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Many people have great misconceptions about filing for bankruptcy. For example, we often hear potential clients worry that if they file for bankruptcy, they’ll never get credit again. Or they think that their debts may be cleared, but they’ll walk away with only the shirt on their back, losing their retirement or their home. Many people think that only free-spenders and the financially irresponsible are the only people who file for bankruptcy, and so they worry about the stigma or moral failure if they have to file.
These are all understandable thoughts, even if they’re misguided. The truth is:
Yes, your credit will be affected by filing for bankruptcy (for up to 10 years, actually). But if you’re really considering it, odds are your credit has already taken a hit. And you’ll probably have a chance to rebuild your credit again soon after your bankruptcy.
You will be able to hold on to many of your assets if you file. Our job is to find a way to let you hold on to as many of your assets as the law allows. One of those assets is often a retirement account (so call an attorney before you decide to cash it out).
In our experience, the three most common events that make someone consider filing are unemployment, divorce, and/or medical issue.
It’s not our job or place to tell you how you should feel. But we can say that it’s not worth losing sleep over or panicking. Your financial situation may feel overwhelming, or you may feel a sense of guilt or shame about even considering the idea of bankruptcy. But our job is to take some of that worry away. Here’s some basic information on some common types of bankruptcy:
CHAPTER 7 (liquidation) - Chapter 7 is the most common form of bankruptcy for individuals because it eliminates all eligible debt and allows you to hold onto that property that’s “exempted” by law. It’s quick, easy, and relatively pain-free. But as of 2005, filing for chapter 7 became a bit harder. Our job is to get you into a chapter 7 if we can (and you want), and to maximize these exemptions, while allowing you to hold on to as much property as is legally permitted.
CHAPTER 13 (repayment) - Chapter 13 involves a payment plan where you pay back those debts that cannot be discharged and any unsecured debts using your disposable income. Upon the completion of your plan, the remaining debt will be discharged.
Why file chapter 13 instead of 7? First, you might not qualify for a chapter 7. Also, chapter 13 has some powerful tools not otherwise available in a chapter 7. One example (among many) is that chapter 13 allows you to hold on to any asset you own – even if you’re behind on payments for it - as long as you can afford to now make the payments and maybe catch back up on any missed payments. It’s a great option for catching back up. You can often greatly reduce your debt in a chapter 13, sometimes including a “secured” debt like a car payment. Also, chapter 13 is generally viewed as better for your credit. But chapter 13s are longer and costlier, since these plans run for either three or five year. They’re also restricted to individuals. Busineses are ineligible for chapter 13 for bankruptcies.
CHAPTER 11 (reorganization) - This type of filing is typically reserved for businesses (think Chrysler), but individuals can (and sometimes must) file for chapter 11. For example, if someone has debts that exceed the limits of a chapter 13, their only option might be to file a chapter 11. Don’t worry, the process isn’t as daunting as filing Chrysler into bankruptcy. And no one is going to call you Lee Iacocca (unless your name actually is Lee Iacocca).
There are plenty of alternatives to bankruptcy, and we’re happy to explore alternatives. Often, bankruptcy isn’t the right (or first) choice. We also protect consumers from creditors. Don’t worry, it’s our job:
FORECLOSURE – We help consumers in default on a mortgage loan. We can’t guarantee you that you’ll be able to stay in your house, but we’ve got lots of tools in the tool belt to try to make that a reality.
ABUSIVE COLLECTIONS PRACTICES (FDCPA) - We can help consumers who have experienced abusive collections practices. Abusive Collections Practices include: excessive calling or harassment of the debtor, calling parties other than the debtor (friends, family members, employers, etc.) to reach the debtor, lying or using deceitful tactics to make debtors accept calls or pay debts. We don’t tolerate this type of behavior. You shouldn’t either.
COLLECTIONS DEFENSE - We can represent you in matters related to your debt. If someone’s trying to collect an alleged debt, or you’re being sued, there are a lot of things we can do.
DEBT SETTLEMENT - Depending on your income and amount of debt, bankruptcy might not be the best option for you. We can help you explore and execute different options such as loan consolidation and debt settlement. Being bankruptcy lawyers, creditors often take us more seriously, since we have the skills to file a client into bankruptcy, potentially leaving a creditor with nothing to collect.
DIVORCE - If you are looking to file for dissolution of marriage or respond to a divorce filing, we can provide you with representation to make your transition out of marriage as smooth as possible. During this process we can address dividing assets and arranging custody agreements for families with children involved.
This is almost never an easy situation, and we can’t make it pain-free. But our job is to both protect and guide you through this period – probably one of the worst of your life – and help you get through the other side as intact as we can.
DOMESTIC RELATIONS – Even if you’re not going through a divorce (or dissolution of a partnership), we can help you through an array of domestic situations. We can set up visitation schedules, arrange child support, obtain protection orders for you and/or your children, and we can even help with an adoption.
We like adoptions. It’s one of the few times that everyone in the courtroom is happy.
Civil litigation is a catch-all for generally any type of case that could go to trial and involves a dispute for funds or "performance" of a contract (as opposed to a criminal trial). We handle an array of civil litigation cases and we are not limited to what is listed below. But here are some of the more
common disputes we handle:
PERSONAL INJURY– If you were injured as the result of someone else's actions (car accident, job site injure etc.) you can seek financial award for physical or emotional damages. In order to seek awards in a personal injury case, you must be able to prove that the other party is liable for all or part of your injury
CONTRACT DISPUTES - If you've entered into a contract, held up your end of the bargain and the other side hasn't, you can be compensated for your losses from that contract. That can include anything from a mortgage to landlord-tenant relationships to construction contracts to money lent/borrowed.
We love the law – studying and practicing. If you’ve got a legal issue not listed above, call us. We may have worked on that type of issue before and could provide some guidance. If not, we’re happy to refer you to one of our expert colleagues. Don’t worry, we won’t send you to someone we don’t trust. We have high standards for ourselves and for those attorneys we refer cases to.