If you want to file for bankruptcy in Florida, you will need to determine which judicial district is the correct place for the filing, participate in pre-filing credit counseling and follow a number of other steps. There is a lot of online information that can help you.
Because most of the bankruptcy process is governed by federal bankruptcy laws, the general filing process in Florida is similar to other states. However, you will need to include some of the Florida-specific information on your bankruptcy forms. In addition, you’ll need to know about the Florida exemptions because federal exemptions are not available to you in Florida.
Here is some information to get you started.
(For more articles on the filing process, see Filing for Bankruptcy.)
Before you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must have proof that you received credit counseling from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee in Florida within the six month period before you file for bankruptcy. You’ll also have to take a debtor education course after you file, before you will be granted a discharge. (To learn more about this requirement, including the rare exceptions, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
You can find the list of approved Florida credit counseling agencies, separated by district, here.
Florida has a set of bankruptcy exemptions which help determine what property you get to keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and play a role in how much you repay creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.)
Unlike some other states, in Florida, you can only use Florida exemptions.
To learn about Florida’s exemptions for your home and car, see The Homestead Exemption in Florida and The Motor Vehicle Exemption in Florida. For a list of other common exemptions in Florida, see Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions.
Whether you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you need to fill out a bankruptcy petition, several schedules containing detailed information on what you own and who you owe money to and several other forms containing detailed information on your finances. You also need to file a lengthy form known as the “means test” to see if you qualify for a Chapter 7 and a similar form for a Chapter 13.
(For a list of the forms you must complete, see The Bankruptcy Forms: Getting Started.)
For more information about each of the official forms, including how to find them and fill them out, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.
When you file for bankruptcy in Florida, you must compare your income to the median income for a household of your size in Florida. If your income is less than the median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13 instead, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years).
If your income is above Florida’s median income for a household of your size, you still might qualify for Chapter 7, but you will have to provide detailed information on your regular expenses and payments on secured debts by completing something called the means test to find out. Most Chapter 13 filers will also have to provide this information in a similar Chapter 13 form.
For information about each of these forms, including how to complete them, see:
Here’s how to find Florida-specific figures for these forms:
Florida Median Income. For a one person household in Florida, the median income is $40,766. For a family of four, the Florida median income is $62,742. You can find median income figures for other household sizes in Florida here.
Example. Alex is married and has one child. He lives with his wife, his child and his mother-in-law. Their total household income is $52,000. He is eligible to file for Chapter 7 without completing the detailed means test calculations because his household income is less than $62,742.
Standard deductions. Forms 22A and 22C have a comprehensive list of expense categories, such as housing, transportation, food and childcare. For some of those categories (like childcare), you provide the actual amount you spend. For other categories, you plug in a predetermined amount–sometimes that figure is standard for the entire country, other times it varies by county or region.
You can find all of the Florida area state, county and region-specific figures that you will need to complete Forms 22A and Forms 22C on the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform” and then “Means Testing Information.”
Example. In Florida, the standard amount that you list on your means test for housing varies by county and number in your household. If you live in Broward County, your mortgage or rent deduction is $1,272 for a one person household and $1,756 for a four person household. If you live in Pinellas county, your mortgage or rent deduction is $981 for a one person household and $1,354 for a four person household. You can find housing expense standards for each Florida county here.
Some judicial districts and bankruptcy courts require bankruptcy filers to complete additional “local forms.” To find out if your court requires additional forms, contact the bankruptcy clerk’s office. You might even find these forms posted online at your bankruptcy court’s website. (Below you will find links to the bankruptcy courts in Florida.)
There are three federal judicial districts in Florida. You can file in either
You can use the Court Locator tool on the U.S. Courts website to find bankruptcy court locations and websites. The three districts for the Florida bankruptcy courts are: