Media Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Lawyers
Do you live in Media, Pennsylvania and are behind on monthly bills such as car payments, rent, mortgage, credit card debt, utilities or medical bills? Does it seem like a very somber situation with no end in sight? Is your growing debt, and growing arrears amounts, the result of a divorce, death of spouse, loss of job or being injured in an accident? If so, filing bankruptcy may offer you the debt relief you need to get a fresh start. Speaking with our Media Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyers is a wise move.
Contact the Media Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorneys at The Law Offices of James V. Monaghan for a free conultation. Mr. Monaghan has many years experience handling consumer bankruptcy filings in the greater Philadelphia area which consists of Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County. Dial (610) 275-5800 today.
Media Pennsylvania Facts & Statistics
Media, Pennsylvania is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania and is the county seat. With a population of approximately 10,000 residents it is the most congested part of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. While jobs in the Philadelphia area are available there is also the possibility that Media, and Delaware County, residents may fall on hard financial times. Causes of difficult financial times are common and are some of the most stressful times individuals, couples and families may go through. If you are struggling financially in the Delaware County, Pennsylvania area you should consult with our Media, Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyers.
Contact our Media, Pennsylvania bankruptcy law office of you need any of the following:
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In addition to Media, we serve all of Delaware County, PA area including Media, Springfield, Ridley Park, Aston, Swarthmore, Chadds Ford and Prospect Park.
Bankruptcy is a federal court process available to Media, Pennsylvania residents. Bankruptcy is designed to help consumers and businesses eliminate their debts or repay them under the protection of the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcies can generally be described as "liquidation" (Chapter 7) or "reorganization" (Chapter 13). Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you ask the bankruptcy court to wipe out (discharge) the debts you owe. Under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you file a plan with the bankruptcy court proposing how you will repay your creditors. You must repay some debts in full; others may be repaid only partially or not at all, depending on what you can afford.
When you file either kind of bankruptcy, a court order called an "automatic stay" goes into effect. The automatic stay prohibits most creditors from taking any action to collect the debts you owe them unless the bankruptcy court lifts the stay and lets the creditor proceed with collections.
Certain debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy; you will continue to owe them just as if you had never filed for bankruptcy. These debts include back child support, alimony, and certain kinds of tax debts. Student loans will not be discharged unless you can show that repaying the debt would be an undue burden, which is a very tough standard to meet. And other types of debts might not be discharged if a creditor convinces the court that the debt should survive your bankruptcy.
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee cancels many (or all) of your debts. At the same time the trustee might also sell (liquidate) some of your property to repay your creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also called "straight" or "liquidation" bankruptcy, is so named because the law is contained in Chapter 7 of the federal Bankruptcy Code. Here's an outline of Chapter 7 bankruptcy-- who can file, the forms you'll need, how the process works, and what happens to your property and debts.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Costs In Time and Money
The whole Chapter 7 bankruptcy process takes about four to six months, costs for filing bankruptcy aas well as administrative fees. A Chapter 7 usually requires only one trip to the courthouse.
You must also complete credit counseling with an agency approved by the United States Trustee.
Who Can File Chapter 7 In Pennsylvania
You won't be able to use Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you already received a bankruptcy discharge in the last six to eight years (depending which type of bankruptcy you filed) or if, based on your income, expenses, and debt burden, you could feasibly complete a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
To file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you fill out a petition and a number of other forms and file them with the bankruptcy court in your area. Basically, the forms ask you to describe:
- your property
- your current income and monthly living expenses
- your debts
- property you claim the law allows you to keep through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process (called "exempt property") -- most states let you keep some equity in your home, clothing, household furnishings, Social Security payments you haven't spent, and other necessities such as a car and the tools of your trade
- property you owned and money you spent during the previous two years, and
- property you sold or gave away during the previous two years.
As filing bankruptcy is a very complex legal procedure with a sizeable margin for error you should retain an experienced Media PA bankruptcy lawyer to walk you through the process.
The Automatic Stay
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy puts into effect something called the "automatic stay." The automatic stay immediately stops most creditors from trying to collect what you owe them. So, at least temporarily, creditors cannot legally grab ("garnish") your wages, empty your bank account, go after your car, house, or other property, or cut off your utility service.
Bankruptcy Court's Control Over Your Financial Affairs
By filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are technically placing the property you own and the debts you owe in the hands of the bankruptcy court. You can't sell or give away any of the property you own when you file, or pay off your pre-filing debts, without the court's consent. However, with a few exceptions, you can do what you wish with property you acquire and income you earn after you file for bankruptcy.
The Bankruptcy Trustee for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
The court exercises its control through a court-appointed person called a "bankruptcy trustee." The trustee's primary duty is to see that your creditors are paid as much as possible of what you owe them. And the more assets the trustee recovers for creditors, the more the trustee is paid.
The trustee (or the trustee's staff) will examine your papers to make sure they are complete and to look for nonexempt property to sell for the benefit of creditors. The trustee will also look at your financial transactions during the previous year to see if any can be undone to free up assets to distribute to your creditors. In most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, the trustee finds nothing of value to sell.
The 341 Creditors Meeting
A week or two after you file, you (and all the creditors you list in your bankruptcy papers) will receive a notice that a "creditors meeting" has been scheduled. The bankruptcy trustee runs the meeting and, after swearing you in, may ask you questions about your bankruptcy and the papers you filed. In the vast majority of Chapter 7 bankruptcies, this is the debtor's only visit to the courthouse.
What Happens to Your Property In A PA Bankruptcy
If, after the creditors meeting, the trustee determines that you have some nonexempt property, you may be required to either surrender that property or provide the trustee with its equivalent value in cash. If the property isn't worth very much or would be cumbersome for the trustee to sell, the trustee may "abandon" the property -- which means that you get to keep it, even though it is nonexempt. (For information on which types of property are typically exempt, see When Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Isn't the Right Choice.) However, which property is exempt varies by state. You can find your state's exemptions in Bankruptcy Exemptions by State.
Most property owned by Chapter 7 debtors is either exempt or is essentially worthless for purposes of raising money for the creditors. As a result, few debtors end up having to surrender any property, unless it is collateral for a secured debt (see below).
How Your Secured Debts Are Treated
If you've pledged property as collateral for a loan, the loan is called a secured debt. The most common examples of collateral are houses and automobiles. If you're behind on your payments, the creditor can ask to have the automatic stay lifted in order to repossess or foreclose on the property. However, if you are current on your payments, you can keep the property and keep making payments as before -- unless you have enough equity in the property to justify its sale by the trustee.
If a creditor has recorded a lien against your property because of a debt you haven't paid (for example, because the creditor obtained a court judgment against you), that debt is also secured. You may be able to wipe out the lien in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Discharge
At the end of the bankruptcy process, all of your debts are wiped out (discharged) by the court, except:
- debts that automatically survive bankruptcy, such as child support, most tax debts, and student loans, unless the court rules otherwise, and
- debts that the court has declared nondischargeable because the creditor objected (for example, debts incurred by your fraud or malicious acts).
To discuss your eligibility for Chapter 7, and whether it is right for you, contcat our Media Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyers for a free consultation.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep your property, but pay back all or a portion of your debts over a three to five-year period. This is unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where most of your debts are cancelled but you may have to surrender some property to the bankruptcy trustee to pay your creditors. Because you end up paying most of your debts over time in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is also called reorganization bankruptcy. Learn the basics of Chapter 13 -- who is eligible, how creditors are paid, and how the Chapter 13 process works.
Chapter 13 Eligibility
Chapter 13 bankruptcy isn't for everyone. Because Chapter 13 requires you to use your income to repay some or all of your debt, you'll have to prove to the court that you can afford to meet your payment obligations. If your income is irregular or too low, the court might not allow you to file for Chapter 13.If your total debt burden is too high, you are also ineligible. Your secured debts cannot exceed $1,149,525 and your unsecured debts cannot be more than $383,175. A "secured debt" is one that gives a creditor the right to take a specific item of property (such as your house or car) if you don't pay the debt. An "unsecured debt" (such as a credit card or medical bill) doesn't give the creditor this right.(For details, see Do You Qualify for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)
The Chapter 13 Process
Before you can file for bankruptcy, you must receive credit counseling from an agency approved by the United States Trustee's office. (For a list of approved agencies, go to the Trustee's website at www.usdoj.gov/ust and click "Credit Counseling and Debtor Education.") These agencies are allowed to charge a fee for their services, but they must provide counseling for free or at reduced rates if you cannot afford to pay.In addition, you'll have to pay the filing fee and file a packet of forms.
The Chapter 13 Repayment Plan
The most important part of your Chapter 13 paperwork will be a repayment plan. Your repayment plan will describe in detail how (and how much) you will pay each of your debts. There is no official form for the plan, but many courts have designed their own forms. (For more on repayment plans, see The Chapter 13 Repayment Plan.)
How Much You Must Pay
Your Chapter 13 plan must pay certain debts in full. These debts are called "priority debts," because they're considered sufficiently important to jump to the head of the bankruptcy repayment line. Priority debts include child support and alimony, wages you owe to employees, and certain tax obligations.In addition, your plan must include your regular payments on secured debts, such as a car loan or mortgage, as well as repayment of any arrearages on the debts (the amount by which you've fallen behind in your payments).The plan must show that any disposable income you have left after making these required payments will go towards repaying your unsecured debts, such as credit card or medical bills. You don't have to repay these debts in full (or at all, in some cases). You just have to show that you are putting any remaining income towards their repayment.
The Chapter 13 Repayment Plan
The length of your repayment plan depends on how much you earn and how much you owe. If your average monthly income over the six months prior to the date you filed for bankruptcy is more than the median income for your state, you'll have to propose a five-year plan. If your income is lower than the median, you may propose a three-year plan. (To get the median income figures for your state, go to the United States Trustee's website, www.usdoj.gov/ust, and click "Means Testing Information.") In some instances, below-median debtors will need to extend their plans beyond three years to repay a sufficient amount of debts. Likewise, if an above-median debtor can repay all debts in full in less then five years, then a shorter plan is possible.If You Can't Make Plan PaymentsIf for some reason you cannot finish a Chapter 13 repayment plan -- for example, you lose your job six months into the plan and can't keep up the payments -- the bankruptcy trustee may modify your plan, or the court might let you discharge your debts on the basis of hardship. Examples of hardship would be a sudden plant closing in a one-factory town or a debilitating illness.If the bankruptcy court won't let you modify your plan or give you a hardship discharge, you might be able to convert to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or ask the bankruptcy court to dismiss your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case (you would still owe your debts, plus any interest creditors did not charge while your Chapter 13 case was pending).
Once you complete your repayment plan, all remaining debts that are eligible for discharge will be wiped out. Before you can receive a discharge, you must show the court that you are current on your child support and/or alimony obligations and that you have completed a budget counseling course with an agency approved by the United States Trustee.
Contact A Media Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Lawyer
Please call me, Media Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Attorney James V. Monaghan for a free consultation regarding which bankruptcy option is right for you and your family. Dial (610) 275-5800 today.
I proudly serve those struggling financially throughout the entire Philadelphia area including Chester, West Chester, Kennett Square, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, Upper Darby, Marcus Hook, Wayne and Philadelphia.
"We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code."