Divorce and Bankruptcy are areas of law that often go hand-in-glove. The financial distress that precipitates one can also cause the other to occur. In many cases, divorce – and its resulting reduction of household income and duplication of living expenses – is the direct cause of bankruptcy!
So, what’s wrong with your divorce attorney handling your bankruptcy?!
In a word: everything!
My practice is limited to bankruptcy. Even after more than 21 years of practice – eating, drinking and sleeping this area of the law – I learn something new every day. I am constantly reading new cases on bankruptcy issues, reading and re-reading the bankruptcy code, rules of procedure and local rules, as well as confronting and analyzing new fact patterns that clients bring to my offices in Kendall Tamiami.
In addition to familiarity with the bankruptcy code, rules, and cases, I constantly remain vigilant as to changes in the state statutes and case law, for example those related to Florida’s exemptions, that intersect with bankruptcy law and can greatly affect what assets a client of mine can protect when they file a Chapter 7 or 13.
I am sure it is the same for similarly dedicated family law attorneys. I know enough about family law only to tell a client the basics, and refer them to an appropriate colleague of mine that practices that area of the law for an in-depth consultation.
As noted above, persons often have to face both divorce and bankruptcy due to the reduced income, and increased expenses and debts associated with the end of a marriage. But just because you happen to be in a divorce lawyer’s office when the thought of bankruptcy relief arises, does not make the nearest attorney your best choice for bankruptcy guidance.
Don’t order fish at a restaurant known for great steaks! And for heaven’s sake, do NOT have your divorce lawyer handle your bankruptcy. It literally could cost you everything!
When you go to the web site of my law firm, areas of practice page, you will NOT see family law:
When a person consults with me as a bankruptcy attorney in my office in Miami (actually, the Kendall Tamiami area), many times they want to file bankruptcy under their name alone. They do NOT want to file with their spouse or include their spouse’s income.
A common example is a second marriage where the debtor consulting with me has debt from a prior marriage that their current spouse had nothing to do with, and wants nothing to do with! Another example is their spouse has great credit, and they don’t want to do anything to harm that credit. Yet another example is where most of the income or valuable assets are under the spouse’s name.
However, the bankruptcy code requires that household income be reported, regardless of whether one spouse or both spouses file bankrupty. So, if both spouses live in the household, then both incomes are reported. If the household only includes one spouse (i.e., the spouses are separated, have separate households), then only the debtor’s income is reported.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “I’ll just SAY I’m separated…”
*!* BAD IDEA *!* BAD IDEA *!* BAD IDEA *!*
Did I mention that telling a lie to the court is a BAD IDEA? Of course. It would be a SERIOUS misjudgment on anyone’s part to think that lying to the court to try to get rid of some debts would ever work. The bankruptcy court, and all the outstanding professionals that work in the court, have seen thousands of cases, and they will easily and immedaitely see the situation for what it is. If a person is caught lying in a bankruptcy, the least of the bad things that will happen to them is that they would not get a discharge. The worst that could happen? Well… let’s just say it involves bringing their toohtbrush to court, and getting measured for an orange jumpsuit!
OK, so we tell the truth! Does that mean your spouse must pay for all your debts? No! Including their pay may not affect the case at all. If it does affect the case, and withouty their pay you would not have to make payments to the court, but with their pay you would have to make payments to the court, well… that, as they say, is how the cookie crumbles. At least they have you!
So, if you are getting married to someone who has a lot of income, COME SEE ME before you get married! Better yet, come see me before you get engaged!
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What are exemptions and why are they important to people filing bankruptcy in Florida?
Exemptions are rights under the law to shield assets from the claims and reach of creditors. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy context, these rights protect your assets from seizure and liquidation by the Chapter 7 Trustee.
If you receive a notice in the mail from the court that states your bankruptcy case is dismissed, then you need to look at the other items you have received from the court or communications from your attorney. If you are a client of our office,