Bankruptcy is a collection of federal laws and rules that can help individuals and businesses who are overwhelmed by debt. Nebraska Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in state court. Bankruptcy laws help people who can no longer pay their creditors get a fresh start by liquidating their assets (a Chapter 7 case) to pay their debts, or by creating a repayment plan (Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 cases).
Bankruptcy laws also protect troubled Nebraska businesses and provide for orderly distributions to business creditors through reorganization or liquidation. These procedures are covered under the Bankruptcy Code. The great majority of cases are filed under three main chapters of the Bankruptcy Code: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13.
Nebraska Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. This means that a bankruptcy case cannot be filed in Nebraska state court.
The primary purposes of the law of bankruptcy are:
- To give an honest debtor a “fresh start” in life by relieving the debtor of most debts, and
- To repay creditors in an orderly manner to the extent that the debtor has property available for payment.
Some Nebraska bankruptcy cases are filed to allow a debtor to reorganize and establish a plan to repay creditors, while other cases involve liquidation of the debtor’s non-exempt property.
A bankruptcy case normally begins by the debtor filing a Petition with the Nebraska bankruptcy court. A Petition may be filed by an individual, by a married couple, or by a corporation. The Nebraska debtor is also required to file statements listing all property, income, liabilities, and the names and addresses of all creditors. The filing of the bankruptcy petition automatically stays debt collection actions against the debtor and the debtor’s property. As long as the bankruptcy stay remains in effect, creditors cannot bring or continue lawsuits, make wage garnishments, or even make telephone calls demanding payment.
Creditors receive Notice from the clerk of court that the debtor has filed a bankruptcy petition. Some Nebraska bankruptcy cases are filed to allow a debtor to reorganize and establish a plan to repay creditors (Chapter 13 and Chapter 11), while other cases involve liquidation of the debtor’s non-exempt property (Chapter 7). In many bankruptcy cases involving liquidation of the non-exempt property of individual consumers, there is little or no money available from the debtor’s estate to pay creditors. As a result, in these cases there are few issues or disputes, and the debtor is normally granted a “discharge” of most debts without objection. This means that the debtor will no longer be personally liable for repaying the debts.
In other cases, however, disputes may give rise to litigation in a bankruptcy case over such matters as who owns certain property, how it should be used, what the property is worth, how much is owed on a debt, whether the debtor should be discharged from certain debts, or how much money should be paid to lawyers, accountants, auctioneers, or other professionals. Litigation in the bankruptcy court is conducted in much the same way that civil cases are handled in the district court. There may be discovery, pretrial proceedings, settlement efforts, and a trial.