Lehigh County, PA Bankruptcy Lawyer
Filing for bankruptcy gives petitioners the power to erase their debts, banish their creditors, rebuild their credit, and protect their assets and property. Over the years, consumer bankruptcy has helped millions of Pennsylvanians triumph over financial hardship and restore personal independence to their lives. Reports from Epiq Systems say that in 2013, over one million Americans nationwide filed for bankruptcy. According to statistics released by the United States Bankruptcy Courts, in 2013, roughly 11,450 consumer bankruptcies were filed in eastern Pennsylvania. Filings were broken down by:
- 6,693 Chapter 7 cases (approximately 58%)
- 4,744 Chapter 13 cases (approximately 41%)
Bankruptcy is not only widespread across eastern Pennsylvania, but across Lehigh County. According to case filing statistics for fiscal years 2007-2014 as reported by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lehigh County saw a total of:
- 1,005 cases in 2013
- 966 cases in 2012
- 1,147 cases in 2011
However, filing for bankruptcy without first retaining an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to assist you is never advisable. The state and federal codes which govern U.S. and Pennsylvania bankruptcy law are extremely technical, as are the numerous forms and court procedures which accompany consumer bankruptcy cases. On the official website of the United States Courts, debtors are strongly and repeatedly urged against pursuing consumer bankruptcy without the assistance of a qualified attorney:
“Debtors are strongly encouraged to obtain the services of competent legal counsel.”
“While individuals can file a bankruptcy case without an attorney or ‘pro se,’ it is extremely difficult to do it successfully.”
“Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences — hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.”
Why Do I Need a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
Filing for consumer bankruptcy without the help of an experienced Pennsylvania bankruptcy lawyer can be disastrous. If a debtor omits a creditor, misses a deadline, incorrectly calculates or classifies a debt or exemption, or forgets to submit a single form, the outcome of their case could be damaged or even ruined.
Successfully filing for consumer bankruptcy on a pro se basis is next to impossible, but with the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorneys at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates representing your case, you’re in capable hands. Our bankruptcy lawyers have been handling Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy cases in Lehigh County for over 20 years. In more than two decades practicing bankruptcy law, our attorneys have filed over 5,000 cases for clients in Allentown, Wilbur, Emmaus, Fullerton, Coopersburg, Dorneyville, Macungie, Mountainville, and other Lehigh County communities.
Filing for Bankruptcy in Lehigh County, PA
Each state has its own rules when it comes to filing for consumer bankruptcy, in addition to the federal regulations imposed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Many petitioners are inexperienced with the world of bankruptcy, and are unsure of what to expect as the process begins.
Before you can even file for bankruptcy, you will need to satisfy Pennsylvania’s credit counseling requirement. There are two mandatory points to credit counseling:
- The credit counseling must come specifically from an agency which has been approved by the Bankruptcy Administrator.
- The credit counseling must be completed within six months of the time you plan on filing for bankruptcy.
You can take credit counseling over the phone, or even over the internet.
After credit counseling, you must determine which type of bankruptcy to file for through Means Testing. Means Testing calculates your median income with other factors, like your cost of living and the cost of your debts, in order to determine which type of bankruptcy is appropriate for your financial resources. Ultimately, you will either be filing for Chapter 7, or Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania
Chapter 7 bankruptcies typically take four to six months to complete. Chapter 7 bankruptcies are also called liquidation plans, because the bankruptcy trustee may sell some of the debtor’s property to satisfy debts. Chapter 7 bankruptcies eliminate most debts, and are granted based on financial need.
Chapter 13 bankruptcies are slower and take more time than their Chapter 7 counterparts, averaging three to five years for completion. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are also referred to as reorganization plans, because debtors arrange a long-term repayment plan with their creditors. However, like Chapter 7, Chapter 13 eliminates the majority of common debts.
Types of Debt That Can Be Eliminated by Filing for Bankruptcy
Debts which are normally dischargeable in Pennsylvania consumer bankruptcies include:
- Medical bills
- Utility bills
- Credit card debt
- Personal loans
- Business loans
- Social Security overpayments
Debts which are generally nondischargeable, regardless of the type of bankruptcy, include:
- Student loans
- Alimony payments
- Child support payments
- Fraudulent debts
- Financial penalties for DUI resulting in personal injury
When you file for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you will need to complete and submit multiple documents to your jurisdiction’s bankruptcy court, including but not limited to:
- Voluntary Petition for Bankruptcy
- Various Schedules (e.g. Schedule A lists your real property, Schedule B lists your personal property, etc.)
- Declaration Concerning Debtors’ Schedules
- Statement of Financial Affairs
Furthermore, you must choose whether to abide by Pennsylvania’s exemptions, or the federal exemptions. You cannot blend both — you must pick one and consistently stick to its rules. Depending on factors like how much income you earn, your insurance policy, and your marital status, one set of exemptions may be slightly (or drastically) more advantageous than the other. Which set of exemptions to claim is not always obvious, but an experienced Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney who is familiar with the intricate details of state and federal bankruptcy code can help you choose to your benefit.
Call Our Lehigh County Bankruptcy Attorneys Today
Evaluating the available options for bankruptcy exemptions is just one of many ways the knowledgeable Lehigh County consumer bankruptcy lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can assist you bring your case to a favorable conclusion. We can help file your paperwork, protect your assets, field your creditors, delay or prevent foreclosures and repossessions, and more. To speak with an experienced Pennsylvania bankruptcy attorney, call us today at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online.