People who declare bankruptcy do it because they're deep in debt -- usually so deep that they can't make a realistic plan to pay it back. In the experience of our Sun City personal bankruptcy attorneys, this kind of debt is almost always accompanied by nonstop phone calls and letters from creditors. Especially these days, with the bad economy bringing down how much they can recover, creditors often use harassment, threats or lies to pressure people into paying. Many of these tactics are illegal, and people very deep in debt might add that they are also a waste of time. If you're not indebted enough to consider a bankruptcy, we can help you pursue a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit against an illegal debt collector. But if you are considering bankruptcy, you should know that legally, creditors are required to stop all contact as soon as you file.
When you file for bankruptcy -- for most individuals and couples, either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy -- it triggers something called an "automatic stay." This is a court order forbidding creditors from contacting you, repossessing or foreclosing on property, garnishing your wages or suing you. It applies to every debt you owe, as long as the property in question is part of the bankruptcy estate. For most people, it stays in effect as long as the bankruptcy is active, although creditors can petition to have the stay released. If a creditor gets notification of the bankruptcy and continues to bother you, you may sue that creditor for all actual financial damages the harassment causes, as well as punitive damages when appropriate. In addition, any lawsuit or other legal action creditors take against you during the stay is legally void.
The automatic stay is a welcome relief for many of our clients. After months of nonstop phone calls from unpleasant people, the silence alone is nice. In addition, the automatic stay gives clients relief from the stress of immediate repossessions or utility turn-offs, as well as allowing them to help us put together the bankruptcy filing. And of course, the automatic stay gives our Aliso Viejo consumer bankruptcy lawyers a chance to sue any creditor that violates it, sometimes recovering much-needed money for the clients. However, potential bankruptcy filers should realize that they cannot walk into an attorney's office in the morning and have an automatic stay by the end of the day. The 2005 changes to the bankruptcy law require all consumer bankruptcy filers to show they completed a 60- to 90-minute credit counseling session before they file. And creditors can't be sued for violations that take place before they know about the bankruptcy, which is why we take it upon ourselves to notify our clients' creditors right away.
Howard Law PC does not consider services like this "extras" -- we consider them part of doing a complete job for our bankruptcy clients. Our services start at the free, confidential case evaluation, where we help potential clients decide whether a bankruptcy is an appropriate way to handle their own unique financial situations. From there, our West Covina individual bankruptcy attorneys help clients choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, a choice that can depend a lot on your income and what property you wish to protect. After the bankruptcy is complete -- which can take as little as three months in Chapter 7 -- we counsel clients about the likely effects it will have on their taxes, their ability to get credit, child support obligations and more. We want to leave out clients well-equipped to rebuild their financial lives and start over without crippling debt.
If you're so far in debt that you can't imagine ever paying your way out, you should call Howard Law for help. To set up a free consultation, send us a message online or call 1-800-872-5925.