Bankruptcy is a system of federal law, so the process to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is nearly identical in every state, including Florida However, Florida state law still plays an important role, especially when it comes to property exemptions, which determine what property you get to keep (if you file for Chapter 7) and how much you have to repay your creditors (if you file for Chapter 13). There are also important resources available to you by state.
Florida Credit Counseling
Before you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Florida, you will have to complete mandatory credit counseling with an agency that’s been approved by the United States Trustee’s Office. Here’s a list of agencies that have been approved to provide this counseling in Florida.
Where to File for Bankruptcy in Florida
Florida has three bankruptcy court districts. You can find information on forms, local rules, and more at each district’s website:
- The Northern District (with courthouses in Pensacola and Tallahassee)
- The Middle District (with courthouses in Fort Meyers, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa)
- The Southern District (with courthouses in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach)
Like every other state, Florida has its own set of property exemptions. (To learn more about how property exemptions work generally and which exemptions you may use, see Bankruptcy Exemptions: What Do I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?)
Some states allow bankruptcy filers to choose between the state’s list of exemptions and a federal list, but Florida is not among them.
Florida is among the most generous states when it comes to the homestead exemption: Florida homeowners may exempt all of their equity in a home, as long as the property doesn’t exceed half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere. Florida filers may also exempt up to $1,000 of equity in a vehicle. Here’s a list of Florida exemptions.
The Means Test
When you file for bankruptcy, you must compare your income to the median Florida income for a household of your size. If your income is less than the Florida state median, you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7 and, if you choose to file for Chapter 13, you can use a three-year repayment plan (rather than five years).
Currently, the median income in Florida for a one-person household is just over $40,500; these figures change periodically. You can find the most recent amounts on the website of the U.S. Trustee at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Bankruptcy Reform,” and then “Means Testing Information.” Or go directly to the Census Bureau table here.
After you file for bankruptcy but before you receive your discharge, you must take a debtor education course. Like the mandatory credit counseling you must take before filing your forms, you must receive debtor education from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee’s Office. Here’s a list of agencies that are approved to provide this counseling in Florida.
Finding a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you're considering bankruptcy, you may want to talk to an experienced Florida bankruptcy lawyer.