I practice consumer bankruptcy law.
I am writing this page for my future clients, and potential clients that meet with me or speak to me and decide not to file bankruptcy or go in another route.
Let's start at the beginning. If you are reading my words here, then today is not the beginning of this journey for you. Often times, it takes people I speak to literally years to seek help with personal their finances before a "straw breaking the camel's back" moment catapults them into my office. Maybe its a car repossession, maybe a notice of garnishment, or maybe it's the humility of being served a lawsuit regarding a collections account. This financial situation has caused you mental stress, physical stress, stress in your relationships with friends and loved ones, and has also left you feeling at times depressed, helpless, and scared.
You are not here because you have failed as a provider, a mother, a father, a student, or a breadwinner. You have more than likely done everything you have been able to think of to avoid reading the words on this page. You have truly been selfless in trying to support the family and carry on so your loved ones don't feel the strain of this burden. So before you ever contact me and before I am fortunate enough to speak to you, many events have occurred.
Some of these events may be your fault. Maybe you didn't read closely enough the terms of a car lease agreement and the contract deteriorated and now you can't make the payments. Maybe your bought into the housing boom and believed the mortgage agent when they said a variable rate mortgage will always be affordable or you could just refinance or sell. And maybe you were two days late on a low interest credit that then raised your interest rate to 29.99% and doubled your minimum payments because you weren't paying enough attention to paying the bills on time.
Some of these events may not be your fault. Maybe for once in your life you took the family to Disneyland, only to return and find you have been downsized from your job of 15 years. Maybe the small business you have which was once booming has fallen on hard times in this economy and you are now looking for work. Maybe there was a loss of income in your family making paying the bills now impossible. Or maybe it can all be traced to one moment in time when a sudden medical condition started the financial strain.
This is where you are. You are reading this to find a path out of this mess. Here's what I want to do for you. I want to provide a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. I want to get you through this maze and back to a productive life. I want to help you achieve a fresh start in your finances so you can move on and hopefully never return to this dark place. And I want you, right now, to start looking forward toward what life can and will be like in the future, rather than festering in misery about how you got here in the first.
Here is my first offer of advice. For one more moment, be it the next five minutes, hour, or maybe even a day, I want you to let out all the things you really want to say to yourself. Go ahead and pile the blame on yourself, tell yourself you were foolish, how you never should have followed certain advice, how you can't believe how stupid you were, how you can't bear to look at yourself in the mirror or face your family. Whatever you feel, go ahead and let it out. Look in the mirror and yell at yourself if you have to. When you have done this - continue reading.
Now let it go. That's right. You have told yourself what you want to tell yourself. It's nothing you can change, it's nothing that you are proud of, it neither who you are nor who you want to be. And it is not productive. So let it go.
Let those feelings and emotions go, and keep only enough of them to remember you don't want to be here again and that you have learned one of life's more humbling lessons. It's water under the bridge. It is in the past. I want you to turn the ship around 180 degrees now and steam toward the future. You are down looking backwards and feeling down. You should now look forward and know you are beginning to head in the right direction.
Now I want you to take a deep breath, count to ten, relax for moment. (If need be, take a deep breath and count to ten as many times as you need to before you are able to relax for a moment.) This is not some metaphysical exercise where I pretend that I can fix your troubles if you would only breathe better and relax. But often times when I have clients in my office, after speaking to them, I realize that the tension in their shoulders, the quiver in their breath, and their embarrassment about asking for helping has literally prevented them from relaxation and rejuvenation for literally years. So I want you to get some oxygen in your system and take a bit of the stress off your shoulders right now. Why do you deserve to relax a little right now as you read this? Because you have already done what is, across the board, the hardest part about resolving your debt. You've asked for help. By reading these thousand or so words or so above, you have taken a step from stressing about your problems to resolving them, and you should reward yourself with a moment before we move forward.
HELP IS AVAILABLE FOR YOU
Hopefully you are now a little less stressed about asking for help. I can help you get through this. I know it feels like you are swimming in molasses, but this is what I do. Pick up the phone and call me or send an email on the left side of this page. I will sit down with you and find a way to straighten out your situation.
There are many questions you may have already, so let me put a few myths to rest.
1) FACT - A bankruptcy discharge cannot be denied to you (absent criminal or fraudulent conduct on your part). Bankruptcy is a right, just like freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That's right. Bankruptcy is a right. So unless you lie to the court or do some other fraudulent activity during your bankruptcy case, you can receive a discharge if you go through the required steps. All the rumor and innuendo you hear from other people or perhaps read on other websites (after all, if it is on the internet, it must be true, right?) about denying bankruptcy is wrong. No matter who you are and no matter what you own or owe, you have the right to a bankruptcy discharge. So where does all the stories of denial of bankruptcy come from? Well - just because you have the right does not mean exercising it in every situation makes a whole lot of sense. As might be expected, there can be some tough choices in bankruptcy. For instance:
(a) You can't keep a significant amount of your stuff above a certain value level and file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to eliminate your debts without consequence. Some of your stuff may need to be sold in order to eliminate your debts. For instance, if you are single and own two cars free and clear, in theory, you can't keep both of them and wipe your debts clear at the same time (although in reality there are many methods available to keep both cars in this type of situation).
(b) If you make too much money at your job, or if you have too much stuff (like the single person with two cars), you may have to make a monthly payment to the court for 3-5 years to get a discharge through a Chapter 13. The amount of the payment will vary on your individual situation, but there is always a way to make it work if the client really needs a discharge if the client is willing to make the sacrifices needed.
(c) If you have filed a previous bankruptcy, there may be some timing issues regarding when you will get a discharge based on when you can file the next bankruptcy.
(d) Given the path through bankruptcy, you may elect to either not pursue bankruptcy, or pursue different options first.
Notice none of these preclude anyone from filing bankruptcy and receiving a discharge. These situations may affect only how the case will be handled, not whether you are allowed to get the help of the court.
2) FACT - Most clients lose no or very little assets in bankruptcy. In Oregon, our legislature allows debtors in bankruptcy to keep a threshold amount of personal and real property through bankruptcy. This is designed to help people get back on their feet after bankruptcy. The vast majority my clients keep all of their property (100%) including their home, their cars, and their personal property through bankruptcy. A big part of my work helps clients identify which assets are at risk in the bankruptcy and what to do with these assets prior to bankruptcy to best protect the clients' stuff. There is nothing wrong or illegal about this. It's called asset planning.
3) MYTH - Once I come to your office and meet you, I am obligated to file bankruptcy. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, most of the work is actually done prior to filing. Some cases take weeks to plan prior to filing; others can take years until the client is ready. All cases are very facts specific with you, and as a general rule it takes at minimum a few weeks for most clients to be ready for filing. Exploring bankruptcy is a viable option to pursue if you are in over your head with debt,
even if you chose to go another route.
4) MYTH - As an attorney that focuses on bankruptcy, you can only bankruptcy work. Often times when I sit down with a potential client to review a case, other things come to light which may cause us to pause the bankruptcy or take on complimentary work. For instance, as a service to my clients with debt restructuring needs, I also offer home loan modification workouts, debt settlement negotiation, collections lawsuit defense and settlement, personal injury representation, and divorce, child custody, and domestic support negotiation.
5) MYTH - I don't have enough money to file bankruptcy. I work with people in all kinds of situations. If you want to pursue bankruptcy, I want to help you, and that means I'll find a way to get it into your budget. It may take time, it may take sacrifice, it may be slow and unconventional, but I will find a way for this to work with you if you want to hire me. Helping this be affordable for you is my job, not yours. After all, if my services were free, you would hire me. And as it turns out my first client meeting is free, so you let me try to help you. I am here to help you; you are not here to help me.
LET ME HELP YOU
If you have made it this far, let me see if I can help you. I am acutely aware that you don't really want to be considering this option. And to be candid, although you hear about it in the media, I have NEVER had a client come in and say they were looking forward to hiring me for bankruptcy. So believe me, as personable as you may come to believe I am, or as easy as I strive to make the entire bankruptcy representation experience, I take my job very, very seriously. When you hire me, you are asking me to represent you through the most humbling financial restructuring of your entire life; a restructuring that is almost always long time coming and may have literally already cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless amounts of stress to you and your family.
This is what I do. If you want you want to talk to me further, do not hesitate to get in touch with me right away.