BANKRUPTCY

Is There An Alternative To Filing For Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is not the only method of dealing with too much debt. In some situations another way might be more advantageous to the debtor than filing bankruptcy. Such alternatives may include:

  • Out-of-court settlement with creditors
  • Reduction of payments to creditors
  • Attaining help from a consumer credit counseling service
  • Payment of debts by sale of assets or borrowing on assets

However, these methods require cooperation from creditors, and the chances of success are greater if the debtor attempts these alternatives soon after financial difficulties begin.

How Do I File A Bankruptcy Petition?

A bankruptcy case is started by filing a petition with the bankruptcy court in the federal judicial district and division where the debtor resides. If the debtor is filing a chapter 7 or 13, the debtor must first obtain a certification that he or she received credit counseling to be eligible to file a bankruptcy petition.

The petition contains a request for relief under one of the chapters of the bankruptcy code. A debtor must file a statement regarding various financial matters and disclose all creditors and assets. A debtor is required to appear at a meeting conducted by either a trustee or the United States Trustee, during which creditors may ask questions regarding the debtor’s finances, assets, and liabilities.

Depending on the bankruptcy chapter filed and the complexity of the case, the debtor may also be required to appear at hearings before a bankruptcy judge. If the debtor’s debt is primarily consumer debt, a means test calculation must be done. (Official Form B22C).

Do I Need A Lawyer?

As in any court, individuals have a right to represent themselves before the bankruptcy court. However, bankruptcy is a complex area and involves many considerations, including:

  • Whether to file
  • Election of the appropriate chapter
  • Use of exemptions
  • Understanding protections the bankruptcy code offers
  • Using protections to the debtor’s advantage

The right decision for you depends on an evaluation of your family status, your assets, your obligations, and other factors. It is a very serious step that could affect you for the rest of your life. It is possible in a bankruptcy for a debtor to lose all assets and still owe all the original debts. A lawyer can explain to you how the process works and can help you reach an intelligent decision.

Some debtors use non-lawyer bankruptcy petition preparers or filing services to complete the schedules and documents which must be filed with the bankruptcy petition. While this may cost less initially than consulting an attorney, these non-lawyer services cannot, by law, give legal advice before or after the filing, and cannot represent the debtor in bankruptcy court.

If you are contemplating a chapter 13 case, then the need to be represented by an attorney is even greater. Certain complexities in the law make it extremely difficult for a debtor to successfully conclude a chapter 13 case without the assistance of an attorney.

A corporation cannot represent itself in a bankruptcy case and must be represented by an attorney.

FAMILY LAW

Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is dissolution of marriage.

Where Do I Get Legal Help?

A good place to begin is with your own lawyer, if you have one. Your lawyer can give you a quick review of your legal rights and advise you how to proceed. If your lawyer does not handle divorce cases, you will be referred to an attorney who does.

If your family lawyer has been retained by your spouse, then this lawyer cannot represent you, too. In fact, if the lawyer has been your family lawyer there may be a conflict of interest and the lawyer cannot represent either of you. Do not attempt to consult with your spouse’s attorney to receive legal advice. It is unethical for an attorney to represent both sides in a divorce and to give legal advice to both husband and wife.

How Do I Select A Lawyer?

If you do not have a lawyer, a lawyer referral service, usually operated by a local bar association, can put you in touch with a lawyer who handles such cases. The lawyers associated with the lawyer referral service have agreed to charge a small fee for the first conference. For just a few dollars, you can discuss your rights and obligations and determine if you are proceeding in the right direction.
​W​hat about attorney fees and costs?
Divorce does not have to be expensive. The more complex your affairs and the more contested the issues, the more the dissolution will cost. At an initial meeting, your attorney should provide an estimate of the total cost of a dissolution based on the information you provide. To a large extent the cost will depend on how contested the matter becomes.

One lawyer cannot represent both parties. Your lawyer will expect you to pay a fee and the costs of litigation in accordance with the agreement you make. Sometimes the court will order your spouse to pay part or all your fees and costs, but such awards are unpredictable and cannot be relied upon. You are primarily responsible for the payment of your legal fees.

In a divorce, it is illegal for an attorney to work on a contingency fee basis; that is, where the lawyer’s fee is based upon a percentage of the amount awarded to the client.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Florida has a table of income levels that determine the amount of child support for a given number of children. The primary figure used to calculate child support is the income of both parents. Certain expenses also go into the calculation such as taxes health insurance & employment related daycare cost.

PERSONAL INJURY

How Much Is My Case Worth?

This is one of the harder questions for a plaintiff’s attorney to answer. Determining the worth of your personal injury claim will depend on the severity of your injuries, the details of the case, insurance limits and the identity of the defendant. A case’s worth is based on five areas, assuming that the liability issue is straightforward. These areas include:

Past medical bills
Future medical bills
Lost wages
Loss of earning capacity
Pain and suffering

There is no blueprint for determining a case’s value; it is based on evidence, such as whether there are discrepancies in the testimony, medical records, or other pieces that may detract from the integrity of the injured party’s case. However, based on our experience with past cases in Florida, we may be able to estimate the value of your case once we have gathered all medical records and statements and have an idea as to whether the client’s physical and mental state has improved or worsened from the date of injury. The following factors will be considered when determining the amount of compensation owed for your injuries: the severity of your injuries; the details of your accident; your degree of fault; your employment history; your ability to work; and your life expectancy. The manner in which you obtain medical treatment, your lifestyle, and your litigation history will also be considered.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

It’s difficult to determine how long it will take to resolve a personal injury lawsuit. Each case is unique; therefore, no general timetable can be established for personal injury cases. A personal injury lawsuit may settle in a few months without the need for a trial, while others can take years to complete.

How Much Does A Lawyer Cost?

At ​the Law Offices of Ramona S. Chaplin, P.A., we abide by the contingency fee contract, which is approved by the Florida Bar. This means that we will only collect if the case is successful. We accept a fixed percentage, typically one-third, of the recovery.

How Soon Should I File A Lawsuit?

You should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. Injury victims only have a short period of time to file a claim. Failure to file within this time period, known as the statute of limitations, can bar the victim from ever recovering compensation for their injuries.

What Is Negligence?

To have a viable personal injury claim, the victim must have been injured from the negligence of another individual or entity. Negligence occurs when an individual fails to exercise a reasonable standard of care for the safety of others. If a person fails to act as a reasonable person would, he or she may be liable for any resulting damages.

PROBATE/GUARDIANSHIP

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal proceeding in the circuit courts of Florida in which a guardian is appointed to exercise the legal rights of an incapacitated person and is governed by Chapter 744, Florida Statutes.

What is a Guardian?

A guardian is an individual or institution (such as a nonprofit corporation or bank trust department) appointed by the court to care for an incapacitated person — called a “ward” or for the ward’s assets.

Who is Incapacitated?

An incapacitated person is an adult who has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of his or her property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements of the person.

How is a Person Determined to be Incapacitated?

Any adult may file a petition with the court to determine another person’s incapacity, setting forth the factual information upon which they base their belief that the person is incapacitated.

Who May Serve as Guardian?

Any adult resident, related or unrelated to the potential ward, of Florida can serve as a guardian.

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