What’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are different tools that are used to handle different financial problems. Chapter 13 is a debt consolidation plan used to repay debt in full or in part over a period of years. Chapter 7 is a fresh start or liquidation case that is usually finished after only a few months.

In Chapter 13, you can force secured creditors like mortgage lenders or car lenders to allow you to cure defaults over time, whether they agree or not. In Chapter 7, unsecured debts are discharged without payment, and you indicate your preference (intent) as to whether or not you want to “reaffirm” and keep paying your secured creditors. Alternatively, you may surrender the collateral and discharge the debt.

Read more “What’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?”


It’s been a wild ride recently. The pandemic is finally easing, after causing death, hospitalization, unemployment, and ballooning debt. The government and some lenders tried to ease the pain with stimulus payments, child tax credits, eviction moratoriums, and a temporary freeze on foreclosures and garnishments. Some mortgage lenders allowed borrowers trial periods with lower payments, sometimes followed by permanent modifications to cure defaults.

Aggressive collection activity has always driven consumer bankruptcy filings. Collection activity fell dramatically during the pandemic, down 25% in the Northern District of Georgia in 2021. Now, mortgage interest rates are climbing, and mortgage lenders are less willing to agree to workouts and forbearance agreements. Rent, automobile prices, and the price of groceries are increasing dramatically. The cost of gasoline is the highest in history. Stimulus payments have ended, along with enhanced child tax credits.

After a pause, the debt collection process is resuming with a vengeance. Debt collectors are gearing up with collection calls, foreclosures, repossessions, lawsuits, and garnishments. The state courts are open for them. (So far in 2022, all bankruptcy hearings in the Northern District of Georgia are still being done by brief telephone calls, which is less stressful than appearing in court, more convenient, and prevents missing time from work).

Chapter 13 is used to force lenders to allow you to catch up on delinquencies over a period of years, whether they agree or not. Chapter 13 does not put property at risk, because a payment plan substitutes for a so-called “liquidation” of property of the estate.

One consistent benefit of filing any kind of bankruptcy is speed. Most debtors try to find financial solutions without filing bankruptcy, but delays and red tape might eliminate your options. If all else fails, you can gain time, and stop imminent collection actions by filing a bankruptcy… which instantly stops lawsuits, repossessions, garnishments, and foreclosures.

Succeeding in your case still depends on good communication with your lawyer. It’s important to choose a lawyer who answers the phone, and who returns calls and emails promptly. You should always prefer a patient listener to a fast talker and prefer a straight talker to a smooth talker. Your lawyer needs for you to be honest because creative problem-solving starts with hard facts, not wishful thinking. Finally, choose a lawyer who is knowledgeable about local rules and practices.

Call us in time for us to help you with your problems. No commitment or money is necessary. Call 770-683-3303 or email cottenlaw@gmail.com for a free consultation.

The Effect of Filing Bankruptcy On Evictions and Foreclosures: Updated 2020

The Supreme Court of Georgia declared a “judicial emergency” on March 14, 2020, and
ordered a suspension of jury trials because of health concerns over the spread of the virus. The
judicial emergency also affected many debt collection procedures, including evictions and
foreclosures. The initial Order only lasted about a month, but it has been extended several times
since then. As of the date of this blog, it has most recently been extended to Tuesday, August 11,
2020, at 11:59 p.m. The Order is clear that safety is an overriding concern, so other extensions
are certainly possible.

However, these Orders don’t change the law, and ultimately, they will not wipe out debt,
or prevent landlords, banks, mortgage companies, and other creditors from exercising their
traditional debt collection powers in the event of default. The emergency just delays the exercise
of those rights.

So how can filing bankruptcy stop an eviction or foreclosure? With regard to rent, if you
default on your rent, the landlord’s remedy is to declare the lease to be terminated, and to recover
possession of the property by filing a “Dispossessory” in state court. This is an accelerated
procedure that the renter will usually lose– unless he or she brings the rent current, or unless
some consensual agreement is reached with the landlord. A Dispossessory normally only requires
seven days to accomplish. If it is granted, the landlord can put your furniture and possessions out
on the street under the protection of the police over your objections.

If a state court has granted a Dispossessory before a bankruptcy is filed, neither Chapter 7
nor Chapter 13 will not stop an eviction, even though Chapter 7 will wipe out any debt that is
still owed as the result of the pre-bankruptcy default. A Chapter 13 is different. It is a debt
consolidation plan, and can actually stop an eviction– but the “plan” must provide for monthly
payments to the landlord that are enough to “cure” the default during the remaining part of the
lease. Thus, if you have six months left on your lease, and if you are $600 behind, your plan
would need to pay at least $100 per month to the landlord catch up that default within the
remaining lease period as you continue to make regular rent payments. Curing a rent arrearage is
usually a short term fix in Chapter 13, because the bankruptcy court will not force the landlord to
rent to you beyond the term of the original lease, even though the plan may last much longer. Of
course, the landlord could agree to another lease period voluntarily. It is very helpful to make
landlords happy, because they have real power in this situation.

As for foreclosures, a Chapter 7 will delay, but not prevent them. However, if you have
enough equity in your property, you may be able to protect tens of thousands of dollars that
would otherwise be lost in foreclosure. Chapter 13 is the tool used to stop foreclosures
permanently, and allow you to cure mortgage arrearages over a period of years while you
continue to make regular monthly mortgage payments. Chapter 13 can reduce what you pay on
car notes or unsecured debt, and make it affordable for you to cure mortgage defaults over time.
Chapters 7 and 13 are different tools that require planning and discussions with a bankruptcy
lawyer to get a clear idea of what can be done for you in your unique situation.

Call us for a free consultation at 770-683-3303, and stay safe.


It can be a “red flag” to creditors where a Debtor has actively used credit cards for purchases or cash advances shortly before filing bankruptcy. However, it is not true that all (or even most) such recent charges are “non-dischargeable” (that is, that the debts are not wiped out by the bankruptcy). Sometimes this pattern is a problem, and sometimes it is not. While Congress often changes the amounts or timing in this section, as of 2019 the Code provides that:

1) purchases of “luxury goods or services” of at least $500.00 made within 90 days of filing, or 2) cash advances of at least $750.00 made within 70 days of filing are 3) “presumed” to be non-dischargeable. This code section has several parts.

First, the “presumption” favoring creditors does not arise automatically just because a purchase or cash advance is made within a certain number of days before bankruptcy. The “presumption” is only triggered if the purchases or cash advances are used for “luxuries”… that is, if they are not “reasonable necessary for the support and maintenance of the Debtor or his dependents”. Some cases have defined “luxuries” as items that are “extravagant, indulgent, or nonessential”, while others have held that purchases are not luxuries if they “serve an important family function and evidence some financial responsibility”. The facts of each particular case are key. “Luxuries” should not include charges for most medical expenses, automotive repairs, discount purchases at stores like Walmart, or everyday food expenditures at a grocery store or low-end restaurant. On the other hand, gifts are normally considered to be “luxuries”.

Second, for the “presumption” to arise, the creditor must be specific in pleading the facts that are being complained about. If he is too vague, then the creditor, not the Debtor, must carry the burden of proof with regard to proving fraud (a high hurdle). This is much more difficult and expensive for the creditor, and it is not undertaken lightly. Moreover, even if the “presumption” does arise, the Debtor can still win, but he must carry the burden of proof himself to do that.

Third, in any action based on fraud, the “intent” to mislead or deceive is an important element. However, “intent” is hard to prove or disprove by direct evidence, and is usually decided based on the surrounding facts. For example, changes in credit card usage and a high number of charges right before filing, or even charges made right after consulting a lawyer may suggest an intent not to repay the debt. Unusual patterns of credit card usage can motivate questions about the charges that need to be answered… whether the creditor ultimately decides to file suit or not.

For the court to find that a debt is non-dischargeable, the creditor must first file a separate suit within the bankruptcy called an “adversary proceeding”. The attorney fees in an adversary proceeding can be prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately, the creditor (usually a bank) generally has more money than the Debtor, which creates unfair pressure on the Debtor to “settle” a suit even if it is winnable. In a settlement, the Debtor agrees to repay the debt in whole or in part after the bankruptcy (usually in installments) to avoid the high costs of litigation.

Fortunately, Congress has recognized that there is a great potential for creditor abuse in this area because of the parties’ unequal bargaining power. Thus, the Code provides that if the creditor files an adversary proceeding, and if the debt ultimately is discharged, that the creditor “shall” pay the Debtor’s attorney fees unless the creditor can prove that the filing of the suit was “substantially justified”. This usually requires proof that a meaningful investigation was undertaken before filing the suit, or that the creditor undertook “discovery” in the suit to sort out the facts in a meaningful way. These steps cost money, and discourage creditors from filing frivolous suits. Please call us at 770-683-3303 to talk to our lawyers about your particular situation.

Effect of Filing Chapter 13 on Foreclosure: Questions and Answers

Q: I fell behind on the house payments. My bank stopped accepting payments, and I received a letter saying that my mortgage has been “accelerated”, and that the matter has been referred to a lawyer for foreclosure. What does that mean? Will filing Chapter 13 help this situation?

A: “Foreclosure” is the process by which the lender on real estate takes title back from the borrower because of a default, usually by missing payments. There is no minimum number of missed payments that will trigger this action. If payments are not made according to the schedule set out in the note, the bank has the discretion to foreclose.

Until foreclosure takes place, the property belongs to the borrower. After foreclosure takes place, it belongs to the lender. “Referring an account for foreclosure” means that lawyers have been hired to start the process of foreclosure, which takes weeks to accomplish. “Accelerated” means that the whole debt is due so that that just catching up the “arrears” will not satisfy the lender. Neither means that the bank now owns your property.

The procedure by which foreclosure happens is determined by state law. Foreclosure in Georgia is done without any court action. To do this, the lender must advertize in the newspaper in the county where the property is located that a foreclosure “sale” is scheduled for a particular date. The advertizement must run for four consecutive weeks. Afterwards, foreclosure may be “cried” on the courthouse steps at the county courthouse. Foreclosures in Georgia must take place on the first Tuesday of a month, and not otherwise. Thus, it takes a least a month after a mortgage has been “referred for foreclosure” before the foreclosure can take place.

When you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, an “automatic stay” goes into effect that instantly freezes the ability of a lender to proceed with foreclosure …whether the lender knows of the bankruptcy filing or not. (If a foreclosure has already taken place, however, a bankruptcy will not retroactively reverse it).

Q: What is the effect of filing a Chapter 13 on foreclosure?

A: A Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves the filing of a “plan” that may propose to “cure” a mortgage default by having the Chapter 13 Trustee catch up “arrearages” over a period of years. In a normal plan, the debtor makes future mortgage payments in the regular amount directly to the lender after the case is filed. In addition, the debtor pays the Chapter 13 Trustee his “plan payments” which are used by the Trustee to catch up mortgage arrearages and pay other debt such as car notes and credit cards. So long as the debtor meets his obligations under the plan (including the obligation to “amend” the plan when circumstances change), creditors must accept the bankruptcy as approved by the Court. Thus, after a case is filed, creditors may not employ state law collection remedies to enforce their contracts. This includes foreclosure.

Thus, debtors have power in Chapter 13 to stop foreclosures permanently. They can keep their property and take years to catch up defaults, whether the lender agrees or not.

Call attorneys H. Brooks Cotten or Gina Karrh at 678-519-4143 to discuss your particular situation, and they can discuss your options with you. 

Does Filing Chapter 13 Have Any Effect on Obligations Arising in Divorce?

It’s common knowledge that you can’t “bankrupt on child support or alimony”. Obligations “in the nature of support” (even if they are labeled something else in the divorce decree) have never been dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means that you can’t get rid of them without payment.

Even so, it is possible to stop (“stay”) a contempt proceeding on past due obligations and catch up those debts over a period of years in Chapter 13. Chapter 13 is often used to avoid going to jail on a contempt proceeding. However, the bankruptcy judge will not rewrite a divorce obligation no matter how unfair it is, and no matter what has changed since the divorce was final. Only the Superior Court can do that. The reason is that a divorce is strictly a matter that is governed by state law in state court (Superior Court), whereas bankruptcies are federal. Federal courts will not interfere in matters that are traditionally the subject of state jurisdiction.

Over the years, this principle has become stronger and stronger. It is no longer possible to discharge a property settlement (as distinct from a support obligation) in Chapter 7. Thus, you should not expect to “fix” a bad result in divorce court by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It may be possible however, under limited circumstances, to pay property settlement obligations less than in full under a Chapter 13, and still receive a discharge. There is nothing easy or automatic about this, and you would have to discuss your particular situation with a lawyer to be confident about how this would work out for you.

If you are still married and are contemplating a divorce, a joint bankruptcy might make your separate lives easier in the future. Assume that you divorce without filing bankruptcy. If you owe some debts jointly, the divorce decree should direct which of you is supposed to pay each of those debts. If instead the divorce is unclear as to who should pay a debt, cooperation will be necessary for you to maintain the peace. This is often a problem in divorce. It usually works best for each spouse to be totally responsible for paying any given debt.

Moreover, even if the divorce decree clearly assigns each spouse separate debts to pay, that does not affect the right of the creditor to collect from either one of you if both names are on the account. Thus, if the ex is supposed to pay, but does not pay, you can still be sued by the creditor, regardless of what the divorce decree provides. If you are sued, your remedy would be against the ex-spouse, not the creditor. You would have to return to Superior Court to file a Motion for Contempt to make the ex-spouse pay as ordered. Similarly, you may not owe debts jointly with your spouse, but a divorce court still can order you to pay a debt that never was in your name… as part of a “division of marital liabilities”.

When you file for divorce, you want to achieve peace if at all possible. You don’t want to set yourself up for future conflicts either with your ex or with your old creditors. If you file bankruptcy and wipe out these debts, neither one of you will have to pay them in the future, and the divorce decree will not need to address them. This if often the best strategy for avoiding stress and conflict in your future life. Call us at 678-519-4143 to discuss your particular situation with our lawyers. 

Starting the Process of Filing for Bankruptcy

General information is available online, and you can do some research before calling a lawyer. However, in bankruptcy, what happens in an actual case depends on the circumstances of the individual debtor, and to some extent, issues are handled differently depending on which judge or which trustee is assigned. Thus, it is not the case that “one size fits all”. Local knowledge and expertise are important to get the best result for your case. We have that local knowledge and expertise.

Most people prefer to call us first, or even walk into our office to discuss their situation. We can give you informative answers so long as you understand that results depend on all of the facts taken as a whole, and not just on selected facts taken in isolation. You will need to do an in-person interview to actually prepare a case for filing.

When you come into our office, we have simple forms for you to fill out. We answer questions at that time if a question is not clear to you. A paralegal then types your information into an official format. You will have a generous amount of time to talk privately with the lawyer to explore your particular situation and options. We always try to do the job right the first time to reduce worries and uncertainties later on down the line.

In general, any bankruptcy requires that you provide information about your assets and your debts and about your income and your expenses. Information about your “assets” includes values of real estate, cars, and other personal property, whether paid for or not. We often use tax appraisals for values of real estate, and we look up N.A.D.A. values for vehicles. Values assigned to things like household furnishings are more like estimates. We help you with this.

Information about income and expenses is very important. We have to provide copies of “pay advices” (where possible) to back up what is said in your “budget” about your income, and we have to provide the most recently filed tax return. The court can and will require you to file tax returns if you should have filed but did not. The trustees may want proof of other types of income like social security, government assistance, or even support from family members. Sometimes, but not always, we are allowed to use an affidavit (a sworn statement) as “proof” of income where no other proof exists.

Information about expenses is usually clear with regard to the rent or mortgage you pay, or with regard to things like car insurance. Amounts budgeted food and transportation expenses are not so clearly defined, and depend on factors such as household size and how much you drive.

We do not charge fees unless you file the case. If you decide to file, you will need to do “credit counseling”, which is a statutory requirement. This is done in the office by internet, and a secretary guides you through the process. The cost of credit counseling is included with any other fees you pay.

Please call us at 678-519-4143 to discuss your particular situation. With our help, starting the process will be less stressful and easier than what you might think.

Do I Have to Include My Spouse?

Your husband or wife might be opposed to filing bankruptcy with you. The good news is that you are not legally REQUIRED to file a joint case. Many cases are filed singly, regardless of marital status. However, it is often to your advantage to file together to qualify for the benefits that are most important to you. As a practical matter, the benefits that you are seeking might not be achievable any other way.

For example, a bankruptcy discharge will only the cover the person who files the case (the “debtor”). If a debt is owed jointly, the non-filing spouse will not be covered by the debtor’s discharge. Where a debtor and the non-filing spouse owe a joint debt and a Chapter 7 is filed, the debtor would be discharged of the debt. However, the non-filing spouse would continue to owe it, and would continue to be subject to collection activity.

In a Chapter 13 (not Chapter 7), the debtor may protect the non-filing spouse on a jointly-owed consumer debt. The debtor does this by providing in the plan that the debtor will pay the debt in full through the plan. While this protects the non-filing co-obligor, it might make the plan more expensive because plan payments have to be high enough to pay the debt. Otherwise, if the debtor will not pay a joint debt, the court will “grant relief from the automatic stay” to allow the creditor to be paid by the non-filing co-obligor.

Suppose you owe a car note jointly with the non-filing spouse, and you intend to pay for that car through your Chapter 13 (whether the spouse files with you or not). You can do this even if you file by yourself. However, in order to fully protect the other party, you would have to pay the full contract interest on the car. This can make a big difference if the contract interest rate is high. By contrast, if you choose to file a joint case, you may reduce the contract interest rate and receive a discharge without paying that high interest.

Suppose your spouse doesn’t owe any debt, or can handle his or her debt without filing with you. In that case, he or she does not have to file. However, you still have to include the spouse’s income and expenses in your budget. (A non-filing spouse’s name and social security number are not included in the bankruptcy petition, even though the Trustee can and does require “proof of income” from the non-filing spouse. This information is not published publicly). Thus, the bankruptcy should not affect the non-filing spouse’s credit so long as debts are not owed jointly.

The budget includes household income and expenses even in a single filing. If you think about it, your ability to pay debt is very much affected by your spouse’s income, because he or she pays some of the bills. In a Chapter 13, your budget must show that you have the ability to pay what your plan requires you to pay. Otherwise, the plan is “infeasible”. Similarly, in a Chapter 7, your budget must show that you can afford to pay for the debts that you want to “reaffirm”, such as your car or your house. Without your spouse’s income, you probably couldn’t afford to do that.

Please call us at 678-519-4143 to discuss your particular situation with our lawyers. 

Redemption in Chapter 7: Keep Your Car While Lowering the Payments

In Chapter 7, there are three possibilities for dealing with a debt that is secured by collateral, one of which is a redemption. Redemptions are usually only done with regard to vehicles, though it would be theoretically possible to do it with other types of personal property too. This article deals with redeeming cars. This is possible in Chapter 7, but not Chapter 13.

First, with the agreement of the creditor, you may keep the car, and continue your obligation to pay for it. This is called a reaffirmation. The effect is to leave the car out of the bankruptcy and continue to pay for it, usually under the terms of the original contract. A reaffirmation usually requires that you be current in your payments on your car note.

The second possibility is to surrenderthe collateral. In that case, you lose the car to the creditor, and the debt is discharged. The creditor cant collect any money later. This makes sense when you cant afford the debt, or if something is wrong with the collateral so that you prefer to pursue other options. You can certainly surrender the collateral even if you are behind on the debt and a reaffirmationis not possible.

The third possibility is a redemption. Redemption is a remedy that exists only under the bankruptcy code, and so you have to file a Chapter 7 to take advantage of it. It is perfectly legal, and is easily achieved in the right circumstances. You dont need to be current in your payments to redeem. This remedy will surprise you, and is not obvious at all.

The Code provides that if a debtor pays the fair market valueof personal property in a lump sum, that the creditor must accept the money in exchange for its lien rights. The challenge is that debtors do not have enough money to make large lump sum payments. The solution is that a few banks make money by financing a bankruptcy redemption if the circumstances qualify under their guidelines. The practical effect of a redemption is that the debt is refinanced: the old debt is satisfied, and a new, lower debt/loan is created in its place with a new lender. That lender becomes the lienholder in the place of the original creditor.

The right circumstancesare as follows: 1) the car must be relatively new (10 years or less and less than 150,000 miles), and 2) the debt must not be co-signed, 3) the debt should significantly exceed the value of the collateral securing it, and 4) your provable income should be high enough to make the payments.

The debt might exceed the value of the collateral for several reasons. One is where the debtor rolled a pre-existing debt into the price of his car when he bought it (in other words, the trade-in was not paid off). Another circumstance is where the lender (usually a credit union) has cross- collateralizedthe car note with some other debt, such as a loan or credit card. In that case, the car may be collateral for both the car note and for the other unsecureddebt based on the language in the loan agreement. Third, high finance charges, late-fees, or other charges may have driven up the pay-off to a figure that is much more than the value of the car.

If your car is relatively new and is worth significantly less than what is owed on it, we can explore

redemption options for you. A successful redemption is accomplished by allowing us to contact the potential lender on your behalf by telephone right on the spot. If the lender agrees, we file a Motion to Redeemwith the Court, which would be granted so long as the we can reach an agreement with the creditor as to the amount of the fair market valuewhich may be negotiated.

The beauty of a redemption is that everyone is happy… the payments to you are invariably lower than before, the payoff is lower than before, and the original creditor is happy to receive a lump sum. Our attorney fees are included in the new loan, so you dont have any out of pocket expense. Whether you meet the necessary guidelines is not hard for us to determine, and many loans qualify.

Call one of our lawyers for an appointment at 770-519-4143 and we can explore this possibility for you. 

Tax Refunds, Lawsuit Recoveries, and Inheritances

If the state or federal government owes you money for a tax refund that you have not yet received, this is considered to be an assetowned by you similar to money in your bank account. Assets should be disclosed in bankruptcies. You are then allowed to exemptor protect those assets within certain dollar limits depending on what the asset is, and depending on how many people own it.

In some Chapter 13’s, but not all of them, you might be required under your plan to pay in part of future tax refunds to pay creditors if they would not be paid in full otherwise. You should ask the lawyer about this if you are filing Chapter 13.

In either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, disclosing assets is the proper way and best way to protect them. Hiding or failing to disclose assets can result in the loss of protection that you would otherwise have, and creditors and Trustees can make problems for you if they allege that you failed to disclose something that should have been disclosed.

Similarly, if you have a claimagainst someone else, regardless of whether you have filed suit, and regardless of whether you have retained a lawyer, this claimis also an asset that should be disclosed and exempted in a bankruptcy. It doesnt matter if the exact value of the claim is known or not. Valuecan be listed as unknown. Personal injury, products liability, workers compensation, and employment discrimination are common examples of this type of claim. Claims should be disclosed whenever they arise, even after a bankruptcy has been filed.

If you are due to inherit money or property from someone who has died, your share is an asset, even if the inheritance has not been distributed. If someone dies within 180 days (six months) after you file, that inheritance is also an asset, and your share should be added to the schedules and exempted for your protection.

The disclosure of assets does NOT necessarily mean that you will lose them. Assets can be protected within limits in a Chapter 7 by exemption, and you are not subject to losing assets in Chapter 13 at all (even though it might or might not impact the minimum amount of your monthly payments). A Chapter 13 is a voluntary proceeding. If the burdens of continuing the case outweigh the benefits, you can just terminate the proceeding. Thus, people very seldom lose anything that they dont want to lose when they bankruptcy, assuming they consult an attorney about the rules in advance to make informed decisions.

Each case is different. In the vast majority of cases, debtors safely own assets, disclose assets, and protect them. If it turns out that you are subject to losing something that you dont want to lose, the best approach is to discuss it specifically with the lawyer ahead of time. The best answer often involves balancing benefits and burdens in that particular case. This will eliminate unnecessary worry about losing assets.

Please call us at 678-519-4143 today to discuss your specific situation. 

Pick Your Lawyer Carefully, Then Trust That Person

We frequently receive calls from people who filed their bankruptcy case with another lawyer, and now want to change lawyers. Sometimes its because the first lawyer wont return calls. Sometimes the client just doesnt understand requirements and procedures. Sometimes they have received objections, and believe their case has been thrown out, or will be thrown out, no matter what they do. Sometimes clients suspect that they are not receiving the best deal possible.

To be successful, bankruptcies require that the paperwork be done accurately. Each case is different, and one size definitely does not fit all. The lawyer needs documentation (paystubs, tax returns, bills, letters, etc.) to fill out the forms at the beginning and on an ongoing basis so that the Trustee or creditors do not object. Debtors often believe that approximations are good enough, and that they are free to pick and choose which debts to file. Approximations work occasionally, but not always. You are always supposed to list all of your debts, even if you are keeping the property or paying for it outsidethe bankruptcy. The general rule is that everything is disclosed, even though there may be considerable freedom in deciding how debts or assets are treated in the plan or statement of intentions.

Our experience is that taking time to be accurate on the front end greatly reduces anxiety, and reduces complications in both simple and hard cases. Naturally, hard cases, like business cases or repeat filings, take longer to get right than simple cases. Sometimes clients believe that their case is hard, when really its easy, and sometimes they think its easy, when its complex for reasons they did not anticipate. Either way, it works best when everyone understands the challenges and benefits as early as possible. The best way to make that happen is to be prepared with paperwork. Keep appointments. Listen carefully to questions, and trust that the lawyer really is on your side even if he warns you about constraints. Trust that the lawyer wants you to succeed, and get what you want as badly as you do.

If you are wondering about filing a bankruptcy, call first and ask general questions. Listen for whether you are being treated with respect, and expect to get some meaningful answers to your questions. However, you shouldnt expect highly specific answers if you havent met the lawyer in person and provided all the information needed to write detailed plans and schedules.

After you file, trust the lawyer that you have chosen. The procedures and requirements are too numerous to understand everything at once, especially things that may or may not happen in the future. Sometimes you have to be patient and let your questions come into focus.

After you have chosen to file with a particular lawyer, its not proper for a different lawyer to give second opinions and second guess decisions that your lawyer has made. When people who are already represented ask me questions, I may feel like offering my own opinion and solutions, but I almost always refrain. A person who offers a second opinionoften hasnt understood everything. Its disrespectful to both the lawyer and the client to make superficial suggestions without an adequate grasp of the facts.

Please call us at 678-519-4143 to discuss your particular situation. With our help, starting the process will be less stressful, smoother, and more successful than what you might think.