In Atlanta, Georgia, bankruptcy is a court procedure in which a person or business has some or all of their debts cleared (or "discharged"), theoretically allowing them to begin with a clean slate, and move on with their lives no longer drowning in debt (and hopefully having learned to better manage their use of credit in the process). However, bankruptcy should not be treated as a way to avoid debt that one simply doesn't feel like paying. It is meant to be a safety net for people or businesses who are honestly unable to pay off their debts. Because bankruptcy is not without negative consequences (such as a heavily damaged credit rating for many years afterward), it should be viewed as an option of last resort.
Accordingly, it might be a good idea to consult with an Atlanta, Georgia bankruptcy attorney. Your lawyer will be able to counsel you about your options, including alternatives to bankruptcy, if such alternatives exist in your case. Whatever the result, it is often hard to predict the long-term consequences of any bankruptcy-related decisions, so the advice of a bankruptcy in Atlanta could prove invaluable.
Types of Bankruptcy in Atlanta, Georgia
There are 3 bankruptcy options that are typically used in Atlanta: Chapter 7, Chapter 13, and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, so the procedures in Atlanta, Georgia are very similar to what they will be anywhere else in the United States. Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires the debtor to liquidate some of his or her assets in order to pay off as much debt as possible. Once the sale of the assets is verified, and the proceeds handed over to the creditors, the debt is perceived as discharged. Liquidation is basically selling assets to the highest bidder. Not all of the debtor's assets will need to be sold, and many types of property are completely or partially exempt, including homes, cars, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. This means that the debtor can keep them. It should be noted that some types of debts are not dischargeable in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, including student loans, criminal fines, taxes, and child support payments. Even when the bankruptcy process is complete, these debts will have to be paid in full.
The other form of bankruptcy most often used in Atlanta is Chapter 13. It allows a person to pay off their debt over a prolonged period of time, often consolidating it into one periodic payment. In this system, the amount of money the debtor owes is not actually reduced, but the payment of the debt is made far more manageable. This gives the debtor some breathing room, allowing him to continue to earn a living while slowly paying down his debts, and gives some security to creditors that they will eventually collect all or most of what they're owed. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is usually used by businesses, though it can be used by individuals (which is quite rare). Chapter 11 bankruptcy requires that the debtor come up with a reorganization plan - basically telling the court how they propose to cut costs, streamline their operations, and pay their debts. This plan must be authorized by the participating creditors through a simple majority vote.
A major advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that businesses can continue their operating while going through the process. Also, they can continue to buy and sell their stock.
How Can a Atlanta Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
Filing for bankruptcy in Atlanta is a very important decision, and should not be made easily. Before filing, one should consult with a seasoned Atlanta bankruptcy attorney for help.