In 2005, U.S. bankruptcy laws were modified in order to make it more difficult for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 tightened eligibility requirements for debtors to ensure that those who were filing for bankruptcy protection in Florida, and in the entire U.S., were doing so only out of necessity.
However, the increase in bankruptcy filings since 2006 has illustrated the financial distress many individuals and businesses have faced and the necessity for bankruptcy protection in many cases.
South Florida has been amongst one of the hardest hit areas in the country since the downturn in the economy. As result, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings spiked in Florida over the last few years with no signs of improvement until this year.
Last year, bankruptcy filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Middle District of Florida reached nearly 67,000. In 2006, only 15,304 bankruptcy filings were reported in the Middle District. The increase in filings have been a result of high rates of unemployment, the housing crisis and uncontrollable debt, but there may finally be signs of improvement in Florida.
The Middle District reported that bankruptcy filings are down so far this year. If the trend continues, the district could see a total of 10,000 fewer filings compared to last year. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings are down 16 percent so far this year compared to last year. Although these numbers suggest that Florida’s economy may finally be improving, there are many other individuals who are still facing financial challenges and turmoil who may need to consider filing for bankruptcy protection.
The Middle District is comprised of 35 of Florida’s 67 counties covering major cities including: Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona, Tampa and Fort Meyers. According to one of the district’s bankruptcy judges, the Middle District is the second busiest district for bankruptcy filings in the nation.
Jacksonville Daily Record: “Bankruptcies decline, still ‘difficult financial times,’” Karen Brune Mathis, 17 June 2011