No. It is very rare that a debtor loses any assets when filing a bankruptcy. There are exemptions that exempt 97% of what a debtor in a bankruptcy owns. And in the small amount of cases where there may be some non-exempt equity in assets, the debtor can make arrangements with the trustee to pay this amount over 6-10 months. And in the extremely rare case of there being a substantial amount of non-exempt assets, then a debtor could choose to file a chapter 13 and not lose anything and then make very reasonable payments to the chapter 13 trustee for 36-60 months. For secured property like houses and cars, the debtor can normally keep these assets also as long as they are able to continue making the payments. And if there is a lot of arrearage owed on a house or a car, then a chapter 13 could be used to save the house or car (assuming that the debtor can make current prospective payments and can afford a monthly trustee payment).
Definitely yes. Actually, immediately after filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy a debtor will get inundated with offers from car dealerships to buy a car. And then soon thereafter the debtor will get credit card offers. Thus, although a bankruptcy will stay on the debtor’s credit reports for 10 years, this does not mean that a debtor cannot get credit for 10 years. As stated above, a debtor can immediately finance a car and will soon qualify for credit cards. I recommend to all of my clients that they obtain a secured credit card for $300-$500 with their bank or credit union soon after their discharge (about 91 days after filing a chapter 7). And then I recommend using the secured credit card, pay timely each month, and keep a small balance on the card. This will help build credit for the debtor. In fact, filing a bankruptcy will often improve the credit score of a debtor (sometimes immediately and sometimes with a 12-month period of time). The reason for this is that it cleans up a lot of miscellaneous negative credit history and it greatly improves the debtor’s income to debt ratio (an important factor in a credit report). A debtor who filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy can even obtain a mortgage on normal terms in as short as 2 years after filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy (sometimes shorter, if there were extenuating circumstances that necessitated the bankruptcy filing, like a medical condition).
An employer cannot retaliate (i.e., terminate or demote) against an employee in any way for filing a bankruptcy. Also, it is very rare that an employer will ever know that the employee filed a chapter 7. Normally the trustee in a chapter 13 case requires wage orders, but will grant exceptions when appropriate. If an employer retaliated against an employee for filing a bankruptcy (I’ve never heard of this and I practiced employment litigation law for 3 years), then the employee could sue the employer. As far as a bankruptcy affecting the chances of a debtor being hired, there is a unique law in Oregon called the Oregon Job Applicant Fairness Act that, in most cases, prevents potential employers from requiring credit checks for job applicants (exceptions include bank jobs and certain government jobs).
Attorney fees for a chapter 7 are a flat rate (not hourly billed) and the average attorney fees for a chapter 7 bankruptcy are $1200. But I have filed cases for as low as $500 for attorney fees, when appropriate. And I have filed cases for higher than $1200 in attorney fees, when appropriate. Each case is unique and I will tell you exactly how much your case will cost when we meet for a consultation. The up-front attorney fees in a chapter 13 average $1200 and there are additional fees that will get paid through the plan. The court filing fee for a chapter 7 is an additional $335 and the court filing fee for a chapter 13 is $310.
That is a question that you have to decide. But you should make that decision based on information from an experienced Portland bankruptcy lawyer that is looking out for your best interests instead of his or her best interests (unfortunately, there are too many bankruptcy lawyers in Portland who will push their clients into filing a chapter 13 because it benefits the lawyer, when a chapter 7 filing would have been the best strategy for their client). I pride myself on providing thorough information and insightful perspective regarding chapter 7/13 and everything related to it. I have been practicing law in Portland since May of 1998. And I have been focusing on consumer debt relief and bankruptcy law exclusively since July 2009. I personally hired a bankruptcy lawyer in March of 2006 to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for myself. I had moved to Melbourne, Australia, in July 2004 and then changed my mind regarding migrating there. Upon my return to Portland, it took longer than anticipated to procure a full time position and I accrued a fair amount of credit card during that time. Thus, I understand what my clients are feeling and going through because I have been there. And I know how helpful—psychologically and pragmatically—that a chapter 7 or chapter 13 can be for someone under significant financial duress. And I have especially seen dramatic benefits for my clients. I think that this is because a bankruptcy filing helps alleviate an enormous amount of stress and pressure and, thus, helps people more easily reach their potential in all areas of their life.