If you are struggling financially and overwhelmed with debts that have become unpayable, you may wish to consider the “fresh start” that bankruptcy can bring. To receive a “fresh start”, you need to know how to file for bankruptcy in Ohio. Bankruptcy, a legal way to have many debts forgiven, can put you on the road to financial recovery. If you’re a good candidate for bankruptcy, filing can keep creditors from harassing you and seizing your possessions, allow debts to be forgiven, and provide a way for you to keep your assets and begin to rebuild your life.
Knowing how to file for bankruptcy in Ohio can be overwhelming to individuals already burdened with financial problems, and filing incorrectly can lead to failure of having your debts discharged, so it pays to get legal advice before you file. The skilled and seasoned Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that financial problems can happen to even the most well-intentioned people. We can help by looking at your income, your debts and your goals and coming up with a plan that’s best for you. If you decide to file, we will make sure you take all necessary steps to make sure your bankruptcy is filed correctly, and you receive the relief from debts that you are entitled to.
We offer a free consultation, so contact us online or call our offices today.
How to File for Bankruptcy in Ohio
When you file for bankruptcy there are certain steps you must follow:
- Understand the types of bankruptcy. There are two common types of consumer bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. At your free consultation, our attorneys will explain the differences and help determine which is right for you
- Take a financial inventory, gather all necessary financial paperwork, and run the Ohio means test calculator to gauge your bankruptcy options and see which type you qualify for.
- Determine how much of your property is exempt. Ohio has a list of exemptions, property you can keep despite declaring bankruptcy.
- Complete a consumer credit counseling course. You must undergo credit counseling from an approved agency less than six months before you file your bankruptcy petition.
- Prepare and assemble your required bankruptcy papers and forms.
- File required forms with the court and pay the required filing fees.
- Attend your bankruptcy hearing. At this meeting, creditors or the Bankruptcy Trustee can ask you questions about the information on your forms and object to or challenge exemptions you are claiming.
- File motions to eliminate liens. Be aware that creditors may make objections to your motions, and you may respond to objections.
- Take a post-filing Debtor Education course.
A Closer Look at How to File Bankruptcy
1) Understanding Types of Bankruptcy
The United States Bankruptcy Code provides different ways for individuals to file bankruptcy. The most common types, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, have several similarities and differences.
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 will eliminate most or all consumer debts, but you can use it only once every eight years. It’s quick — over in a few months, so you can begin rebuilding credit. A trustee will be appointed by the court to liquidate your property that isn’t protected by your Ohio exemptions. Exemptions can include your homestead, clothing, cars, equipment used for work and household furnishings. If all your property is exempt, you may qualify for a “no asset” bankruptcy.
Ohio requires that you pass something called a “means test” to determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7. If you are not eligible for Chapter 7, filing for Chapter 13 may still be an option.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan, under which you can consolidate payments to repay some or all of your debt affordably over a three- to five-year period and avoid fees and fines.
This plan is best for those who don’t qualify for Chapter 7, who have a steady income, temporary financial problems and a desire to repay some of the debt in order to keep an asset such as a car or a house. Plus, the automatic stay provision of Ohio bankruptcy law means that the phone calls and letters from your creditors will stop during this time. If you successfully complete the court-approved payment plan, the debts covered by the plan are discharged.
2) Take a Financial Inventory
Before filing for bankruptcy, you must assemble all of your financial information, keep a file with all documentation, and print out all online records. You will need as much detailed information as possible on:
- Debts. Include all your debts and list the creditor, the current balance, the interest rate, your monthly payment, and any other relevant information.
- Income. Include any money that you have received for any reason in the past six months and any money you expect to receive in the future. This includes all wages, unemployment compensation, income dividends or interest from investments, pensions, social security and government assistance, and money contributed to the household by other people.
- Assets and Property. Include anything you own of value, such as stocks, savings accounts, real estate, cars, collectibles, art, clothes, home furnishings, and other personal possessions.
- Monthly Household Living Expenses. Include your costs for rent or mortgage, food, utilities, medical expenses, clothing, taxes, transportation, child support, and alimony.
You should also gather your tax returns for the last two years, deeds to any real estate, titles to cars, and documents for any loans.
Run the financial means test calculator. To qualify for Chapter 7, your income must be below the Ohio median for your size household, and your debts and other aspects of your financial situation will be considered. If your income is less than the median, you may be eligible to file for Chapter 7.
The median Ohio income changes frequently and you can find the most recent amounts under “Means Testing Information” on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust.
3) Determine how much of your property is exempt.
Ohio has a list of exemptions — property you are allowed to keep despite declaring bankruptcy. Some exemptions are:
- real or personal property used as a residence
- life insurance policies and proceeds
- certain public benefits and some pensions
- alimony and child support
- personal property, including vehicles to a certain amount
- tools of the trade
- wages to a certain amount
Exemption figures change regularly, so check the list of Ohio exemptions.
4) Complete Consumer Credit Counseling.
You must complete a consumer credit counseling course from an approved agency less than six months before you file your bankruptcy petition. The purpose is not only to help you focus on what caused you to get into financial difficulty in the first place, but to help you determine which kind of bankruptcy is best for you. If you choose to file Chapter 13, counselors will help you understand the payment plan, because payments must begin no later than 30 days after you file your petition.
You must provide proof that you have received credit counseling at the time you file your bankruptcy petition.
5) Prepare and assemble your bankruptcy papers and forms.
There are 50+ pages of forms detailing current debts, assets, income, and expenses, and your intentions regarding loans secured by collateral. Make copies of all forms.
6) File required forms with the court and pay the required filing fees.
These forms, referred to as the schedules, will ask you to describe your current financial status and recent financial transactions, usually for the last two years.
In Ohio, the bankruptcy courts are divided into two districts — the Northern District and the Southern District. In the Northern District, there are bankruptcy courts in Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron, and Canton. In the Southern District, there are bankruptcy courts in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton.
Filing fees vary according to which type of bankruptcy you file.
7) Attend your bankruptcy hearing (341 Meeting).
Once your bankruptcy petition has been filed the court will set a hearing date that you have to attend. The Bankruptcy Trustee will review your petition and ask you questions. Your creditors may also attend the hearing and have the option to object to the debt you have with them being discharged. When you file bankruptcy, any creditors whose debt is included in your petition will receive a notice that you have filed and that an automatic stay has been issued so that they can no longer harass you, continue or begin legal proceedings, enter liens against your property, or try to collect on your accounts while your bankruptcy is ongoing. The trustee will make sure you understand the consequences of declaring bankruptcy and the effect of reaffirming a debt. The trustee will also make sure you are not abusing the system by declaring bankruptcy for personal gain.
8) File motions to eliminate liens.
During this step, creditors may make objections and you may respond. After creditors have had a chance to review your payment plan, they have 60 to 90 days to submit a formal objection or request to extend the time for objections. Any objections must be addressed and satisfied before the bankruptcy can proceed.
Creditors may also decide not to object. If there are no objections, your bankruptcy petition will move forward after the objection period ends.
If you are filing Chapter 7, your non-exempt assets will be liquidated, and the trustee will pay your creditors from the proceeds. After this, the bankruptcy judge will issue a discharge order stating that the remainder of your debt has been discharged or wiped out and that creditors cannot continue with attempting collection.
If you are filing Chapter 13, if there are no objections to your payment plan, there will be a confirmation hearing held within 45 days of the creditors’ meeting. Once your case has been filed, you will begin making monthly or biweekly payments directly to the trustee, who will then pay your creditors. After your 3- to 5-year payment plan is completed, any remaining debt will be discharged.
9) Take a post-filing Debtor Education course.
Once your bankruptcy petition has been filed and you have your case number, you are required to complete a Debtor Education course before you can receive your discharge. The courts want you to learn to manage credit wisely and keep from making the same financial mistakes that lead to repeated bankruptcies, and there are time limits before you can file for bankruptcy a second time. You must send confirmation to the trustee that you have finished your debtor education counseling, or you will not be able to complete the bankruptcy process and have your debts discharged.
Contact Us for Help With How to File for Bankruptcy in Ohio
Because the bankruptcy process is so complicated and mistakes can lead to not having your debts discharged, it makes sense to take advantage of our free consultation offer. If you file without an attorney, you will be required to complete all the steps on your own. Contact the experienced and compassionate Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer for help, information, and support through the entire bankruptcy filing process.
At your initial consultation, we will evaluate your financial situation, discuss your options, and help you decide on the path to a brighter future that makes sense for you.
Delaying can only make your situation worse, so contact us online or call one of our conveniently located offices today.