“H” Is For Harassment By Creditors

HCreditor harassment, obnoxious phone calls to your house and job, lawsuits and garnishments overwhelm and stress people out. Ripping open your paycheck to see if there is a garnishment is not a good feeling.  Creditor harassment and debt collectors make ridiculous threats to get you to pay. Creditors say harassing things like they will have you arrested or they will take money from your bank account if you don’t start making payments.

Lies, goddamn lies, and creditors.

Here are some of my favorites:

The threat:

  1. You will be arrested if you don’t start making payments.
  2. They will take the money from your bank account immediately.
  3. Your check will be garnished this week.

The truth:

  1. Debtor’s prisons no longer exist. I assure you a cop is not going to arrest you because Visa said so.
  2. Your bank will only allow a creditor access if you give them permission.
  3. Garnishment will only happen after you have been sued and there is a judgment. Even then it will be a lawyer, and not a debt collector, doing the garnishing.

Having said all of that, threatening calls and letters is a symptom of a much bigger problem: You can’t afford to pay your debt. That’s the real problem. Whether it is because of job loss, wage reduction, overwhelming medical debt, the result is the same. There are only two ways I know of that are guaranteed to work to stop the collections. Either pay off the debt or file for bankruptcy protection.

Bankruptcy and the automatic stay.

Once you file for bankruptcy, the “automatic stay” kicks in. Your creditors are no longer allowed to contact you, write you, call you, sue you, garnish you, seize your property, etc. When you file your bankruptcy petition, all of your creditors are listed. The bankruptcy court mails notices to the creditors to inform them of the bankruptcy. If the contact continues, the creditor is in contempt of court and can be sanctioned for violating the automatic stay. In some cases, a debtor will be awarded damages and attorney fees for having to enforce the stay against the willful violator.

“H” also stands for:

Christopher McAvoy is a Taylor,  Michigan attorney and consumer bankruptcy lawyer who helps people in the  Downriver area  file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. To find out more about bankruptcy, click here for contact info.

What Comes First: Bankruptcy or Divorce?

When considering both, the first issue is timing. Should you file it before, during, or after the divorce? A married couple, even if not living together, can file a joint case. You cannot file jointly after the divorce is over even if the debts you are looking to discharge are joint debts. Some of the advantages of filing before: Elimination of all debts which will reduce arguments over who pays for what; Paying for only one bankruptcy and not two; Making a spouse who would not be eligible for filing for a Chapter 7 eligible by using a larger household size.

If the bankruptcy petition is filed during the divorce, the divorce action is stopped in its tracks in regard to any property settlements. All property of the debtors is property of the bankruptcy estate and cannot be divided up in any property settlement until either the bankruptcy is over or permission is received from the bankruptcy judge. This automatic stay does not apply to child support, spousal support, or custody and parenting time but only to property division. While it may be necessary to file during a divorce, it can slow things down.

If you file a Chapter 7 after the marriage is over, you should know spousal support, and child support are never dischargeable. You may not be able to discharge any attorney fees you owe to your former spouse’s attorney. You may also have a problem if you have any “hold harmless” agreements in the Judgment. An example of a hold harmless clause is when a husband is ordered to pay a credit card bill that is only in the wife’s name. You can discharge property settlements only in a Chapter 13 but not a Chapter 7. Confused yet? It gets tricky figuring out what is property and what is support.

Every family is different and so are their needs. If you are getting a divorce, it may be nice to get a fresh financial start as well.