How Bankruptcy Works in Florida

Find out about the information you'll need to file your Florida bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy can help you take control of your financial life. But finding the information you need to get your Florida bankruptcy case started can be confusing.

In this article, you’ll learn how to find much of the information you’ll need, including official bankruptcy forms, income-qualifying (means testing) data, credit counseling providers, lists of property you can protect (exempt), and how to find your local Florida bankruptcy court.

(If you aren’t sure which bankruptcy chapter is right for you, read What Is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)

Official Bankruptcy Forms

When you file for bankruptcy, you’ll use the official bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court forms website to disclose your income, expense, debt, asset, and property transaction information. Each form has basic instructions to help you fill out the bankruptcy form. (The form doesn’t explain bankruptcy law, however—you’ll be responsible for understanding what will happen in your matter.)

The bankruptcy case starts after the completed paperwork gets filed in the local bankruptcy court (more below) along with a filing fee or a fee waiver request.

Florida State-Specific Information

You’ll need to gather together financial documents when completing the paperwork. But that’s not all. Here’s where you’ll find additional information for your Florida bankruptcy filing.

Florida’s Bankruptcy Courts

Florida, being a large state, has three bankruptcy districts—Northern, Middle, and Southern. Each has multiple locations serving various geographical areas and web pages where you can access the following court information:

  • physical address, mailing address, and phone number
  • hours of service and parking, and
  • court filing fees and local forms.

Clicking on the district name will take you to the court’s homepage.

Northern District of Florida

  • Division locations: Gainesville, Panama City, Pensacola, and Tallahassee
  • Finding your division: Select “Locations” from the lower left navbar.
  • Presiding judge: Chief Judge Karen K. Specie

Middle District of Florida

  • Division locations: Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa
  • Finding your division: Select “Locations/Phonelists” from the left navbar.
  • Presiding judge: Chief Judge Michael G. Williamson

Southern District of Florida

  • Division locations: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach
  • Finding your division: Go to the lower right portion of the home screen.
  • Presiding judge: Chief Judge Laurel M. Isicoff

Local Forms

Be sure to check your Florida court website for local forms required in your Florida bankruptcy court district. If you need help, contact the court clerk.

Means Testing and Credit Counseling Information

You’ll find some state-specific information you’ll need on the U.S. Trustee website:

  • Means testing charts. By taking and passing the “means test,” you show that you meet the income qualifications necessary to discharge (forgive) debt in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your family income exceeds Florida’s median income, you’re allowed to deduct some of your expenses. The U.S. Trustee’s website has the income charts and expense guidelines (look for “Means Testing Information” in the left navbar). You’ll also use the data to figure a Chapter 13 bankruptcy payment amount.
  • Credit counseling providers. Most filers must also take two education courses. You’ll submit a credit counseling certificate before filing, and proof of a debt management course afterward. Select “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” in the left navbar and scroll to your bankruptcy court.

Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions

You’re allowed to protect at least some of your property (possibly all) when you file a bankruptcy case. Florida state law determines the assets that you’ll be able to exempt.

If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case will sell nonexempt property and use the funds to pay creditors. By contrast, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filer will pay creditors the value of nonexempt property in the three- to five-year repayment plan.

(Learn what property you can protect in Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions.)

Speak With an Attorney

This overview doesn’t provide all the information you’ll need to file your Florida bankruptcy case. You’ll be responsible for understanding all applicable bankruptcy law, and making a mistake can be costly. Most people find it worthwhile to take advantage of the free initial evaluation offered by many local bankruptcy attorneys.

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