General Bankruptcy Information
Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a person who cannot pay his or her bills can get a fresh financial start. The idea of a fresh start for debtors goes back to the Old Testament and current bankruptcy laws can be traced to England in 1542 under King Henry VIII. The right to file for bankruptcy is provided for by The United States Constitution , and all bankruptcy cases are handled in the federal courts. Filing bankruptcy immediately stops all of your creditors from seeking to collect debts from you, at least until your debts are sorted out according to the law. It is an important alternative for persons strapped with more debt and stress than they can handle.
Federal bankruptcy laws were enacted to provide good, honest, hard-working debtors with a fresh start and to establish a ranking and equity among all the creditors clamoring for the debtor's limited resources. Bankruptcy helps people avoid the kind of permanent discouragement that can prevent them from ever re-establishing themselves as hard-working members of society.
To the extent that there may be money or property available for distribution to creditors, creditors are ranked to make sure that money or property is fairly distributed according to established rules as to which creditors get what. This discussion is intended only as a brief overview of the types of bankruptcy filings and of what a bankruptcy filing can and cannot do. No one should base their decision as to whether or not to file bankruptcy solely on this information. Bankruptcy law is complex, and there are many considerations that must be taken into account in making the determination whether or not to file. Anyone considering bankruptcy is encouraged to make no decision about bankruptcy without seeking the advice and assistance of an experienced attorney who practices nothing but bankruptcy law.
What Bankruptcy Can and Cannot Do
Bankruptcy may make it possible for financially distressed individuals to:
- Discharge liability for most or all of their debts and get a fresh start. When the debt is discharged, the debtor has no further legal obligation to pay the debt.
- Stop foreclosure actions on their home and allow them an opportunity to catch up on missed payments.
- Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.
- Stop wage garnishment and other debt collection harassment, and give the individual some breathing room.
- Restore or prevent termination of certain types of utility service.
- Lower the monthly payments and interest rates on debts.
- Allow debtors an opportunity to challenge the claims of certain creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise seeking to collect more than they are legally entitled to.
Bankruptcy, however, cannot cure every financial problem. It is usually not possible to:
- Eliminate certain rights of secured creditors. Although a debtor can force secured creditors to take payments over time in the bankruptcy process, a debtor generally cannot keep the collateral unless the debtor continues to pay the debt.
- Discharge types of debts singled out by the federal bankruptcy statutes for special treatment, such as child support, alimony, student loans, certain court ordered payments, criminal fines, and some taxes.
- Protect all cosigners on their debts. If relative or friend co-signed a loan which the debtor discharged in bankruptcy, the cosigner may still be obligated to repay whatever part of the loan not paid during the pendency of the bankruptcy case.
- Discharge debts that are incurred after bankruptcy has been filed.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be a legal opinion, legal advice or a complete discussion of the issues related to the area of consumer bankruptcy. Every individual's factual situation is different and you should seek independent legal advice from an attorney familiar with the laws of your state or locality regarding specific information.