How Often Can I File for Bankruptcy in Massachusetts?
Bankruptcy is a legal process that allows individuals or businesses to eliminate or repay their debts under the protection of the bankruptcy court. In Massachusetts, bankruptcy is governed by federal law, specifically the Bankruptcy Code. However, there are some state-specific rules and regulations that apply to bankruptcy cases filed in Massachusetts. One of the most common questions people ask when considering bankruptcy is how often they can file.
What Are Some Relevant Laws?
The Bankruptcy Code does not specify a limit on the number of times a person can file for bankruptcy. However, there are some restrictions on when a person can file and receive a discharge of their debts. A discharge is a court order that releases a debtor from personal liability for certain types of debts. In general, a discharge is only available to debtors who have not received a discharge in a previous bankruptcy case within a certain time frame.
Under the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor can receive a discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case once every eight years. Chapter 7 is a type of bankruptcy that allows debtors to eliminate most of their unsecured debts, such as credit card debt and medical bills. In a Chapter 7 case, a trustee is appointed to liquidate the debtor’s non-exempt assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors. However, most debtors do not have any non-exempt assets, so they are able to keep all of their property.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, which is a type of bankruptcy that allows debtors to reorganize their debts and pay them off over a period of three to five years, a debtor can receive a discharge once every two years. In a Chapter 13 case, the debtor proposes a repayment plan that is approved by the court and the creditors. The debtor makes monthly payments to a trustee, who distributes the funds to the creditors according to the plan.
Are There Any Exceptions?
There are some exceptions to the discharge limitations in the Bankruptcy Code. For example, if a debtor received a discharge in a previous bankruptcy case but did not receive a discharge of all of their debts, they may be eligible for a discharge in a subsequent case. Additionally, if a debtor filed for bankruptcy but did not receive a discharge because the case was dismissed for certain reasons, such as fraud or willful failure to obey a court order, they may be able to file a new case and receive a discharge.
Even if a debtor is not eligible for a discharge, they may still be able to file for bankruptcy and receive other benefits, such as the automatic stay. The automatic stay is a court order that stops most collection actions against the debtor, including lawsuits, wage garnishments, and foreclosure proceedings. The automatic stay goes into effect as soon as the bankruptcy case is filed and remains in effect until the case is closed or dismissed.
How Does the Bankruptcy Process Work in Massachusetts?
The bankruptcy process in Massachusetts is similar to the process in other states. The first step is to determine which type of bankruptcy to file. This will depend on the debtor’s income, assets, and debts, as well as their goals for the bankruptcy case. Once the debtor has decided which type of bankruptcy to file, they must complete a bankruptcy petition and other forms and file them with the bankruptcy court.
After the case is filed, the debtor must attend a meeting of creditors, also known as a 341 meeting. At this meeting, the debtor will be questioned under oath by the trustee and any creditors who choose to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the trustee and creditors to ask the debtor questions about their financial situation and the bankruptcy case.
If the debtor filed a Chapter 7 case, the trustee will also review the debtor’s assets to determine if there are any non-exempt assets that can be liquidated to pay creditors. If the debtor filed a Chapter 13 case, the trustee will review the debtor’s proposed repayment plan and make recommendations to the court.
After the meeting of creditors, the debtor must complete any additional requirements of the bankruptcy court, such as attending a financial management course or providing additional documentation. Once all requirements are met, the court will issue a discharge order, if the debtor is eligible.
How Can an Experienced Lawyer Help?
Bankruptcy can be a complex and confusing process, especially for those who are not familiar with the legal system. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help guide debtors through the process and ensure that their rights are protected. A lawyer can also help debtors determine which type of bankruptcy to file, complete the necessary forms and paperwork, and represent them in court if necessary.
In addition, a lawyer can help debtors understand their options for dealing with debt outside of bankruptcy, such as debt settlement or negotiation. A lawyer can also advise debtors on how to rebuild their credit after bankruptcy and avoid future financial problems.
If you are considering bankruptcy in Massachusetts, it is important to consult with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer who can help you understand your options and navigate the legal system. Call Benner Law at (774) 404-8321 for a free case evaluation!