A Florida-based bankruptcy attorney colleague, observing the falling real estate prices, the rising credit card delinquencies, the increasing number of home foreclosures and layoffs in his state’s once-booming construction industry, comments that bankruptcy is beginning to look like the only acceptable option for many people. “People are just beat up right now”, adds a second Florida lawyer.
In the month of February, no fewer than 271 bankruptcy petitions were filed in the Ft. Meyers U.S. bankruptcy court alone, almost twelve times the number filed two years earlier. Florida banks are reporting triple the amount of delinquent credit card debt, and foreclosure actions are doubled in number compared with just one year ago.
As a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana, I realize that the situation in southwest Florida is far from an exact parallel to the situation in our state. We didn’t experience the unprecedented run-up in real estate prices that happened in the Sunshine State. (To make matters worse, as the weather warms, the tourist season on which the Florida economy depends so heavily will soon end.) As I’ve remarked in earlier blogs, I’m no economist. I do know that Indiana’s work opportunities are far more diversified than those in Florida.
In large part because of the extraordinary problems in Florida and in several other states, however, bankruptcy is in the news, and as my Florida colleague points out, the stigma of bankruptcy and foreclosure is fading. As one couple filing bankruptcy in Florida put it, “The moral of the story is sometimes things are just out of your hands. You’ve just got to go with the flow….Fighting off bankruptcy too long can destroy you.”