Consumer bankruptcy is more common in Mount Holly than you might think. According to data from the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, 1,932 bankruptcy cases were filed in Burlington County, New Jersey between March of 2012 and March of 2013. Approximately 1,300 were Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, while just over 620 were Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. The total population of Burlington County is approximately 450,300, meaning roughly 0.5% of the local population declared bankruptcy in a one year period.
However, filing for consumer bankruptcy can be a confusing and complex process. The Mount Holly bankruptcy lawyers at Young, Marr & Associates have spent 20 years filing thousands of cases, giving us a thorough and intimate understanding of both federal and New Jersey bankruptcy law. We know how to maximize exemptions, protect assets, end creditor harassment, erase debts, and obtain discharges.
Why Should I File for Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy may not be appropriate for everyone. For example, if you are struggling with debt primarily due to child support payments, bankruptcy is not going to offer relief, because child support debts are non-dischargeable under federal bankruptcy law. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help to evaluate whether bankruptcy is an appropriate recourse for you. Some of the most common reasons people in New Jersey opt to file for bankruptcy include:
- Relief from dischargeable debt (medical bills, utility bills, credit card debt, personal loans).
- Cessation of wage garnishment.
- Banishing creditors from constant harassment.
- Delaying foreclosure and eviction actions.
- Preventing repossession of vehicles.
Do I Need an Attorney to File for Bankruptcy?
Technically, people who wish to file for bankruptcy may do so independently, without hiring the services of a bankruptcy lawyer, in what’s referred to as a pro se filing. While pro se filings may be legal, they are not particularly prudent, for several reasons. Bankruptcy law is extremely dense with financial and legal jargon. The procedure is time-sensitive, and missing a deadline could ruin an entire case. Futhermore, it is not often obvious whether to choose the federal or state exemptions without the input of an experienced attorney.
On the website of the U.S. Courts, petitioners are urged to hire an attorney rather than file on their own: “Pro se litigants… are expected to follow the rules that govern procedures in the federal courts. Pro se litigants should be familiar with the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the local rules of the court in which the case is filed.” The site also warns, “Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences — hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.”
How Does the Bankruptcy Process Work in New Jersey?
In conjunction with the overarching federal laws, each state also has its own rules governing the bankruptcy process, meaning the process of filing for consumer bankruptcy in New Jersey is different than it would be in another location. Here’s how the bankruptcy process works in New Jersey.
First, it’s important to know that prior to filing for a New Jersey bankruptcy, you must receive credit counseling through an approved credit counseling agency. Credit counselors can offer guidance about budgeting, money management, and of course, your credit. You will not be allowed to file for bankruptcy until you can provide proof of completion of a credit counseling course within the past six months.
Once you complete credit counseling, you may file a petition for bankruptcy, which includes multiple forms. In your bankruptcy paperwork, you will be required to disclose all of your secured and unsecured debts, your assets, expenditures, income, and other financial information. In addition to the federal forms, you may also need to supply local forms that are specific to a jurisdiction.
The type of bankruptcy which you are filing for is determined by the Means Test, which calculates your median income to assess whether you are a better fit for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation), or Chapter 13 bankruptcy (reorganization). Chapter 7 is need-based and lasts for three to six months, while Chapter 13 entails a long-term repayment plan made over the course of three to five years.
After you file, you will be required to attend a meeting of creditors, also known as a 341 meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to resolve any debtor-creditor conflicts, make negotiations, and address any objections or problem areas.
Finally, before you can be granted a discharge, you must receive debtor education. Like credit counseling, debtor education aims to give debtors the knowledge and information they need to make good financial decisions in the future and prevent additional bankruptcies.
Filing for bankruptcy isn’t an easy decision to make, but it can help you fix your credit, eliminate your debts, and restore your independence. If you or a loved one is considering filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Mount Holly, New Jersey, contact the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates online, or call us at (609) 755 3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701 6519 in Pennsylvania for a free consultation with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer today.