Jacksonville Office

Serving Duval County, Clay County, Nassau County, Saint Johns County,

Baker County, and Union County

Consumer Law

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

A chapter 7 bankruptcy generally discharges most, if not all, of one's debt. A chapter 7 bankruptcy is often referred to as a straight liquidation bankruptcy because all of the debtor’s non-exempt assets may be "liquidated" or converted to cash by the trustee in the bankruptcy court and distributed to the creditors in accordance to the bankruptcy rules. At the conclusion of the bankruptcy proceeding, the debtor receives a discharge, which wipes out his or her obligation to repay most debts.

Many chapter 7 bankruptcies that are filed are considered "no asset" cases, which means the debtor does not lose any of his or her assets since the assets are exempt, are not subject to liquidation. In cases where the debtor does have non-exempt assets, the debtor’s attorney can usually negotiate with the trustee for the debtor to "buy back" the non-exempt portion of the assets through a payment plan.

Sometimes, although one may qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, a chapter 13 bankruptcy may be more suitable. A Jacksonville bankruptcy attorney can discuss your options with you in more depth during your free consultation at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A chapter 13 bankruptcy is not a liquidation bankruptcy. The debtor is typically allowed to keep all of his or her assets and pay some or all of his or her debts through a plan approved by the bankruptcy court. At the completion of this plan, with some significant exceptions, the debtor receives a discharge similar to the discharge received in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case. This plan is typically over a 3-5 year period.

Some of the more common reasons people choose to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy are as follows:

  • The debtor wants to save his or her home from foreclosure.
  • The debtor has assets he or she doesn’t want liquidated in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • The debtor makes too much money to qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • The debtor wants to pay back his or her debts, but can't afford to pay what the creditors are asking (credit card debt, as well as many other types, of debts are not entitled to get paid any additional interest or fees once the bankruptcy is filed).
  •  The debtor wants to "strip" the second mortgage or home equity line of credit lien off his or her home, if there is no real equity left after the first mortgage is taken into consideration.

If one is behind in his or her mortgage payments, the filing of a chapter 13 bankruptcy may stop a foreclosure and allow the past due payments to be caught up in a repayment plan, or the entire mortgage can be modified through the chapter 13 bankruptcy. The filing of a chapter 13 bankruptcy may also stop the repossession of a car and allow the debtor to catch up on the payments through the plan.

If you are interested in learning more about how a chapter 13 bankruptcy may benefit you, please contact a Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyer at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. and schedule a free consultation.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

A chapter 11 bankruptcy is similar in some ways to a chapter 13 bankruptcy in that there is a plan that allows the debtor to pay back some or all of his or her debts over a period of usually 5 years. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is usually for businesses that want to reorganize and be able to continue conducting business without being suppressed by creditors. Individual debtors that have too much debt to qualify for a chapter 13 bankruptcy may also be required to file a chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyers at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offer a free consultation to discuss your financial situation and can advise whether a chapter 7 bankruptcy, a chapter 13 bankruptcy, or a chapter 11 bankruptcy is the best option for you.

Collection Lawsuits 

Collection lawsuits are generally brought on credit cards upon which the borrower has stopped making payments. Many lawsuits are filed by creditors or debt buyers with little or no documentation to ultimately prove their case in court. Unfortunately, many consumers are not aware of the various defenses or methods by which a lawsuit can be attacked. As a result, many judgments are entered against people that may not have been entered if proper defenses were presented.

If a judgment is entered against a consumer, the creditor may attempt to garnish wages and bank accounts. They can also attach non-exempt property and record the final judgment in public records, which acts as a lien on real property in the consumer’s name. The judgment likely will show up on the consumer’s credit reports as well. Judgments are enforceable for 20 years, and can usually be re-recorded for additional time.

Attorney Michael Cleaveland, a Jacksonville debt defense lawyer, began his legal career as a debt collection attorney. During his time a that firm, he learned the secrets of the debt collection industry and now uses that knowledge to defend consumers from debt collection lawsuits.

Asset Protection

There are various protections that consumers have to protect their assets from being seized. For example, Florida provides certain exemptions from wage garnishment. Our debt defense attorneys are well versed at raising such exemptions in wage and bank garnishment cases.

One exemption Florida provides is the homestead exemption. If a judgment is entered and a lien is attached to your home, our debt defense lawyers can assist in having that lien removed if your home falls within the guidelines prescribed by Florida law.

Certain retirement accounts are typically exempt from attachment. This may also include money in bank accounts that was deposited from social security or other retirement benefits.

To discuss asset protection, contact a Jacksonville debt defense attorney at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. and schedule a free consultation.

Debt Harassment Claims 

The FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) is a federal act that was enacted to protect consumers from the abusive methods of debt collectors. If a debt collector violates the act, a consumer can recover up to $1,000.00 in statutory damages (similar to a fine), in addition to the consumer’s attorney fees being awarded.

The following are examples of some of the actions by debt collectors that are violations under the act:

  • Communicating with a consumer when the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney.
  • Use of obscene or profane language directed at the consumer.
  • Calling a consumer before 8:00am or after 9:00pm.
  • Threats of criminal prosecution for failing to pay debts.
  • Communicating to a consumer’s friends or third parties about the consumer's debts.
  • Threatening to take any action that cannot be taken or is not intended to be taken.
  • Impersonating a law enforcement officer.
  • Collection of any amount that is not authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
  • Threatening to take a consumers property when the debt collector has no right to or does not intend to take the property.
  • Calling the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer is not permitted to receive such calls at work.
  • Calling a consumer repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse or harass any person at the called number.
  •  Failure to disclose when communicating with the consumer that he or she is attempting to collect a debt.

If any of the above acts have been committed by a debt collector you may be entitled to statutory damages. If a violation has occurred, the Jacksonville debt harassment attorneys at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. may be willing to upfront the costs and fees in bringing an action against the debt collector. If you think there has been a violation from a debt collector, call our Jacksonville debt harassment lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Foreclosure Defense 

For many Americans, being served with foreclosure papers is one of the most financially traumatic experiences of their lives. Having to deal with banks that are unwilling to work with the homeowner or won’t return their calls can be incredibly frustrating and stressful. Luckily, the homeowner does have other options to save his or her home. The foreclosure defense attorneys can defend you in your foreclosure action, or can help you explore other options to save your home. Contact a foreclosure defense lawyer at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L to discuss your options.

Family Law


In Florida, the divorce court has jurisdiction to decide issues relating to, among other things, children, property distribution, and support obligations. With regard to children, the court can decide which parent has the authority to make decisions regarding the children (once decided is called a parenting plan), who the children spend time with and when (also called timesharing - formerly called custody and visitation), and who owes child support and how much. When dividing property, the court assesses the assets and liabilities of the parties, and decides who gets what, and who is responsible for what debts. Finally, support obligations (also called alimony) are based on need and ability to pay, while trying to maintain each party's standard of living.

The Jacksonville divorce attorneys at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offer three types of divorce: contested (when the parties do not agree to the terms of the divorce, and require judicial intervention), uncontested (when the parties agree on all of the terms of the divorce and do not require judicial intervention, and collaborative divorce (when the parties do not necessarily agree on all of the terms of the divorce, but do not want judicial intervention).

Contact a Jacksonville divorce lawyer at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. to schedule a free consultation.


A paternity case is brought when unmarried parents share a child, and wish to establish a parenting plan (a determination of who makes decisions regarding the child), timesharing schedule (formerly called custody and visitation), and child support.

It is important that unmarried fathers bring a paternity action in order to establish his rights to his child. Simply being named on the child's birth certificate is not sufficient to establish these rights, nor is a child support order through the Department of Revenue.

The Jacksonville paternity lawyers at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offer a free consultation to discuss the rights of unmarried fathers and mothers.

Child Support Actions

Fathers should be aware that child support actions brought by the Department of Revenue, do not give them any parental or timesharing rights. In the event a child support action is brought by the Department of Revenue, it is extremely important that the father contact a Jacksonville child support lawyer to discuss his rights and options. The Jacksonville child support attorneys of Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offer a free consultation to discuss your child support case and other options relating to your parental rights and timesharing.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement (also commonly known as a antenuptial agreement, premarital agreement, or prenup) is a contract  entered into between two people prior to marrying each other, generally addressing issues of property, support, and attorney fees.

Although no one enjoys discussing prenuptial agreements, nor its implications, the fact remains that marriage is a partnership. One would not wisely enter into a partnership without a formal writing to memorialize the intentions of the parties and the meeting of the minds – marriage should be no different.

It is wise for parties intending to marry to seek legal and financial advice prior to entering into the marriage. Many people are unaware of the ramifications of decisions commonly made during marriage. A prenuptial agreement can negate the unintended consequences of those decisions, if properly drafted.

Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offers a free consultation with a Jacksonville family law attorney to discuss the legal issues that may be planned for by entering into a prenuptial agreement.


An injunction for protection, sometimes referred to as a restraining order, is a court order which prohibits an alleged aggressor from having future contact with the person seeking the injunction. Besides limiting contact between parties, there are other serious consequences that can affect you if an injunction for protection is ordered by a court, including:

  • The injunction will show up on your record in a background check and can be seen by potential employers, landlords, schools, and organizations (such as youth sports leagues and volunteer groups).
  • The injunction can require you to surrender your firearms and ammunition during the pendency of the injunction. Even after the injunction expires, you may be unable to obtain a concealed weapons permit, or your concealed weapons permit may be revoked.
  •  If the petitioner and respondent have children, the court can order that all visitation between you and your children be supervised.
  • You can be ordered to move out of your home if you share a home with the petitioner.
  • Temporary child support can be ordered by a court without a full hearing.
  • Further contact after the injunction is ordered can result in arrest for violating the injunction and/or stalking.

If you have been served with injunction paperwork, it is important to contact the Jacksonville injunction defense attorneys at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. for a free consultation.

Estate Planning and Probate

Estate Planning

Estate planning is important because it encompasses many tools that help to express an individual’s wishes in the event that they are unable to communicate due to incapacity or death.


A properly drafted and executed will ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If someone dies without a validly executed will (and has taken no other estate planning measures), his or her assets will pass according to intestate laws.


Another common estate planning tool is a trust. A properly drafted and executed trust will allow your assets to pass outside of probate. A trust also ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and allows for specific devises.

Advance Directives

Advance directives typically encompass a durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, and living will. These documents are extremely important in the event you become incompetent or incapacitated. If you are unable to manage your financial affairs, it is important that someone you trust have the ability to step in and manage them for you. For example, if you are incapacitated, someone needs to be able to pay your mortgage. The document that allows someone to manage your financial affairs is referred to as a durable power of attorney. A designation of health care surrogate names a person you trust to be able to make medical decisions for you, in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. This is one way to ensure that your wishes are honored with regard to medical treatment. A living will is important for two reasons: first, a living will will help to ensure your wishes are honored with respect to artificial life prolonging procedures and treatments; second, it removes the responsibility from your loved ones - the decision whether to remove a parent or a child from life support is a decision no one wants to make. A living will dictates your wishes and directs your health care providers how to proceed.

The Jacksonville estate planning attorneys at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. offer a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs and goals.


Probate is the judicial process that takes place after an individual’s death. Whether the person has a will or not, probate is often required to transfer that person’s assets to the beneficiaries.

If you have been named in a will as an executor or personal representative, or if your loved one has died, contact the Jacksonville probate attorneys at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. for a free consultation.