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Maryland Bankruptcy FAQs

At the Law Offices of Scott D. Arnopol in Landover, Maryland, you will find an experienced bankruptcy lawyer who can provide answers to your most complex questions. Call our law firm at 301-850-0065 or toll free at 866-618-2301, or fill out the contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Bankruptcy FAQ

Creditors and Credit

Keeping Your Home and Other Assets

Discharging Specific Debts

Other Questions

Does a bankruptcy relieve me of all my debt?

The policy of bankruptcy law is that the honest debtor who is in debt beyond its ability to repay its debts should receive a fresh start.

However, some debts must still be paid. Generally speaking, the following debts will not be discharged: taxes; spousal and child support; debts arising out of willful misconduct and/or malicious misconduct by the debtor; liability for injury or death from driving while intoxicated; non-dischargeable debts from a prior bankruptcy; student loans; criminal fines and penalties; and forfeitures.

Secured debts generally must be paid if the debtor intends to retain the collateral securing the debt. If they are not paid, the creditor will usually take the necessary legal steps to recover the property.

What happens after I file a bankruptcy petition?

The bankruptcy court will mail to each of your creditors a notice of commencement of case, informing them that you have filed the petition and advising them of the date of the first meeting of creditors.

About 30 to 40 days after filing the bankruptcy petition, you will be required to attend a hearing presided over by a bankruptcy trustee. This hearing is called the first meeting of creditors. The trustee is not a judge, but an individual appointed by the United States Trustee to oversee bankruptcy cases. At the first meeting of creditors, the trustee will ask you questions under oath regarding the content of your bankruptcy papers, your assets, debts and other aspects of your financial situation.

In an ordinary Chapter 7 proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court will automatically grant an order of discharge 60 to 75 days after the first meeting of creditors. In a Chapter 13 proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court will enter an order confirming your Chapter 13 plan once you meet all the requirements. In a Chapter 13 proceeding you receive your discharge upon completion of the Chapter 13 plan.

Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

Individuals may file a bankruptcy petition without an attorney. This is called appearing pro se. Keep in mind that the Bankruptcy Code is very complex, and filing a bankruptcy petition requires a thorough knowledge of the Bankruptcy Code and other laws

Who can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition?

Almost any individual, partnership or corporation may file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition if he or she resides, has a domicile, a place of business or property in the United States. If you filed a prior bankruptcy petition and the prior proceeding was dismissed within the last 180 days, you may not be able to file a second petition.

If you were granted a Chapter 7 discharge in a prior case within the last eight years or completed a Chapter 13 plan in a prior case, you might not be entitled to receive a discharge in bankruptcy and probably are not a candidate for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. This rule does have some exceptions.

Who can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition?

Individuals may file chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions if they:

  1. Reside, have a domicile, a place of business or property in the United States
  2. Have a source of regular income
  3. On the date the petition is filed owe less than $360,475 in non-contingent, liquidated, unsecured debts and less than $1,081,400 in non-contingent, liquidated, secured debts.

Corporations and partnerships may not file Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions.

If you filed a prior bankruptcy petition and the prior proceeding was dismissed within the last 180 days, you may not be able to file a second petition.

What should I do to prepare for filing bankruptcy?

First, you should consult with an attorney. An attorney can help you plan for the bankruptcy, decide when to file a bankruptcy petition, or even avoid filing for bankruptcy. A few specific items are worth mentioning.

  1. If you intend to file bankruptcy, you should stop using your credit cards. If you borrow money with the specific intent of discharging the debt in bankruptcy instead of paying it back, the debt is not dischargeable. In addition, (a) certain luxury purchases over $1,075 within 60 days of the bankruptcy filing are presumed non-dischargeable; (b) cash advances aggregating $1,075 taken within 60 days of the bankruptcy filing are presumed non-dischargeable; and, (c) debts involving materially false financial statements are non-dischargeable under certain circumstances.
  2. Don't transfer your assets to friends, family and business associates to protect the assets from your creditors. The transfer may be considered a fraudulent conveyance. If it is, you may lose both the property and your right to a bankruptcy discharge.
  3. Don't destroy any business or financial records. You can lose your right to a bankruptcy discharge as a result.
  4. Carefully choose the creditors you pay. Some creditors, such as landlords, secured creditors and some utilities should be paid under most circumstances. If you pay a credit card debt that eventually will be discharged, you may be throwing money away. We can advise you on what debts should and should not be paid while you prepare to file a bankruptcy petition.

Who notifies my creditors and deals with them during the bankruptcy?

We will deal with your creditors once we undertake your representation. After the bankruptcy petition is filed, the court mails a notice to all the creditors listed in the schedules. This usually takes a couple of weeks.

How long after filing will the creditors stop calling?

Once a creditor becomes aware of a filing for bankruptcy protection, it must immediately stop all collection efforts. After you file the bankruptcy petition, the court mails a notice to all the creditors listed in your bankruptcy schedules. This usually takes a couple of weeks.

Creditors will also stop calling if you inform them that you filed the bankruptcy petition, and supply them with your case number. In urgent cases, we will contact the creditor immediately upon filing the bankruptcy petition, especially if a lawsuit is pending. If a creditor continues to use collection tactics once informed of the bankruptcy, it may be liable for court sanctions and attorney fees for this conduct.

Can I file bankruptcy to delay a creditor?

The Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure require you or your attorney to certify that your petition is not filed "for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay." Bankruptcy is intended as a tool for dealing with debts that cannot otherwise be paid. You should not file a bankruptcy petition for the sole reason of delaying a creditor's actions.

What if I do not list a creditor on the bankruptcy papers?

You are required to list all creditors. If you intentionally omit a creditor from your schedules, it is perjury, and you may lose your bankruptcy discharge. However, if a creditor is not known to exist at the time the schedules are filed, you may amend your schedules at any time the case is open to add an additional creditor.

How can I re-establish credit or gain new credit after bankruptcy?

You may be able to obtain a secured credit card, where the credit limit is based upon the amount of security given, or obtain credit using a co-signer not long after your case is discharged.

The decision of whether to extend you new credit belongs to each particular lender. However, the fact that you filed bankruptcy, if properly explained, can be less damaging than a history of unpaid accounts.

Will the fact that I filed bankruptcy appear on credit reports?

The bankruptcy will be listed in credit reports for a period of up to 10 years.

What is the "automatic stay?"

At the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed, your creditors are automatically restrained from taking any action to collect the debts owed them. There are some exceptions; for example, a bankruptcy petition does not stay the commencement or continuation of a criminal action, an action to collect spousal support, or an action to enforce a government's police or regulatory power.

Can I keep any credit cards?

Under some circumstances you may be able to keep some credit cards if the creditor agrees. There are many factors that must be considered, including the credit card balance at the time of the bankruptcy, what terms the credit card company is willing to accept, and your ability to pay the present and future credit card debt.

Do I have to disclose all of my assets?

Yes. If you knowingly and fraudulently conceal an asset from the court, you have committed a felony and can be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to five years or both. In addition, the court can deny you your discharge, or it can dismiss or convert your bankruptcy proceeding.

Are pension plans and 401(k) plans exempt?

The United States Supreme Court has held that pension plans, 401(k) plans and other ERISA-qualified plans are generally excluded from the bankruptcy estate.

Can I keep my home and automobile?

In many cases you can retain your home and automobile in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. You will keep your home or automobile in a Chapter 7 if: (1) you are current in making payments on a loan secured by the home or automobile; and (2) the home or automobile does not have equity (a liquidation value in excess of the amount owed to creditors with liens against the property) in excess of what you are allowed to exempt. In the event you want to keep your home or automobile, you must continue to make payments after your petition is filed.

If you are in arrears on your home or automobile, you can consider filing a Chapter 13 petition, which allows you to develop a plan for repaying your creditors without necessarily liquidating assets.

What happens to my personal property, real property and other assets?

All of the property you own at the time of the bankruptcy filing, and your right to receive property in the future, become the property of the bankruptcy estate. This means that the bankruptcy trustee may take control of this property and liquidate it to satisfy your creditors.

Certain property is exempt and you will be able to keep that property. Often, all of your assets can be protected. Exactly what property is protected depends on the exemption laws in the state in which you reside. Determining what property is exempt requires a complete understanding of the laws governing residency exemption laws of the state of your residence.

Will bankruptcy stop an eviction?

It may delay it, but the owner is entitled to possession of the property and will be able to resume eviction proceedings with court approval or after the discharge. Filing a Chapter 7 solely to avoid an eviction might be considered an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code. If the Bankruptcy Court finds that this is true, then the court can immediately dismiss the bankruptcy and impose other legal and monetary sanctions on you.

Will bankruptcy stop a foreclosure?

Temporarily, yes. However, the lender is entitled to seek for relief from the automatic stay to allow it to continue foreclosure proceedings. Usually, to keep a home that is in foreclosure, the debtor will have to reach an agreement with the lender and resume making payments. A Chapter 13 can be helpful in accomplishing this if the creditor is not willing to voluntarily work out an agreement.

C an I discharge student loans?

Generally, student loans are not discharged in bankruptcy.

W ill a bankruptcy remove a lien?

Certain liens may be removed, but this requires a motion to be filed with the Bankruptcy Court. The procedures are complex and are best done with an attorney.

Is spousal support dischargeable?

Spousal support and child support payments generally are not dischargeable. Certain other dissolution-related obligations, such as payments to others, hold of harmless provisions and property settlement obligations, are not dischargeable if the debtor has the ability to pay them and the detriment to the spouse outweighs the benefit of the discharge to the debtor.

If I co-signed for a debt, does bankruptcy affect the obligation?

If the debt is a dischargeable debt then you will not have to pay it. Your co-signer will become primarily responsible for the debt. If you file a Chapter 13 petition, a special automatic stay protects certain co-signers during the bankruptcy proceeding.

Will I be required to go to court?

About 30 to 40 days after filing the bankruptcy petition, you will have to attend a hearing presided over by a bankruptcy trustee. This hearing is called the first meeting of creditors. The trustee is not a judge, but an individual appointed by the United States Trustee to oversee bankruptcy cases. At the first meeting of creditors, the trustee will ask you questions under oath regarding the content of your bankruptcy papers, your assets, debts and other matters. Creditors will also be permitted to ask you questions, although in the majority of cases creditors do not ask questions at the first meeting of creditors. If we are retained to represent you, one of our attorneys will appear at the first meeting of creditors with you.

After the initial meeting, you normally do not need to return to court. However, if a creditor or the trustee files a motion or an adversary action, you may have to appear in court.

Will my employer or landlord find out about my bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy petitions are public records. However, under normal circumstances, unless your employer or landlord is a creditor, it will not know you filed a bankruptcy petition. If your employer or landlord is a creditor, it must be listed as a creditor on the schedules and will receive notice of the bankruptcy proceeding.

Can my employer fire me for filing bankruptcy?

No. The law prohibits government units and private employers from discriminating against you because you filed a bankruptcy petition or because you failed to pay a dischargeable debt.

Does the spouse of a married person also have to file bankruptcy?

No. In some cases where only one spouse has debts, or one spouse has debts that are not dischargeable, it might be advisable to have only one spouse file.

Can I go to jail if I file bankruptcy or don't pay my debts?

No. There are no debtor's prisons in the United States.

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Law Offices of Scott D. Arnopol
8181 Professional Place Suite 170
Landover, MD 20785-2260
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Phone 301-850-0065
Toll Free 866-618-2301
Fax 202-318-1404