So far so good … two years of solo practice!

With a doubt, April 4, 2018 is a momentous date in our history – being the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  It is a day to contemplate and memorialize a great man, to celebrate his life and accomplishments. His legacy will endure for the ages.

But it is also the anniversary of a more private matter – I opened my solo practice on this date in 2016.

Why pick April 4th? It was a practical decision. I moved in my office in March and slowly built it up – buying a prefabricated table and used chairs at the local flea market/antique store. I bought my door sign and business cards online.

And over the Easter holiday took my family to Historic Williamsburg in Virginia. We came home on the 3rd and I decided to officially open my office on the 4th.

So how has the last two years been?

Pretty good, actually, thank you for asking.

It was an odd feeling: I had been an attorney for almost 25 years at the time but still felt like a “new” attorney.  I introduced myself to judges and attorneys whose names I had known but never met.

I’ve made some good acquaintances during these two years and send and receive client recommendations through several “networks” of friends.

I still like to think I concentrate mainly on bankruptcy. I have “taken over” a few cases from people looking to polish their cases and get them through to discharge after prior attorneys – to be honest – dropped the ball in some way or another. This includes converting a few Debtors from their Chapter 13s.

But from scratch I filed over 50 bankruptcies in the past two years. Not a lot, but quite a bit from hindsight. A far cry from the days in the 1990s when I would file 50 per month, but … a good start.

On top of my solo cases I am privileged to be a partner with Upright Law, a nationwide law firm dedicated to helping people turn around their financial situation. It is a pleasure to be a partner and help people file for relief under the bankruptcy code that I might never have helped on my own.

I have only done a few divorces – all of them uncontested. A few where the spouse has disappeared and a few where both sides agreed and just needed someone to guide them through the process. I enjoyed helping them and have learned so much about the new divorce laws in Illinois that started in 2017. It was nice that I did not have to “unlearn” prior law. More harrowing cases get sent into my network of recommended lawyers. “If you have custody issues, here is an attorney I recommend …”. Since I am still new at family law, I don’t feel comfortable doing custody matter.

I have also established myself as a landlord-tenant attorney. A mobile home park hired me to do their evictions and replevin actions (where they are buying their mobile home). The mobile home park is run by a former client from many years back. They were in need of an attorney and when the manager saw my online presence he called me and hired me on the spot. “You helped me and now I’ll help you. I’ll keep you busy!!”

He sure has!

By far the best source of employment has been my per diem work. Attorneys from bigger firms from Chicago or the east coast that need a “warm body” to appear in court for them – first appearances, default dockets, etc. It is cheaper for them to pay me to appear than for them to send an associate. It provides me income and gives me a chance to appear at local county courthouses I may never get to practice before otherwise. I blog about my visits in my “Riding the Circuit” series.

Who knows what the next year will bring?

If my bankruptcies pick up I may have to pare back my per diem. I’m also hoping to pick up more landlord-tenant cases.

Of course, business picking up puts a damper on my writing. I’m still hoping to publish a bankruptcy/divorce book by year’s end.  Blogging is easier and quicker obviously – not just my travelogues but also trending local and national case law, FAQs, and Celebrity Spotlights will continue.

Stay with me – it will be a thrilling ride!

***

About the author

Michael Curry is the author of helpful ebooks on bankruptcy and debt relief, available on Kindle: What Bankruptcy Can Do, What Bankruptcy Can’t Do and Finally Be Financially Free.

At Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, IL, we are here to help you through your financial difficulties. Our down-to-earth bankruptcy attorney offers common sense advice and solutions for your bankruptcy filing.

Debt problems come in all shapes and sizes. For some of our clients, the issue that drives them to seek a lawyer’s advice is mounting credit card bills. For others, it may be an abusive creditor or a home foreclosure. At Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, IL, we offer a free debt-relief planning session to discuss your financial problems and identify solutions. Call or text today (618) 246-0993 or email michael.curry.law@gmail.com. Finally Be Financially Free by calling now.

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“I thought her father was Darth Vader …”

“… and her mother was Princess Abudhabi…”

Celebrity Spotlight: Eddie Fisher

Bankruptcy affects people of every age, creed, sex or ethnicity from every part of the country. Even celebrities both loved and disliked have their financial problems and depend on the bankruptcy laws to get out from under crippling debt.

Courtesy of the New York Times:

Eddie Fisher was known as much for his singing career as he was his love life.

Edwin Jack Fisher was born on August 10, 1928, in Philadelphia. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and his early singing experience came at the local synagogue. At 13 he won a singing contest sponsored by the “Horn and Hardart Children’s Hour,” a radio variety show, and he soon became a regular on the Philadelphia radio station WFIL, where his starting pay of 15 cents — the price of two trolley tokens — rose to $18 a week.

While still in high school he sang his way into the Buddy Morrow band, a job that took him to New York and led to an engagement with the Charlie Ventura big band. Too young to appear in nightclubs, he found work as a staff singer at the Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills, where his singing caught the attention of Eddie Cantor, who booked him in 1949 on a cross-country show. A contract with RCA followed.

Between 1950 and 1956 he had 24 top 10 hits and nearly 50 songs in the Top 40. He reached a wide television audience on “Coke Time With Eddie Fisher,” which NBC broadcast from 1953 to 1957, and “The Eddie Fisher Show,” its successor.

Seeking to capitalize on his marriage with Debbie Reynolds, RKO paired the couple in the musical-comedy film “Bundle of Joy” (1956). Mr. Fisher appeared opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “Butterfield 8” (1960), in a dramatic role that convinced him and the rest of the world that acting was not his destiny.

His career suffered badly over his very public and messy divorce from Reynolds, whom he had married in 1955, and left for Elizabeth Taylor.

The divorce became a major scandal partly because Mr. Fisher and Ms. Reynolds had been sold as Hollywood’s dream couple, and partly because Ms. Taylor had been married to Mr. Fisher’s best friend, the producer Mike Todd, who had died in a plane crash in 1958.

The gossip columns and magazines feasted on the breakup and the romance for months, and the adverse publicity caused NBC to cancel “The Eddie Fisher Show.”

The divorce of Mr. Fisher and Ms. Taylor was as sensational as the marriage. The smoldering romance between Richard Burton and Ms. Taylor, ignited on the set of “Cleopatra,” burst into flame before an eagerly watching world, and in 1964 the storied Fisher-Taylor marriage came to an end. Mr. Fisher, a worldwide object of derision as the ousted party, bounced back by marrying the singer Connie Stevens, the third of his five wives.

Hits became scarcer after the mid-1950s, and RCA dropped him in 1960. He returned to the label and recorded the minor hit “Games That Lovers Play” in 1966. The album of the same title, made with Nelson Riddle, became his top-selling long-playing record.

Mr. Fisher filed for bankruptcy in 1970.

He died in September 2010 due to complications during hip surgery.

His four children are Tricia Leigh and actress Joely Fisher from his marriage to Connie Stevens, and Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher from his marriage with Debbie Reynolds.

***

Check my blog for more Celebrity Spotlights.

***

Michael Curry is the author of helpful ebooks on bankruptcy and debt relief, available on Kindle: What Bankruptcy Can Do, What Bankruptcy Can’t Do and Finally Be Financially Free.

At Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, IL, we are here to help you through your financial difficulties. Our down-to-earth bankruptcy attorney offers common sense advice and solutions for your bankruptcy filing.

Debt problems come in all shapes and sizes. For some of our clients, the issue that drives them to seek a lawyer’s advice is mounting credit card bills. For others, it may be an abusive creditor or a home foreclosure. At Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, IL, we offer a free debt-relief planning session to discuss your financial problems and identify solutions. Call or text today (618) 246-0993 or email michael.curry.law@gmail.com. Finally Be Financially Free by calling now.

Til Debt Do Us Part

WHAT BANKRUPTCY CAN’T DO: Divorce Debt? Domestic Support Obligations part 2

Bankruptcy helps relieve the burden of credit card and loan debts, medical bills, back utilities and rent, and so forth.

But there are some debts that bankruptcy does not affect; that are “immune” from a bankruptcy discharge – the word is “non-dischargeable”. This means that when the smoke clears and the bankruptcy is over, these debts will still have to be paid.

My previous blogs were about taxes, traffic fines, speeding tickets, student loans and all the various types of what I call Intentional Debt.

Last time I spoke of Child Support, Alimony, Maintenance and Domestic Support Obligations. That was the introduction. Now I will talk specifically about Chapter 7 (and 11 and 12).

Child Support, Alimony and Maintenance survives Chapter 7. If you are current, if you are behind, if the debt is being collected by the state, or even assigned to the state in exchange for public aid; it will survive bankruptcy.

“My money isn’t even going to the kids or to my ex! It’s going to build the governor’s swimming pool!” Likely true … but it still survives bankruptcy.

***

But what if you were ordered to pay other people (friends or former in-laws), a credit card or the vet bill? Whether it was written in the actual divorce decree, the settlement agreement, ordered by the judge or in any way connected to the dissolution or separation; if it was for a credit card, a personal loan by a friend or family member or one of those loan companies at the strip mall, back utilities, medical bills for the children, vet bills for the pets; ANYTHING you are ordered to pay in the divorce/dissolution case is a DSO in a Chapter 7, 11 or 12. Period. And they survive a bankruptcy.

Okay, got it. But what does that mean?

I must admit that when I say “DSOs survive Chapter 7”; it is a simplistic short-cut. It’s like saying the firing on Fort Sumter started the Civil War: it is true in a way, but it is much more complicated.

The debt itself does NOT actually survive the bankruptcy; your obligation to pay the debt survives the bankruptcy. Your responsibility to protect your ex from collection activities survives the bankruptcy.

As soon as the MasterCard or the hospital receives notice that you file for Chapter 7 (or 11 or 12 or13) bankruptcy, they have to stop all collection activity against you.

YOU.

NOT the codebtor. When the bankruptcy is completed (or during the bankruptcy, but only if the company files the proper paperwork with the court) they can begin or resume collecting on the codebtor. If the debt is a DSO, the codebtor can go back to the divorce court to enforce the divorce/dissolution Order. The debt was discharged, but your obligation and responsibility as to the debt remains!

“The Discover card that HE was ordered to pay in our divorce papers has sued me and garnished $500.00 from my paycheck!”

He will likely be ordered to pay her that $500.00 she was forced to pay Discover.

***

“But the MasterCard is in my name ONLY, not hers (or his).” Are you sure? Double check. If that is the case you are lucky, because your responsibility to protect the codebtor doesn’t really exist. When you file bankruptcy, the MasterCard company cancels the debt. Your ex-spouse? The MasterCard will not go after him. If the company tries to collect on your ex-spouse, and she is NOT a codebtor, she has no more obligation to pay on the debt as your neighbor or your second cousin.

True the credit card company may TRY to collect from the ex-spouse. “Did you ever use it? Don’t you feel morally obligated to pay?”  Don’t let them trick you – the answers are NO.

But you better make sure he/she is NOT a codebtor on the bill!

Remember: the responsibility of protecting the codebtor does not discharge, but if there is no codebtor to protect there is no more responsibility to pay it.

***

An experienced bankruptcy attorney will go through the divorce paperwork with you and review any debts you have been ordered to pay.

“This says you have to pay the Discover card.”

“That was paid off last year with my tax refund.”

“And a Visa.”

“I still owe that.”

“Was that in both your names?”

“No, just mine.”

“This also says she was supposed to pay the MasterCard.”

“That was just in her name.”

In my state, a married couple is responsible for each other’s medical bills. Especially if they were still together when the bill was incurred.

“This says you have to pay Dr. Smith.”

“That was her bill.”

“Were you still together at the time?”

“Yes.”  Then that would be a DSO that would survive his bankruptcy. If he does not pay it, the hospital will try to collect from HER. She can go into the divorce court and enforce the divorce order.

Can anything be done? Not really, not in a Chapter 7.

Chapter 13s are different, though.  More on that next time!

***

Some Debtors do not have a problem with these kinds of debt surviving their bankruptcy if the debts are not too extreme. “I can handle the MasterCard with my ex if the REST of the credit cards get off my back.” You may be asked to sign an acknowledgment saying that you understand that. Read through any acknowledgement, but don’t be too offended by it. The attorney is only protecting himself or herself – this is his or her proof that they DID discuss it with you.

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

***

About the author: Michael Curry of Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, Illinois has helped thousands of individuals, family and small businesses in southern Illinois find protection under the Bankruptcy Code for almost twenty-five years. He is also available to help individuals and families with their estate planning (wills, power-of-attorney) and real estate and other sales transactions.

He is also the author of books on finance and bankruptcy available on Kindle through Amazon!

Whether you live in Mount Vernon, Salem, Waltonville, Woodlawn, Lawrenceville, Centralia, Louisville, Xenia, Grayville, Effingham, Dieterich, Vandalia, McLeansboro, Dahlgren, Albion, Flora, Clay City, Kinmundy, Chester, Sparta, Olney, Mount Carmel, Nashville, Fairfield, Cisne, Wayne City, Carmi, Grayville, or anywhere in Southern Illinois call Curry Law Office today at (618) 246-0993 and Finally Be Financially Free!

tags: Bankruptcy Attorney Lawyer Mount Vernon Illinois Centralia Fairfield Carmi

What Bankruptcy Can’t Do: Divorce Debt, part 1

Domestic Support Obligations 

Bankruptcy helps relieve the burden of credit card and loan debts, medical bills, back utilities and rent, and so forth.

In this blog series of non-dischargeable debt I have not yet described the different kinds of bankruptcy.

This blog is about marital debt. And it is the ONLY type of debt in this blog series that is treated substantially different in the two kinds (or chapters) of bankruptcy you can file. There is a difference with Intentional Debt, true; but that is the difference literally between one word – willful AND malicious (Chapter 7) and willful OR malicious (Chapter 13). A big difference, true, but the difference between the treatment of marital debt is MUCH greater.

So here is a brief review. The bankruptcy code is divided into chapters, just like any book. These are the chapters an individual person can file:

Chapter 7: liquidates/eliminates most debt. You can keep (and keep paying for) property you still owe – like cars, your house, furniture – usually as long as you are current and promise to keep making your payment.

Chapter 13: consolidates most of your debt into one payment – unsecured credit cards, medical bills, your car payment, taxes, sometimes even your house payment (especially if you are behind).

Chapter 11: This is mostly for corporations, but an individual can file a Chapter 11 if his debt exceeds the amount allowed in a Chapter 13. If you owe over $380,000.00 (or so) in unsecured debt, you can’t do a Chapter 13 and have to do a Chapter 11.

Chapter 12: Similar to a Chapter 13 but for farmers and fishermen. Most farmers and fishermen owe much more than $380,000 unsecured (and $1.1 million in secured debt); and cannot contend with the sometimes draconian rules of a Chapter 11. So Congress made the Chapter 12 – an amalgamation of a 13 and an 11.

But there are some debts that bankruptcy does not affect; that are “immune” from a bankruptcy discharge – the word is “non-dischargeable”. This means that when the smoke clears and the bankruptcy is over, these debts will still have to be paid.

My previous blogs were about  taxes, traffic fines, speeding tickets and their ilk, student loans and all the various types of what I call Intentional Debt.

Today I’d like to discuss Child Support, Alimony, Maintenance and other marital debt. The Bankruptcy Code calls it Domestic Support Obligations.

***

So far in this list of non-dischargeable debts there is little difference in what kind of bankruptcy you file. The debt will either discharge or survive. The exception is Intentional Debt’s “willful and malicious” and “willful or malicious”. But this deals with the INTENT of the debt, not the definition of the debt.

For Domestic Support Obligations (DSOs), the type of bankruptcy matters a great deal as to the definition of the debt. DSOs survive Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Period. The argument in a Chapter 13 is whether the debt is a DSO or not! A debt can be a DSO in a 7 but not in a 13.

***

18 USC Section 523(a)(5) & (15) of the Bankruptcy Code says:

 (a) A (bankruptcy) discharge … does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt— …

 (5) for a domestic support obligation; …

 (15) to a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor and not of the kind described in paragraph (5) that is incurred by the debtor in the course of a divorce or separation or in connection with a separation agreement, divorce decree or other order of a court of record, or a determination made in accordance with State or territorial law by a governmental unit; …

So what is a Domestic Support Obligation? The Bankruptcy Code provides a definition in

11 USC Section 101(14A):

 The term “domestic support obligation” means a debt that accrues before, on, or after the date of the order for relief in a case under this title, including interest that accrues on that debt as provided under applicable nonbankruptcy law notwithstanding any other provision of this title, that is‐‐

(A) owed to or recoverable by‐‐

(i) a spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor or such child’s parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative; or

(ii) a governmental unit;

(B) in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support (including assistance provided by a governmental unit) of such spouse, former spouse, or child of the debtor or such child’s parent, without regard to whether such debt is expressly so designated;

(C) established or subject to establishment before, on, or after the date of the order for relief in a case under this title, by reason of applicable provisions of‐‐

(i) a separation agreement, divorce decree, or property settlement agreement;

(ii) an order of a court of record; or

(iii) a determination made in accordance with applicable nonbankruptcy law by a governmental unit; and

(D) not assigned to a nongovernmental entity, unless that obligation is assigned voluntarily by the spouse, former spouse, child of the debtor, or such child’s parent, legal guardian, or responsible relative for the purpose of collecting the debt.

 ***

All right, so with all that legalese, what are we talking about? Marital Debt is anything you were ordered to pay in a divorce or separation agreement. Anything. Whether you pay it to your ex-spouse or not.

Child support, alimony, maintenance, obviously. But if you were ordered to pay other people (friends or former in-laws), a credit card or the vet bill? Whether it was written in the actual divorce decree, the settlement agreement, ordered by the judge or in any way connected to the dissolution or separation.

They are all DSOs. At least in a Chapter 7.

***

Ick, you say. So what can be done about it?

***

I’ll talk specifically about DSOs in a Chapter 7 next time.

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

***

About the author: Michael Curry of Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, Illinois has helped thousands of individuals, family and small businesses in southern Illinois find protection under the Bankruptcy Code for almost twenty-five years. He is also available to help individuals and families with their estate planning (wills, power-of-attorney) and real estate and other sales transactions.

He is also the author of books on finance and bankruptcy available on Kindle through Amazon!

Whether you live in Mount Vernon, Salem, Waltonville, Woodlawn, Lawrenceville, Centralia, Louisville, Xenia, Grayville, Effingham, Dieterich, Vandalia, McLeansboro, Dahlgren, Albion, Flora, Clay City, Kinmundy, Chester, Sparta, Olney, Mount Carmel, Nashville, Fairfield, Cisne, Wayne City, Carmi, Grayville, or anywhere in Southern Illinois call Curry Law Office today at (618) 246-0993 and Finally Be Financially Free!

tags: Bankruptcy Attorney Lawyer Mount Vernon Illinois Centralia Fairfield Carmi