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Georgia Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy in Georgia

Bankruptcy in Georgia is a court proceeding authorized by federal laws that helps individuals, companies, and other entities restructure, reduce, repay, or discharge debts using different methods provided in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and in line with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. Private persons, spouses, celebrities, businesses, and municipalities may file bankruptcy when they are unable to pay debts and creditors are taking action to reclaim property or receive payment.

Obtaining Bankruptcy Records

Georgia bankruptcy records are maintained in case files stored at the courthouse where the case was heard or at the National Archives. Case records are identified by case numbers, petitioners' names, and filing dates. Any person trying to locate a bankruptcy case must have any or all of this information to facilitate a record search. Federal courts preside over bankruptcy cases in Georgia, and entities may begin the process by filing a petition at the appropriate U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the state.

What are Georgia Bankruptcy Records?

Georgia bankruptcy records are court documents that contain the financial and personal information of individuals or businesses that file for bankruptcy in Georgia. The information contained in these documents includes gross incomes, income sources, assets, real properties, investments, and creditor details.

All bankruptcy actions are regulated by the Bankruptcy Code and subsequent amendments, and bankruptcy cases are heard in the Federal Courts. There are three bankruptcy courts in Georgia, each with different jurisdictions:

Records maintained by the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts of Georgia can be accessed electronically with the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (MCVCIS, Public Access to Court Electronic Records PACER), or third-party websites. These records are also available at the public access terminals in the Court Clerk's office.

What Do Georgia Bankruptcy Records Contain?

A Georgia bankruptcy record will generally have the information listed below:

  • Case number
  • Principal party's (petitioner) Name
  • Date of filing
  • Chapter of filing
  • Filing type (voluntary or involuntary)
  • Attorney contact information
  • Name of the assigned judge and bankruptcy trustee
  • 341 meeting details
  • Lists of assets and creditors
  • The dates of case discharge and closing
  • Case status and disposition

Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information?

In Georgia, a bankruptcy case is public information and, for the most part, can be accessed by the general public. Individuals interested in retrieving bankruptcy records can do so by petitioning the Clerk of the Court where the case was heard or by accessing PACER online. Bankruptcy cases are regulated by federal rules and regulations, to which all U.S. states adhere. However, Georgia does not allow bankruptcy petitioners to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Bankruptcy records stop being public information if a judge seals the case.

In addition to government sources, record seekers may be able to obtain bankruptcy records from third-party websites. These non-governmental websites often come with tools that help simplify the search for single or multiple records. However, record availability on third-party sites tends to vary because they’re independent of government sources. To obtain bankruptcy case information using third-party sites, record seekers may need to provide:

  • A complete name of the debtor involved in the record
  • A bankruptcy case number

How to Get Georgia Bankruptcy Records?

An interested party can obtain Georgia bankruptcy records through the following means:

  • Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER): PACER is an electronic public access service that enables users to search and retrieve case or docket information from the federal courts. The service requires users to register and pay certain fees to access records.
  • Multi-Court Voice Case Information Service (McVCIS): McVCIS is an automated toll-free telephone service instituted by the federal judiciary to provide case information to callers. The information provided will include debtor names, case numbers, judges, filing dates, filing chapters, asset or no asset designations, attorneys, trustees, and current case status. The service can be accessed with any touch-tone telephone and is always available unless the system is undergoing maintenance. To use the service, dial (866) 222-8029 and follow the voice prompts.
  • Clerk's Office: Bankruptcy records can be retrieved or viewed using the public access terminals available in the Court Clerk's office. Hard copies of records are only available in the particular divisional office where the case was filed, and a request must be submitted to the Clerk to obtain records. Printed copies of records from the public access terminals cost $0.10 per page, and photocopies of records requested from the Clerk's Office cost $0.50 per page. Certification of bankruptcy records costs $11 for each document.
  • National Archives: Archived bankruptcy records for the State of Georgia are stored by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Copies of archived bankruptcy records can be ordered directly from NARA or through the Court.

How Do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Georgia?

A bankruptcy case is closed when the judge issues a closing order. A "closing order" is different from a "discharge order" and is only issued when the judge is satisfied that all the case obligations have been met. Usually, a notice of this order is sent to the petitioner's attorney. If there is no lawyer, it will be sent directly to the petitioner.

However, the status of a bankruptcy case can also be retrieved using PACER. The Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system of the Bankruptcy Court, where the case was filed, can also be used to determine if a bankruptcy case has been closed. Individuals can also ascertain the status of a bankruptcy case by using MCVCIS.

Can a Bankruptcy Be Expunged in Georgia?

The Bankruptcy Code does not outrightly permit the expungement or removal of bankruptcy records. As such, bankruptcy records can neither be expunged nor removed from the public record in Georgia. Records are only restricted from public access if a judge sealed the records after disposition. Bankruptcy records are useful in identifying when the same debtor files another petition.

What is the Downside of Filing for Bankruptcy in Georgia?

A common disadvantage of filing for bankruptcy is that the bankruptcy will reflect on the debtor’s credit report for years and reduce credit scores. A bankruptcy may last for seven to ten (10) years depending on the bankruptcy type, whereas the impact of the filing on credit score depends on the debtor’s initial score. For instance, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may last up to seven years on a report, and the debtor’s score may fall from 680 points to 520 points (150 points lost). As a result, the debtor may find it hard to get credit cards, loans, mortgages, or tax refunds, and if the individual or company should get any, it would have a high interest rate.

Additionally, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will lead to the loss of assets and properties such as vacation homes, cars, jewelry, investments, and other nonexempt valuables. Conversely, filing other types of bankruptcy that have to do with reorganizing debts and paying debts systematically may lead to stricter budgets and a changed lifestyle. A company may also face restrictions in its operations or lose control if the court deems the business grossly mismanaged.

Lastly, an individual or business may encounter the following challenges:

  • Frozen accounts and canceled credit cards
  • An individual may find problems getting managerial or money-handling jobs, especially as a director for a limited liability company
  • Difficulty in getting business investments
  • Some landlords may look unfavorably on recent bankruptcies
  • The stress of dealing with bankruptcy and other legal actions not covered by the automatic stay
  • Limitations in filing another bankruptcy

Despite all these, the benefits of filing bankruptcy cannot be overlooked, especially in terms of providing relief from financial distress although the process can sometimes be complicated.

What is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Georgia is a case filed under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. With reorganization as its key focus, this chapter allows corporations, sole proprietors, partners, and small businesses to maintain operations and repay debts by restructuring debts and following a payment plan. Individuals, athletes, and celebrities can also file this bankruptcy for reorganizing real estate investments or to reorganize secured and unsecured debts that are too high to qualify for Chapter 13 relief.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy process begins once a debtor or creditor files a petition at the appropriate Bankruptcy Court in Georgia. This is known as a voluntary or involuntary petition, and can be done by anyone excluding:

  • Commodity and stockbrokers
  • Persons who had a bankruptcy petition dismissed within 180 days of the second filing
  • Individuals who did not finish a credit counseling course within 180 days of filing

Immediately after filing the petition, an automatic stay takes effect and the debtor no longer has to deal with creditors individually. An automatic stay is a provision under Section 362 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that halts creditors from carrying out or continuing debt collection actions. Hence, it suspends activities like evictions, foreclosures, repossession, lawsuits, wage garnishment, and phone calls or letters from creditors.

However, in some cases, the creditor may request a court order to lift the ban so that the creditor can carry out or complete certain collection activities. For instance, selling a secured asset that is not crucial for effective debt reorganization. Furthermore, the automatic stay may not halt certain activities like criminal proceedings, domestic proceedings, medical obligations, tax obligations, and so on.

The debtor has about 120 days to file a reorganization plan but this may be shortened or lengthened to 300 days or 18 months. The plan may contain:

  • List of debts or creditors classified as the priority, secured, unsecured, with the number of claims under each category
  • List of non-profitable assets that can be liquidated
  • Determinants on which debts will be paid in full or percentage amount
  • Renegotiation of terms like interest rates and amortization length
  • Payment methods, for instance, regular monthly payments
  • Guidelines on how the business will operate while implementing the plan (may include expense reduction plans)

The debtor shall also file a disclosure statement – a document that provides information on the debtor’s liabilities and assets. The statement must contain an adequate summary of the debtor’s affairs to enable creditors to make an educated decision regarding the restructuring plan. After filing this, creditors whose claims were modified or who will not be paid in full shall vote by ballot and the court shall approve the plan if deemed fair and non-discriminatory. Next, the court will hold a hearing to confirm the plan.

Upon confirmation, the court is responsible for monitoring the debtor-in-possession or appointing a bankruptcy trustee in cases of fraud or gross mismanagement.

Note: Chapter 11 bankruptcy can last up to 10 years on a credit report

What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a bankruptcy process that involves the liquidation of assets to repay debts. Also known as liquidation bankruptcy, Chapter 7 is a common bankruptcy procedure that is used by corporations, individuals, and small businesses that choose not to maintain the business/assets or that cannot make periodic payments. It is also an option for people who want to get rid of unsecured debts and those who did not qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Due to the absence of reorganization, the filing process for this form of bankruptcy is less complicated and can be completed within four or five months. First, the debtor should take a means test, which is used to keep high-income earners who fall within the Chapter 13 debt limit from using Chapter 7 to get rid of debts.

Next, qualified debtors need to undergo credit counseling online or in-person at approved agencies and obtain a certificate. Then, debtors should file the prepared bankruptcy form and supporting documents within 180 days of taking the course. Any period later than this and the debtor may be ineligible for court filing.

Upon filing a petition, an automatic stay order takes immediate effect, suspending collection activities unless the court lifts the stay. Typically, the debtor shall attend a 341 hearing or meeting of the creditors about 30 to 45 days after filing the bankruptcy petition. This involves meeting the appointed trustee and creditors who will ask the debtor questions under oath concerning the accuracy of provided documents. Debtors should note that perjury under oath is a felony and failure to disclose all assets can lead to a jail term.

Usually, there is no need for another hearing if the trustee concludes the hearing. However, the trustee may set another hearing date if additional information or examination is needed. Lastly, the debtor should finish a financial management course, and a debt discharge letter may be available within 90 days.

Note: Chapter 7 bankruptcy can last up to 10 years on a credit report

Do I Qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Debtors may be eligible for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia if they had not filed a prior Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the past eight years and if they pass the means test. The means test has two stages. The first stage is used to determine if the debtor’s income is higher or lesser than Georgia’s median income. If the income is lower, the debtor passed the test.

However, if the debtor’s income is higher than the state’s median income, the court shall calculate the debtor’s disposable income according to the debtor’s income, household size, and expenses within a specific period. If the disposable income is enough to settle debts under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the debtor is not eligible.

What is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a bankruptcy option that is mostly used by wage earners. This is a legal debt settlement procedure that involves reorganization debts, proposing a repayment plan, and making monthly payments over a three-to-five-year period. Similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy protects assets and deals with a payment plan. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more rigid in terms of eligibility, while Chapter 11 has a more complicated process.

Filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may involve:

  • Meeting the qualification material
  • Completing a credit counseling course within 180 days of filing
  • Filing the bankruptcy petition, reorganization or repayment plan, and other needed paperwork
  • A 341 hearing or meeting of the creditors
  • Receiving a personal financial management class
  • Making regular payments throughout the repayment period (with modification if needed)
  • Receiving a discharge order

The amount set for monthly payment depends on the debtor’s disposable income, total debt amount (secured and priority), the value of nonexempt assets, and administrative fees.

Note: Chapter 13 bankruptcy can stay on the debtor’s credit report for 7 years

Do I Qualify for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Only individuals, self-employed debtors, and debtors operating an unincorporated business may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. To qualify, persons must meet the following criteria:

  • Secured debts should not exceed $419,275, while unsecured debts should not be more than $1,257,850 (review scheduled for April 1, 2022)
  • Disposable income should be sufficient for monthly payments
  • The debtor must not be restricted by a previously filed bankruptcy case
  • The debtor must not be restricted by a previously dismissed petition
  • The debtor filed income tax returns for the past four years
  • The debtor finished credit counseling within 180 days of filing the bankruptcy petition

Additionally, debtors may convert a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if there is a change in the debtor’s financial status. However, the debtor has to file updated paperwork and have a meeting with creditors.

Moreover, debtors may receive a hardship discharge if:

  • Delayed payments were due to circumstances beyond the debtor's control, such as supernatural and unforeseen events
  • Each creditor is settled as they would be under Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • Modifying the repayment plan will not help the debtor

What is the Difference Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies differ in terms of structure, procedure, eligibility requirements, and time frame. In terms of structure, Chapter 7 is based on liquidation, whereas Chapter 13 bankruptcy focuses on monthly payments without selling assets. Furthermore, the filing process for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is less complicated compared to that of Chapter 13.

Another difference between Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that the former has more eligibility requirements. Chapter 7 bankruptcy has two major restricting; income limits and previously filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy within the past eight years. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy has a secured debt limit, unsecured debt limit, waiting period between filings, income tax returns, and so on.

Lastly, Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides quick relief within four or five months, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy takes three to five years.

What is Bankruptcy Protection in Georgia?

Bankruptcy protection in Georgia is a legal provision that protects debtors from creditors and collection activities. In accordance with the Bankruptcy Code, once a debtor files a bankruptcy petition, the debtor may enjoy bankruptcy protection in the form of an Automatic Stay. The automatic stay provision prevents or stops all collection activity like collection letters, collection phone calls, evictions, repossession, foreclosures, wage garnishment, and debt-related lawsuits.

However, there are some actions that are not influenced by the automatic stay. This includes:

  • Audits done by the Georgia Department of Revenue to determine tax liability, and related actions
  • Criminal and domestic proceedings
  • Eviction action if the judgment of possession was obtained before bankruptcy filing or of certain endangered rental property
  • Actions of licensing agencies

Note: Creditors that violate the Automatic Stay Order shall face legal sanctions

What are Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions?

Georgia bankruptcy exemptions allow debtors to protect some assets and personal property from creditors during debt collection and liquidation. Debtors can only apply for Georgia bankruptcy exemptions in the state, but the debtor must have lived at least 730 days in the state. Exemptions include:

Vehicle exemption: Up to $5,000

Wage exemption: 75% of unpaid weekly earnings or 40 times the federal or state minimum hourly wage, whichever is higher

Tools of the trade exemption: Up to $1,500 in books, implements, and work tools

Wildcard exemption: Any property not exceeding $1,200

Homestead exemption:

  • $21,500 in personal or real estate property, including a co-op used by the debtor or dependents
  • $43,000 in property owned my one spouse in a marriage
  • $10,000 protection for unused homestead

Personal property exemption:

  • Jewelry not exceeding $500
  • Not more than $5,000 in the total value of household goods, appliances, furniture, books, clothing crops, and animals, or $300 each
  • Health aids
  • Up to $10,000 received in personal injury proceeds
  • Awards from wrongful death claims
  • Burial plot without using the homestead exemption
  • Up to $7,500 compensation for future earnings necessary for support

Government or public benefits:

  • Worker’s compensation
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Crime victim compensation
  • Social Security benefits
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Aid to blind and disabled persons
  • Old age assistance

Pension and retirement exemption:

  • Benefits that qualify or IRA and ERISA benefits
  • IRA payments and other pensions necessary for support
  • Retirement benefits of public employees
  • Employees of nonprofit corporations

Insurance exemptions:

  • Health or disability benefits not exceeding $250 monthly
  • Up to $2,000 in unmatured life insurance dividends, loan value, interest, or cash value if the debtor is the beneficiary or dependent
  • Unmatured life insurance contract and life insurance proceeds
  • Proceeds and awards from industrial life insurance
  • Fraternal society benefits
  • Annuity & endowment contract benefits
  • Group life insurance

Miscellaneous exemptions: Alimony and child support needed for support

What are the Other Types of Bankruptcy in Georgia?

The following are other types of bankruptcy that can be filed in Georgia: