While the general process for filing bankruptcy in Florida is the same as in other states, there are many details that are specific to the state. To successfully get your bankruptcy discharge, you'll have to file with the correct court, know the median income in Florida and have an updated list of Florida bankruptcy exemptions.
Florida Bankruptcy Districts
Florida has three bankruptcy districts, the Northern District, Middle District and Southern District. The Northern District court is in Jacksonville, while the Middle and Southern District courts are in Tampa and Miami, respectively. While you should generally file in the nearest bankruptcy court, this isn't always the case. You can use each court's website or the U.S. Courts court locator to find the appropriate bankruptcy court for your
The Means Test
The means test will be an important part of your bankruptcy process, as it will help determine whether you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or if you have to file Chapter 13 instead. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may see a discharge in a few short months without having to pay anything back to your creditors. A Chapter 13 case, on the other hand, will require you to pay back your creditors on a monthly basis for as long as five years.
Under the means test, if you fall under the median Florida income for a family of your size, you are not presumed to be abusing the bankruptcy system and may file Chapter 7. If your income is above the state median, the trustee may request the court to kick you into a Chapter 13. As of May 15, 2015, the Florida median income for bankruptcy purposes was $42,718 for a one-person case and $52,421 for a two-person case.
The means test is notoriously difficult to complete accurately, as it involves detailed computations of your income and expenses. You may wish to consult a bankruptcy attorney to ensure you qualify for Chapter 7, if that is your intention.
Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, exemptions protect your assets from being seized and liquidated by the court. In Chapter 13, exemptions help determine how much you'll have to pay back to your creditors. In both cases, properly completing Schedule C is a critical part of your case.
If you fail to list an asset on your Schedule C, you may lose it in Chapter 7, even if it would have been protected under Florida exemption laws.
Florida, like many states, requires debtors to use state rather than federal bankruptcy exemptions. The result is a fairly generous set of exemptions compared to those available in other states. For example, Florida allows an unlimited homestead exemption, meaning you won't lose a home of any value when you file bankruptcy in Florida. The only restriction is a limitation on size -- half an acre in a municipality, or 160 acres elsewhere. You must have also owned the property for at least 1,215 days before you filed the bankruptcy petition. Florida also has a host of other bankruptcy exemptions, including unlimited protection for pensions and public benefits, such as veterans benefits and Social Security benefits.
John Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served for 18 years as an investment counselor before becoming a writing and editing contractor for various private clients. In addition to writing thousands of articles for various online publications, he has published five educational books for young adults.