M is for Matrimonial Property Obligations and the Discharge in Bankruptcy

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com Web: westchesterbankruptcyattorney.org

    M by BigBlue Meanie                    There are two main types of domestic support obligations (‘DSO”) defined in the bankruptcy code. The first kind of DSO encompasses things such as child support payments and alimony. (To simplify, let’s just call this type: “support“). The second type of DSO comes from the distribution of property in divorce; in Pennsylvania the statutes refer to this as “equitable distribution“, which is the terminology I will use here. The latter usually consists of the spouse’s equitable share of the equity — as adjudicated by the courts or agreed to in a property settlement agreement, which also must be court approved in Pennsylvania — in the marital residence but can also include joint bank accounts and other valuable items.

In the general definitions within the Bankruptcy code 11 USC Sect.. 101(14 a-c), both support and equitable distribution appear as DSO’s, misleading one to think that perhaps the two will be treated identically in bankruptcy. However, while this is true of a Chapter 7, it is otherwise for a Chapter 13. The difference in treatment as between the two different kinds of domestic support obligations only become apparent when one looks at how they are treated those portions of the Bankruptcy Code dealing specifically with the discharge of these specific categories of debt.

At first glance in 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(5) and 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(15), the sections of the Code dealing with equitable distribution, it appears that these two subsets of domestic support obligations are treated the same. That is to say, neither support nor equitable distribution obligations appear to be discharged in bankruptcy, meaning specifically that in both a Chapter 7 bankruptcy these debts survive the bankruptcy and remain obligations of the debtor and alternately in a Chapter 13, they both must be paid in the plan and/or any amount left over so survives.

However, 11 USC Sect. 1328(a)(2) changes the picture radically, at least insofar as discharge after completion of a Chapter 13 Plan is concerned. (Note that virtually anyone who has a regular income can elect a Chapter 13 filing as versus a Chapter 7.) This provision essentially states that once all the plan payments are made and the debtor complies with its other requirements, the DSO types not listed in the statute will be discharged: one of the provisions so listed is 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(5), which again deals with with support debts. However, whether by design or inadvertence, Congress conspicuously excluded from that list 11 USC Sect. 523(a)(15), which again pertains to equitable distribution obligations.

Thus, unlike support, which cannot be discharged either in a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the proceeds of an equitable distribution can be discharged to the extent that the ex-spouse still owes same once the Chapter 13 plan payments have been otherwise completed. A clever bankruptcy lawyer, knowing this, will to the extent possible, draft a plan which, perhaps by favoring secured and other priority unsecured debt in order and amount of payment, provides for less than all of the equitable debt to be discharged, which has the effect of excusing the debtor spouse from his or her remaining equitable obligations, even though ironically these were awarded to the creditor spouse by a court of law. The (alas little appreciated) lesson for the family lawyer representing the creditor spouse is to require all equitable debt to be paid up before the property settlement agreement is authorized, so as to avoid eventual loss of some or all of their equity in a potential Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, All Rights Reserved

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.

Others blogging on M include:

  • Bill Balena,      CLevand Bankruptcy lawyer tells us that M      is for Mistakes .
  • Omaha and Lincoln,      Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell says M is for Means Test.
  • Marin County      Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cate Eranthe blogs M is for Means Test, a popular topic.
  • New York Bankruptcy      Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman agrees M is for Means Test too.
  • Colorado Springs bankruptcy      Attorney Bob Doig says M is for Meeting of Creditors.
  • Northern California      Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran believes M is for Modify & also for Monthly Income.
  • Hawaii Bankruptcy      Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing says M is for Mortgage Arrears.

Picture credit: Bigbluemeanie

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

WHAT IS CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY?

Lucky Number 7 by ganesha.isisThe avowed goal of bankruptcy is to give debtors a “fresh start.” What is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how does it go about accomplishing this? The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy applies immediately once a Chapter 7 case is filed and generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, sheriffs’ sales, and etc. while in effect. Let’s first look at the different types of bankruptcy proceedings.

The United States Bankruptcy Code offers two primary paths for consumers:

  • A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: In a so called “straight” bankruptcy, the Trustee in bankruptcy seeks to liquidate the debtor’s non exempt property and distribute the proceeds to the creditors in order of priority, in exchange for discharge of all eligible debt. (Exemptions for various property classifications are set out in federal and state law.) However, certain debts such as guaranteed student loans and domestic support obligations are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Most 7’s are “no asset” bankruptcies.

Certain higher income debtors who do not meet the new Means Test must instead file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. If you think you might be a candidate for a 13, you might wish to visit my article on the topic.

  • A Chapter 13 “debtor in possession” Bankruptcy: Here, unlike in Chapter 7 proceedings, the debtor retains possession of the assets (hence its nickname). In order to be confirmed by the court, the debtor must prove sufficient income to support a 3-5 year plan wherein payments on secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans (including arrears) and non-dischargeable items continue and unsecured creditors typically get paid a small portion of their debts. For debtors facing mortgage foreclosure, Chapter 13 may be the only choice to halt the process while seeking other remedies within or outside of bankruptcy. However, recent statistics indicate that only about 35% of all 13 plans are ever completed.

There are overall limits as to how much unsecured and/or secured debt a debtor may have and still utilize Chapter 7 or 13.  For those who do not qualify, there is only one option:

  • Chapter 11, a third type of Bankruptcy, is primarily used to help in debt businesses restructure. An example is the bankruptcy from which GM has successfully emerged with the help of a massive US bailout. It is much more complex, time consuming and expensive than Chapter 7 or 13, but is the sole resort for individual debtors with debt which exceeds the limits mentioned above.

Other than consumer perceptions that bankruptcy is somehow unethical or “wrong”, the primary issue with filing bankruptcy is that it remains on the debtor’s credit for up to 7 (Chapter 17) or 10 years (Chapter 13) from filing and may interfere with efforts to obtain credit, purchase or refinance a home or even obtain employment. However, it should be noted that most who seek this relief already have impaired credit and, more importantly, in reality new credit is generally extended to debtors who keep their payments current for a year or two following discharge. So, in effect bankruptcy can work to “repair” credit.

In summary, the automatic stay provides an effective if temporary refuge from foreclosure and other debt collection activities and many debtors ultimately do obtain the permanent solution to their debt problems, the “fresh start” which is the ultimate objective of the US bankruptcy laws.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, All Rights Reserved

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

I also provide Mortgage Mod Services.

Photo by ganesha.isis

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY

WHAT IS A CHAPTER 13 BANKRUPTCY?

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: cccarresq@aol.com Web: westchesterbankruptcyattorney.org

13 by cappelmeister The avowed goal of bankruptcy is to give debtors a “fresh start.” What is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and how does it go about accomplishing this? The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy applies immediately once a Chapter 13 case is filed and generally halts all collection activities, foreclosures, repossessions, sheriffs’ sales, and etc. while in effect. Let’s first look at the different types of bankruptcy proceedings.

The United States Bankruptcy Code offers two primary paths for consumers:

  • A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: In a so called “straight” bankruptcy, the Trustee in bankruptcy seeks to liquidate the debtor’s non exempt property and distribute the proceeds to the creditors in order of priority, in exchange for discharge of all eligible debt. (Exemptions for various property classifications are set out in federal and state law.) However, certain debts such as guaranteed student loans and domestic support obligations are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Most 7’s are “no asset” bankruptcies.

Certain higher income debtors who do not meet the new Means Test must instead file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

  • A Chapter 13 “debtor in possession” Bankruptcy: Here, unlike in Chapter 7 proceedings, the debtor retains possession of the assets (hence its nickname). In order to be confirmed by the court, the debtor must prove sufficient income to support a 3-5 year plan wherein payments on secured debt such as mortgages and auto loans (including arrears) and non-dischargeable items continue and unsecured creditors typically get paid a small portion of their debts. For debtors facing mortgage foreclosure, Chapter 13 may be the only choice to halt the process while seeking other remedies within or outside of bankruptcy. However, recent statistics indicate that only about 35% of all 13 plans are ever completed.

There are overall limits as to how much unsecured and/or secured debt a debtor may have and still utilize Chapter 7 or 13.

  • Chapter 11, a third type of Bankruptcy, is primarily used to help in debt businesses restructure. An example is the bankruptcy from which GM has successfully emerged with the help of a massive US bailout. It is much more complex, time consuming and expensive than Chapter 7 or 13, but is the sole resort for individual debtors with debt which exceeds the limits mentioned above.

Other than consumer perceptions that bankruptcy is somehow unethical or “wrong”, the primary issue with filing bankruptcy is that it remains on the debtor’s credit for up to 7 (Chapter 17) or 10 years (Chapter 13) from filing and may interfere with efforts to obtain credit, purchase or refinance a home or even obtain employment. However, it should be noted that most who seek this relief already have impaired credit and, more importantly, in reality new credit is generally extended to debtors who keep their payments current for a year or two following discharge. So, in effect bankruptcy can work to “repair” credit.

In summary, the automatic stay provides an effective if temporary refuge from foreclosure and other debt collection activities and many debtors ultimately do obtain the permanent solution to their debt problems, the “fresh start” which is the ultimate objective of the US bankruptcy laws.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law 2009, All Rights Reserved

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!  

I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.

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N is for Negative Impact of Bankruptcy on Credit and How to Overcome it.

N by procsilas in Bankruptcy is for the Negative Impact of Bankruptcy on Credit and How to Overcome it.

By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney.

Most people are aware that filing bankruptcy can hurt their credit and it is well known that this can take its toll for up to ten years. But then why is it that the credit card apps start arriving again just a few weeks after a discharge in bankruptcy? Is it really true that a bankrupt is doomed to being deemed uncreditworthy for ten years? We will explore these questions below but first a bit of background.

The information contained within your credit report is generally governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal law specifies how long a bankruptcy can appear on your credit report. This in turn varies based on type of bankruptcy as well as disposition of the case. Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcies will appear on the report for up to 10 years from the filing date. Non-discharged or dismissed Chapter 13 and 12 bankruptcies also appear on a credit report for up to 10 years. Discharged Chapter 12 and 13 bankruptcies can remain on the report for up to seven years.

Does this mean that your credit will be impaired for 7 or 10 years? Does it mean you will not be able to purchase critical items on credit?    Certainly not, at least for the debtor who learns from past errors.

Note that the period starts running from the date of filing not discharge so, for example, if you filed a a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition 4 years ago and completed a 3 year plan 6 months ago, you only have three years to go. And during this time, you will, with persistence, be able to get credit for the things you really need (see below.)

You can begin to rebuild your credit rating immediately upon the date of your discharge order.  In a Chapter 7 this will be granted 3-4 months after your petition is filed, typically.   If you are in a Chapter 13 your plan payments will be reported even while still in bankruptcy.

Don’t even think about hiring a “Credit repair” agency. The money you might pay them can actually be used directly to repair your credit in the one way the experts agree really works.  The crucial thing you can do to rebuild your credit quickly and at no added cost is to pay all your bills on time. No exceptions.  It is not uncommon to see former clients who have rebuilt their ratings within 2 to 3 years after a bankruptcy. Their secret?  They paid their mortgage and car loans ON TIME and didn’t miss a payment. Some ideas: Send the checks EARLY in case the mail is delayed. Set up an emergency fund, perhaps in a short term CD, say with your tax refund to give yourself the “float” needed to make the payments in case you are short one month and then replenish it in flush months. Have the mental discipline to reserve it just for this purpose! If worse comes to worse, borrow against your IRA, 401K at work, life insurance policy  or pension.

As an example, a recent Chapter 7 client finished his case; obtained his discharge order and exactly 30 months later (2 years and 6 months), purchased a new home and obtained a competitive mortgage rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage.

You will be able to get a new credit card after your bankruptcy case has been completed.   It is true that you are likely to be rejected once or twice, but you should be able to obtain approval for a small credit card as long as you are persistent. Your best bet may be to talk to that friendly bank manager you have known for years. And you may need to ask more than once.

There are also ways to surrender that car you are driving now and its high rate loan and purchase a new car even while in bankruptcy, believe it or not.  You will pay a somewhat higher interest rate but rates are at historically low levels now anyway.

You will also be able to obtain student loans, for yourself or for a child, the Bankruptcy Code (11 U.S.C. Section 525) specifically prevents the government from discriminating against individuals on the grounds that they have filed for bankruptcy relief.  I have yet to hear of anyone being denied a student loan on bankruptcy grounds.

There are in addition certain “tricks of the trade” that a competent and compassionate bankruptcy attorney can impart to you once you have retained him or her which will speed up the process of restoring your credit even further.   Be sure to ask!

In conclusion, your payment history will be crucial after (and in a Chapter 13 even during) a bankruptcy discharge, because prospective lenders really will  be looking  to see that you have paid attention to the mandatory debtor counseling sessions and have well and truly learned the lesson of how to use credit responsibly. It often will be easier to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy discharge because you will no longer have debts that hopelessly exceed your credit limits.  In this way and in general (certainly, not in every individual case) over the long haul, the consumer bankruptcy laws prove their worth. This writ large then is why the “fresh start” offered to debtors by our system of bankruptcy is a necessity to a healthy capitalistic system.

Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA,  P.C., is a quality Chester County Bankruptcy Practice, located in  Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Carr, who has over 30 years if diversified experience as an attorney, concentrates his practice on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester,  Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at cccarresq@aol.com today!


I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.

©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law, 2011, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Other Bankruptcy Lawyers writing on the letter N include:

California Northern Bankruptcy Court  Marin County Bankrupttcy Lawyer, Cate Eranthe http://marin-bankruptcy-law.com/803/bankruptcy-a-to-z-n-is-for-california-northern-bankruptcy-court/ NACBA Wisconsin Bankruptcy Lawyer, Bret Nason http://nasonlawfirm.com/archives/813 Naked New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman http://www.consumerhelpcentral.com/bankruptcy-alphabet-naked/ Negative Notice Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney J. Dinkins G. Grange http://jacksonville-bankruptcy-grange.blogspot.com/2012/02/n-is-for-negative-notice-local-rule.html Never Cleveland Bankruptcy Attorney William Balena http://ohiobankruptcysource.com/?p=2418 No Asset Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein http://www.morethanbankruptcy.com/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-no-asset-case.html No Asset Report Honolulu Bankruptcy Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing http://www.bankruptcyhi.com/2012/01/n-is-for-no-asset-report/ Non-exempt Property Miami Bankruptcy Attorney, Dorota Trzeciecka http://dorotatrzeciecka.com/2012/02/05/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-non-exempt-property/ Nondischargeable Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein http://www.morethanbankruptcy.com/bankruptcy-a-z-n-is-for-nondischargeable.html Nondischargeable Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran http://www.bankruptcysoapbox.com/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-for-nondischargeable/ Nondischargeable Debt Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell http://bankruptcyblog.caldwell-lawfirm.com/2011/11/16/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-is-for-nondischargeable-debt.aspx Notice Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Attorney Bob Doig http://springsbankruptcylaw.com/?p=1227 Notice San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney, Jeff Curl http://www.jclawgroup.com/blog/bankruptcy-alphabet-n-is-for-notice/ Notice Taylor, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Chris McAvoy http://downriverbankruptcy.com/n-for-notice-creditors/#axzz1mtGwtQjh Notice of Rights to Claim Exemptions Charlotte Bankruptcy Attorneys, Collum & Perry http://www.collumperry.com/firm-news/notice-of-rights-to-claim-exemptions Numbers and New Bankruptcy Laws Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus http://www.bklaw.com/bankruptcy-blog/2012/03/numbers-and-new-bankruptcy-laws/ Non-Attorney Bankruptcy Livonia Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Peter Behrmann http://www.livoniamichiganbankruptcy.com/n-is-for-non-attorney-bankruptcy-livonia-michigan/