More than a land that flows with milk and honey, Georgia raises individuals that work hard and have well-bred manners. But even those Southern gentlemen and Georgia belles get into trouble when it comes to money and credit card debt. When a calamity strikes and there is no money in the bank, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy has helped many men and women of the south rediscover their financial freedom.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – More than a Stop Gap
Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or other Chapters of bankruptcy do more than just stopping a foreclosure or lifting a garnishment. People have successfully used them to halt otherwise disastrous proceedings, however, the primary reason individuals file for bankruptcy is to get relief from debt. A Chapter 7 can discharge nearly all secured and unsecured debts. Some debts like alimony support or child support payments are not discharged through any type of bankruptcy.
Debtors must file a set of documents called a petition with their local bankruptcy court. This petition includes all financial information, listing past and current debts and assets. Withholding or inadvertently excluding information about your finances can lead to a case dismissal or fraud charges. Consult with your attorney about what information needs to be included on your petition.
Georgians Must Meet the State Requirements
In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Georgians must meet the requirements. The Bankruptcy Reform Act was passed by Congress in 2005, requiring all debtors to either fall below the median income for the state they reside in, or pass the means test. The average income level for Georgia is as follows:
- Single Individual - $39,384
- Family of Two - $52,024
- Family of Three - $56, 682
- Family of Four - $69, 239
- Additional family members: All debtors must add $7,500 per person to the base income level.
The median income level can change from year to year. For the most up to date information, ask your attorney what the Georgian median income level is for your family size.
Passing the Means Test
If you make more than the average income level in Georgia, and you have been a resident for more than a year, you may still qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy with the means test. This test is a procedure that examines your debt to asset ratio, determining if a Chapter 7 is the best option for you. Additional financial documentation may be required by your attorney to see if you pass the means test. Those who do not pass the means test might qualify for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Keep the Peach Orchard
You may not have an orchard full of peaches, but many Georgia residents have homes or vehicles they wish to keep after they file. Bankruptcy law has provided residents with a certain amount of exemptions, allowing Georgians to keep some physical property and assets after they file. These exemptions include:
- Home Exemption: You are allowed to keep a home up to $10,000 in value. ($20,000 if filing jointly.)
- Household goods – Up to $5,000 is exempt, with a per-item limit capped at $300 in value:
- Wearing Apparel
- Musical instruments
- Jewelry: Up to $500 in jewelry including wedding rings.
- Vehicle: One automobile valued at $3,500 or less is exempt.
- Unmatured life insurance (except credit life insurance)
- Crop insurance
- Railroad unemployment insurance
- Industrial life insurance
- Group insurance
- Fraternal Society Benefits
- Workmen’s Compensation Benefits
- Teacher’s retirement benefits
- Legislator retirement benefits
- Firefighters pension benefits
- Judges and court employee retirement benefits
The amount of each exemption may change annually. It’s important to check for the most current codes for the exemptions you wish to use. Additionally, while some states offer both federal and state exemptions, residents in Georgia may only use the state exemption laws when filing a petition.
These are only a few of the many bankruptcy exemption codes may be available to you. When you meet with your attorney, discuss all of your financial options. He/She may know of specific exemption laws that will help you retain more assets.
Resolve your Financial Issues
From the time you file your bankruptcy petition until you receive your discharge, the entire process should take approximately six months. You will be required to attend a short hearing called a ‘341 Meeting’ or a ‘Meeting of Creditors.’ You will attend the hearing with your bankruptcy attorney. A Trustee who stands as a representative for your creditors will be present along with a judge. The Trustee may ask you a few simple questions, which your attorney will discuss with you prior to you hearing.
After your hearing, if there are no questions or issues with your petition, your discharge will be mailed to you and to your attorney within 90 days of your hearing. Once you have received this notice, you will no longer be in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy status. Your credit will begin to rebuild, and you will very little debt.
You already work hard to feed and provide for your family. Don’t let mounting bills and creditor harassment take away from the enjoyment in your life. Talk to a local Georgia bankruptcy attorney today about filing for bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or any other Chapter you may qualify for. You owe it to yourself to find some relief.
Georgia Bankruptcy Courts
Richard B. Russell Federal Building
and United States Courthouse
75 Spring Street, SW., Room 1340
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Phone (404) 315-1000
Federal Justice Center - The Plaza Building
600 James Brown Boulevard, 1st Floor
Augusta, Georgia 30901
Phone: (706) 823-6000
Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building
801 Gloucester Street, Room 357
Brunswick, Georgia 31520
Phone: (912) 280-1376
901 Front Avenue, 3rd Floor
Columbus, Georgia 31904
Phone: (706) 649-7837
121 Spring Street, S.E., Room 120
Gainsville, Georgia 30501
Phone: (678) 450-2700
433 Cherry Street
Macon, Georgia 31201
Phone: (478) 752-3506
Lewis R. Morgan Federal Building
and United States Courthouse
18 Greenville Street
Newnan, Georgia 30263
Phone: (678) 423-3000
United States Courthouse
600 East First Street, Room 339
Rome, Georgia 30161
Tomochichi United States Courthouse
125 Bull Street, Room 212
Savannah, Georgia 31402
Phone: (912) 650-4100