In Spain, it is not economically profitable to open insolvency/bankruptcy proceedings against certain types of businesses, and therefore the number of insolvencies is quite low. For comparison: In France, more than 40,000 insolvency proceedings were opened in 2004, but under 600 were opened in Spain. At the same time the average bad debt write-off rate in France was 1.3% compared to Spain with 2.6%.
When a debtor receives a discharge order, he is no longer legally required to pay any of the debts on that order. So, any creditor listed on that discharge cannot legally undertake any type of collection activity (making phone calls, sending letters) against the debtor once the discharge order is enforced. Therefore, the discharge absolves the debtor of any personal liability for the debts specified in the order.
For example, a housekeeping business filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy might increase its rates slightly and offer more services to become profitable. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a business to continue conducting its business activities without interruption while working on a debt repayment plan under the court's supervision. In rare cases, individuals can file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Clients who typically choose this type of debt relief have fallen behind on their mortgage, car payments, income taxes or other obligations. Or they may not qualify for Chapter 7 relief. They want to keep their property, but need additional time to catch up. Chapter 13 provides a means of paying tax and other non-dischargeable debt over time, often without interest or penalties.
A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.
Debt consolidation may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation. Lower interest is a good thing, but turning unsecured debts (like credit card bills) into secured debts (like a home equity loan) can be a costly mistake if you eventually file bankruptcy anyway. Unsecured debts can often be eliminated in bankruptcy, while most secured debts cannot. If you can't pay your secured debt -- or if the payments are late -- you may lose your home.
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Bankruptcy filings in the United States fall under one of several chapters of the Bankruptcy Code: Chapter 7, which involves liquidation of assets; Chapter 11, which deals with company or individual reorganizations, and Chapter 13, which is debt repayment with lowered debt covenants or specific payment plans. Bankruptcy filing specifications vary among states, leading to higher or lower filing fees depending on how easily a person or company can complete the process.