic mail, facsimile or regular mail. Once the client has completed the forms, we schedule an appointment with us to visit with an attorney to discuss your particular circumstances.

Once the case is filed, the first important date is the meeting of creditors, which usually occurs about 30 days after the filing. It is required that every debtor, and their attorney, attend that meeting which takes place at the courthouse. At that meeting, the appointed trustee reviews the paperwork, advises if additional information is needed, and creditors have an opportunity to ask questions. Creditors usually do not show up.

If the case is a Chapter 7 and no issues are raised or arise, the discharge is entered by the court 90 to 120 days later and the case is completed.  All creditors receive the notification by mail.

If the case is a Chapter 13, it is expected that the Chapter 13 Plan proposed by the debtor will be confirmed shortly after the meeting of creditors. Once the Plan is confirmed and the required Plan payments are completed, a discharge will be entered by the court.

 

Resources

Thanks again for visiting our web site. We hope that you enjoy your cyber visit and will return often as the resources, links and other valuable information are updated and expanded frequently

Local Sites (Broward County, Florida)
17th Judicial Circuit - http://www.17th.flcourts.org/
Search Broward Court Files - http://198.172.148.130/bccoc/default.asp

State Sites (Florida)
Florida Administrative Weekly – http://www.law.ufl.edu/lic/guides/florida/code.shtml
Eleventh Circuit Decisions – http://www.law.emory.edu/11circuit/index.html
University of Miami School of Law - http://www.law.miami.edu/
The University of Florida College of Law – http://www.law.ufl.edu/lic/
Florida State University College of Law – http://www.law.fsu.edu
Stetson University College of Law – http://www.law.stetson.edu/
Florida Statutes Online – http://www.leg.state.fl.us/
The Florida Lawyer –  http://www.fla-law.com/
Online Sunshine - Legislature - House & Senate Bills  http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Welcome/index.cfm

Resources Sites
FindLaw - http://www.findlaw.com
Cornell Law School - http://www.cornell.edu
Municipal Codes Online - http://www.municode.com
More Municipal Codes - http://www.amlegal.com/alpeg004.htm
Florida Law Online - http://www.gate.net/~wyman/flo.html
Practicing Law Institute - http://www.pli.edu
Terraserver - http://terraserver.com/ Satellite photos of worldwide real estate
Court Express - http://www.courtexpress.com Fee-based; online bankruptcy cases
Law Library Resource Exchange - www.llrx.com
All States - http://www.wizardlaw.com/statefed.html
Florida Department of Corrections - http://www.dc.state.fl.us/

Federal Sites
American Bar Association - http://www.abanet.org/
Bankruptcy Rules & Forms (Southern District) - http://www.flsb.uscourts.gov/
Code of Federal Regulations - http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr
SEC Filings - http://www.sec.gov/

Legal and Business News
Law News Network - http://www.lawnewsnetwork.com/
Lawyers Weekly - http://www.lweekly.com/
ABA Journal - http://www.abanet.org/journal/
Bankruptcy Online - http://www.fedfil.com/bankruptcy
C-Span Online - http://www.c-span.org/
Computer Law Review and Technology Journal - http://www.smu.edu/~csr/
Environmental Data Exchange - http://www.edie.net
Legal Ethics - http://www.legalethics.com
New York Law Journal - http://www.nylj.com/

 

 

Hagen & Hagen, P.A., 3531 Griffin Road, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33312  (954) 987-0515