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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a discharge?
A bankruptcy discharge releases the debtor from personal liability for certain specified types of debts. The debtor is no longer legally required to pay any debts that are discharged. The discharge is a permanent order prohibiting the creditors of the debtor from taking any form of collection action on discharged debts. The bankruptcy discharge varies depending on the type of case a debtor files: chapter 7, 11, 12, or 13. There are some debts that generally cannot be eliminated such as student loans, domestic support obligations, child support and alimony and some taxes. Click here for FAQs about the Discharge in Bankruptcy.
When will I get my discharge?
The timing of the discharge varies. In a chapter 7 (liquidation) case, for example, the court usually grants the discharge promptly on expiration of the time fixed for filing a complaint objecting to discharge and the time fixed for filing a motion to dismiss the case for substantial abuse (60 days following the first date set for the 341 meeting). Typically, this occurs about four months after the date the debtor files the petition with the clerk of the bankruptcy court.
In individual chapter 11 cases, and in cases under chapter 12 (adjustment of debts of a family farmer or fisherman) and 13 (adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income), the court generally grants the discharge as soon as practicable after the debtor completes all payments under the plan. Since a chapter 12 or chapter 13 plan may provide for payments to be made over three to five years, the discharge typically occurs about four years after the date of filing. The court may deny an individual debtor's discharge in a chapter 7 or 13 case if the debtor fails to complete "an instructional course concerning financial management." The Bankruptcy Code provides limited exceptions to the "financial management" requirement if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator determines there are inadequate educational programs available, or if the debtor is disabled or incapacitated or on active military duty in a combat zone.
What is a proof of claim?
A proof of claim is the form that a creditor must file before getting paid in a bankruptcy case. The proof of claim tells the trustee the type of claim as well as how much a creditor is owed. The electronic proof of claim [EPOC] along with instructions are available at our website.
What are claim objections?
Debtors may object to any claim filed in their bankruptcy case if they believe the debt is not owed or if they believe the claim misrepresents the amount or kind of debt (e.g., secured or priority) that they owe. A debtor who anticipates objecting to a claim should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible since the objection process can be complicated and time sensitive.
What are exemptions?
In accordance with 11 U.S.C. § 522(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, certain states, including Georgia, allow an individual debtor to exempt real, personal, and intangible property from the property of the debtor's estate. Exempt assets are protected by state law from liquidation and distribution to your creditors. The exemptions allowed under Georgia state law are listed in § 44-13-100 of the Georgia Code. Under bankruptcy law, you are entitled to list the assets set forth in section § 44-13-100 of the Georgia Code as exempt.
Deciding which assets are exempt and how and if you can protect these assets from your creditors can be one of the more important and difficult aspects of your bankruptcy case.
Although you may be discharged from further personal responsibility for certain debt, after you receive your discharge a creditor will still have a lien or security interest in your secured property. Under 11 U.S.C. § 522(f) of the Bankruptcy Code, however, you may file a motion with the Court for an order avoiding certain kinds of liens or security interests in various property.
What is a Reaffirmation Agreement?
A Reaffirmation Agreement is an agreement by a chapter 7 debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt (such as an auto loan) after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral (i.e. the car) that would otherwise be subject to repossession.
You are not required to reaffirm a debt by any law.
To better educate pro se debtors about Reaffirmation Agreements, the Bankruptcy Section of the Atlanta Bar Association in collaboration with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, developed a program that provides free counseling to unrepresented debtors seeking to enter into Reaffirmation Agreements in cases filed in the Atlanta Division. Once a month, in the Atlanta Division, attorneys donate their time to meet with debtors who are unable to afford an attorney. The attorneys review the terms of any proposed Reaffirmation Agreement. This service is free and although the volunteer attorney does not represent you, the attorney can help you understand the legal, financial, and personal consequences of a decision to reaffirm a debt. Information about the Reaffirmation Project is available at the Court's website.
What is a redemption?
A debtor may redeem exempt or abandoned property from a lien by paying the lienholder the fair market value of the property that secures such lien. Redemption must be a cash transaction, unless the creditor consents to a payout over time. There are some lenders that specialize in lending funds to debtors to accomplish a redemption, but those lenders generally require that the debtor is represented by an attorney.
How do I change or correct information in the petition, schedules, and statements that I have already filed with the Clerk’s Office?
Once you correct the document, you can file the amended document with the court. Be aware when you file an amended document there are requirements regarding service. The Clerk’s Office is prohibited from providing legal advice per 28 U.S.C. § 955, we cannot assist you with this requirement.
The Fee Table, adopted September 1, 2018, directs that a fee of $31.00 be charged for an amendment to Schedules D, E, and F, or the List of Creditors, after notice has been provided to creditors. The fee is charged for adding creditors, deleting creditors, changing the amount specified as being owed to a creditor, or changing the classification of a debt.
How do I know if a debt is secured, unsecured, priority or administrative so I can fill out my schedules correctly?
A secured debt is backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans, and tax liens.
A debt is unsecured if you have simply promised to pay someone a sum of money at a time, and you have pledged no real or personal property to collateralize that debt. Most credit card debt is unsecured.
A priority debt is a debt entitled to priority in payment, ahead of most other debts, in a bankruptcy case. A listing of priority debts is given, in general terms, in 11 U.S.C. § 507 of the Bankruptcy Code. Examples of priority debts are some taxes, wage claims of employees, debts related to goods and services provided to a debtor's estate during the pendency of a bankruptcy case, and alimony, maintenance or support of a spouse, former spouse, or child. If you have questions deciding which of your debts are entitled to priority status, you should consult an attorney.
An administrative debt is also a priority debt and is one created when someone provides goods or services to your bankruptcy estate. The best example of an administrative debt is the fee generated by an attorney or other authorized professional in representing the bankruptcy estate.
How do I remove the bankruptcy from my credit report?
The Bankruptcy Court has no jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies. You must resolve any dispute you have with a credit agency or your credit report directly with that agency. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 6 U.S.C. § 605, is the law that controls credit reporting agencies.
You may contact the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Education Division, Washington, D.C. 20580. The telephone number is 202-326-2222. That office can provide further information on reestablishing credit and addressing credit problems. For information on credit practices, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Financial Practices in Washington, DC at 202-326-3224.