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Fort Lauderdale Bankruptcy Law Blog

The role of the trustee in your Chapter 13 bankruptcy

If you are considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Florida, you may be wondering what role the trustee plays in helping you to repay your debts. At The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A., we provide answers and advice to people who want to know more about what is involved in the discharge of your debts through a restructured payment plan.

According to the U.S. Courts, after you file your Chapter 13 petition, a trustee will be appointed to oversee your case. Although you will appear before the judge in court, the trustee is the person who you will interact with primarily during your bankruptcy. He or she will review the financial information you provide and evaluate your circumstances. A trustee also performs the following duties:

  •          Schedule and conduct the meeting between you and your creditors
  •          Collect the payments you owe according to the timetable outlined in the plan
  •          Distribute funds among your creditors

Should you transfer your credit card debt to a no-interest card?

High interest rates on several credit cards could make it difficult to pay any of them off, particularly if you are stuck making the minimum payments on each. Getting out of debt in Florida may seem impossible at that pace, but transferring all the balances to a single card with a 0 percent interest annual percentage rate could be a solution.

According to NerdWallet.com, here are some things you should consider about credit card consolidation offers before you make your move.

Wage garnishments: when you work two jobs

When you fall behind on your payments and your creditors begin garnishing your wages in Florida, you may consider getting a second job to try to keep up with your living expenses. However, adding another income source does not necessarily mean that you will be bringing all of that money home. At the Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A., our team understands that federal and state laws are not always sufficient to protect the income you need to live on.

According to Chron.com, your creditors are limited in how much they can garnish from your wages, although the percentage that they take depends on the type of debt. For example, a credit card company may garnish up to 25 percent from the amount of your earnings you would have taken home after standard deductions such as taxes are taken out. On the other hand, child support may result in a garnishment of as much as 60 percent of that disposable income. These garnishments would affect your first and your second job separately.

What if I don’t pass the means test?

Increases in the cost of living in Florida without corresponding increases in your salary can put you in trouble quickly. Using a credit card to keep up could strain your finances further. If at some point you decide to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and get relief from your debt, you must first prove that you are eligible through the means test.

According to NerdWallet.com, the point of the means test is to show that you do not have enough disposable income to pay your debts. If you make more than Florida’s median household income, you may not pass unless you can show that after allowable expenses such as food and housing, your disposable income falls below the limit. If you still do not pass, then Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not currently an option.

Taking a stand against gender discrimination at your workplace

Women have been fighting for equal rights for decades, and while they have achieved significant progress, women still face certain types of discrimination in the workplace. Workplace discrimination for any reason is illegal, and women who experienced this have the right to stand up for themselves and fight back.

Both Florida laws and federal laws expressly prohibit the discrimination of an individual solely based on his or her gender. It can be difficult to know if the treatment you experienced in the workplace could qualify as gender discrimination, but you have the right to know. By reaching out to an experienced attorney, you can better understand your rights and take the steps necessary to hold the appropriate parties accountable. 

Buying a home after Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Some people may be worried that filing for bankruptcy in Florida may affect their ability to qualify for a home loan. According to Experian, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, it may be possible and profitable to purchase a home through a rent-to-own agreement. While buying a home with this type of contract may not improve a person’s credit score, it does typically allow those with issues on their credit report to become a homeowner.

SFGate.com explains that most sellers run a credit check, even if they have advertised that they accept applications from people with a bankruptcy on their report. In any case, a potential homebuyer may be better off explaining the circumstances at the outset, which may save time if there are any disqualifying factors.

More credit card debt? Increased cost of living may be to blame

If you feel as if you came by your credit card debt through forces in Florida outside your control, you are far from the only one. Nerd Wallet notes that its most recent report on debt in the United States reveals rising costs of living rather than consumerism drives much of the country’s financial issues.

Your grocery bill may have increased by as much as 36 percent since 2003, while your household income, if you are in the middle range, has only gone up by about 28 percent. Even more expensive than just getting by is the toll medical bills take on your finances—and for good reason. These have gone up 57 percent in the last 13 years. After paying for your health, you may have no choice other than getting out the credit card to buy food or fuel.

Financial and physical health often go hand in hand

Unemployed people are not the only ones suffering from financial stress in Florida, and it does not even really matter how much money you make. People from all walks of life find themselves struggling with overwhelming debt. The team at The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A., have worked with many who are seeking ways to reduce these burdens.

Fox News reports on a recent survey indicating that current financial circumstances were causing stress for nearly 50 percent of employed participants. Your body’s responses to your money worries could include:

  •          Cortisol release
  •          Increased heart rate
  •          Higher blood pressure
  •          Lower metabolism
  •          Memory and concentration issues

Will I get to keep my retirement savings after divorce?

The end of a marriage will signal significant financial changes and adjustments for both parties involved, even years after a divorce. If you are planning to divorce and nearing retirement age, one of your most important concerns likely involves the potential impact that the end of your marriage could have on your long-term savings.

LGBT couples may still face special challenges with family law issues in Florida. If a same-sex couple decides to divorce, it can be useful to understand how the division of retirement benefits works and how a person may pursue the specific objective of protecting his or her interests both during the divorce and long into the golden years.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy and entrepreneur opportunities

Starting and running a small business in Florida may have seemed like a dream come true, but entrepreneurs who are facing overwhelming financial obstacles may be wondering if it is time to give up. Even though many companies fail each year, not every entrepreneur sees a chapter 7 bankruptcy as the end of the line. Many have found that not only is it possible to recover on a personal level, it is also possible to start fresh in the business world.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, even the experience gained from running a company that ultimately closed can be used to start a new and successful business. This could be done either by beginning again in the same vein, or offering the lessons learned to others who need guidance to avoid similar pitfalls.