A discharge is the final step in a bankruptcy. It simply means you cannot be required to pay back any debt that is not secured by property unless the debt is one of the rare exceptions that is non-dischargeable. Some debts are not dischargeable. These include child support, recent income taxes, withholding taxes, fines owed to the government and most student loans.
In most cases, no. The average bankruptcy filer attends one meeting with what is called a "Trustee", an attorney who administers the case for the Bankruptcy Court. Actual court hearings are fairly rare in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. At this first, and usually only, meeting you will be asked a standard series of questions. Eight of these hearings are held per hour.
This office does simple Chapter 7 bankruptcies for a flat fee of $1,035.00. This INCLUDES the $335.00 bankruptcy court filng fee but does not include the charge for filing notices in state court to stop the progression of any pending lawsuits and does not cover adversary actions or the removal of pre-bankruptcy liens from real estate. When calling around and comparing prices, be sure to find out whether the price quoted includes the filing fee. Some lawyers quote only the actual attorney fee then, at some later point, you find out that the filing fee was not included in the price quoted. You should also be sure to find out what other charges might be incurred, for instance reviewing documents to determine whether you are "cross collateralized". Finally, be sure what you are getting. There are non-attorney "petition preparers" who appear to be inexpensive. However, cheapest is not always best. These preparers cannot appear at First Meeings of Creditors or perform other legal services that are often essential to bankruptcy.
When the bankruptcy statute was being "reformed" in 2005, there were stories about lawyers "encouraging" bankruptcy with easy payment plans - even though that was already prohibited. The law prohibits attorneys from offering post filing payment plans by wiping out the debt to the attorney when the bankruptcy is filed. Most attorneys will allow you to pay into a trust fund until the entire fee is accumulated and then file the bankruptcy.
Each state provides exemptions, property that cannot be taken to satisfy debt. Iowa and Nebraska exemptions differ considerably. Contact the office to discuss your personal situation. In the case of homes, vehicles and certain other secured transactions, you will generally have the option to reaffirm that debt. A reaffirmation is an agreement between you and the creditor for you to keep the item of property in issue and continue making payments. Although some creditors insist that you be current before they will enter into a reaffirmation agreement, many creditors will work out arrangements for you to catch up over time or will put the arrearages on the "back end". At the present time, some lenders are even negotiating better terms to make reaffirmation an attractive option.