Our firm has handled thousands of bankruptcy cases throughout the State of Georgia for over 25 years, including both personal and business cases from the debtor and creditor side. Robert Gardner heads the firm’s bankruptcy practice, and regularly represents clients in the Atlanta, Gainesville, and Athens division of the bankruptcy court.

What is bankruptcy?

Although the concept of bankruptcy has been around for thousands of years, our current form is handled through the Federal Courts under Title 11 of the United States Code. Bankruptcy under this code is a method by which individuals and companies can eliminate, modify, or dispute personal or business debt. There are several chapters under this code which refer to different types of bankruptcy. Our firm handles all chapters of bankruptcy with the exception of cases under Chapter 9, which deals with municipalities restructuring debt. Chapters relating to our client are as follows:

Chapter 7:

This type of bankruptcy is available to both individuals and companies looking to eliminate, rather than restructure, debt. Individuals at or below the median family income for the area where they live, debts such as credit cards, personal loans, medical bills, and other debts are simply eliminated. While the concept behind a chapter 7 case is that the person’s property can be liquidated by the court to pay some of the debt, most people are able to protect all of their property from this liquidation. Only individuals with large amounts of equity in real estate, expensive cars which are paid off, a large legal claim against another which will result in tens of thousands of dollars, or other high-value assets face the liquidation of property. Therefore, most people looking at filing a chapter 7 will be able to keep all of their property, eliminate debt, and be free of the eliminated creditors forever.

As many people have property they are still making payments on when they file chapter 7, such as a car or house, they can enter into an agreement with the creditor to keep the car or house and continue making the same payment they were before the chapter 7 case was filed. Requirements are that the payments are current when the case is filed, otherwise a restructuring of the debt under a chapter 13 may be a better option.

Median income figures for determining whether an individual qualifies for a chapter 7 are based on the pre-tax household income of that individual, whether or not their spouse is filing with them. However, social security income is not counted toward median income figures. These figures fluctuate every few months, but are generally in the following range:

Members of Household Median Income
1 $39.000 to $42,000
2 $50,000 to $52,000
3 $55,000 to $57,000
4 $65,000 to $68,000
5 $74,000 to $76,000
6 $81,000 to $84,000

Notwithstanding these ranges, some people with slightly higher income can still qualify for chapter 7 if they have vehicle debts, daycare expenses, large deductions from their paychecks, or other out of the ordinary expenses.

Chapter 7 cases typically last for 120 days from the date the case was filed. While the case is pending, the person or couple who are filing should maintain monthly payments on mortgages and cars they wish to keep, but no other payments are made to the creditors being eliminated. Chapter 7 offers protection from any contact by or attempts to collect debt on behalf of all creditors from the date a case is filed, including wage garnishments, bank levies, or pending lawsuits.

Companies are able to file chapter 7 as well as a means of liquidating assets. While this does mean that the business will not longer be able to operate, it can be an effective way for a small business owner who no longer wishes to operate a business to stop harassment by creditors and have the assets liquidated by a third party to pay some or all of the companies debt.

Our firm provides competitive rates and payment plans for all chapter 7 cases, and rates vary depending on the complexity of the case and where it is to be filed. We have always been very flexible with payments, and are generally among the least expensive firms for fees while still maintaining the personal attention every case should be given.

Chapter 11:

Cases under this chapter are available to individuals or companies looking to restructure debt. In the case of individuals with over $1,000,000.00 in secured debt, or $350,000 in unsecured debt, a chapter 13 may not be available as an option, so chapter 11 offers alternatives to allow such individual to restructure debts. Companies are not able to file cases under chapter 13, and often seek relief under chapter 11. These cases can be complex, such as those of General Motors, or much less so depending on the circumstances.

Chapter 12:

This chapter is available to commercial fishermen or farmers who derive most of their income from such operations. Chapter 12 is an effective restructuring method for these individuals, allowing for reductions of mortgages and bank notes to the value of the collateral securing them, preventing foreclosures or repossession of assets and equipment.

Chapter 13:

Often called as a consolidation bankruptcy, Chapter 13 is available to individuals and couples seeking to restructure debt. Filers under this chapter can avoid foreclosures and by using a chapter 13 repayment plan to catch up on delinquent mortgages, reduce debt on cars and other secured loans to the value of the collateral, eliminate second mortgages in many instances, restructure or eliminate tax and other debts. What filers are able to reduce or eliminate depends on their income, the value of their assets, whether they have filed previous bankruptcy cases, and the amount of secured debt.

Chapter 13 cases involve the filing of a bankruptcy plan, which is a roadmap for a repayment plan over a 36 to 60 month period. The amount to be paid into the plan for this time period is based on what the filer is able to pay, and often leads to a lower monthly payment that what the filer was paying before they filed bankruptcy, through the reduction in principal, lowering or interest rates, and the elimination of credit cards an other unsecured debt.

Fees in a chapter 13 case are also paid over time through the bankruptcy plan, allowing the case to be filed for very little down. Our firm takes pride in our success rate in chapter 13 cases, which is the result of careful attention to all aspects of the case both before and during the process.

How we do things and Hicks, Massey & Gardner, LLP:

All of our cases are handled by attorneys within our firm, and you will get to know the attorney handling your case personally. All cases are filed by Mr. Gardner personally, who is responsible for the case from start to finish. We ensure that our clients understand the entire process of a case, how it works, what problems to avoid, what actions you need to take and why, and how to help us help you. We work with you as a team to make sure that the relief you are entitled to is exactly what you get. A very high percentage of our clients are referred by prior or existing clients, which tells us that the way we handle the process is the right way and that our clients are satisfied with that way.