OLG LEGAL COMMENTARY:
Attorney Sophia Dean
I often use the analogy that choosing to file for bankruptcy is like choosing to get liposuction.
When you want to lose body fat, you have a choice: You can continue to work out, and keep trying to lose the weight, or, you can go get liposuction, and lose the weight quickly.
It’s the same thing with bankruptcy. Many people will call me, not sure if they are quite ready to pull the trigger on filing for bankruptcy. They say, “I’m going to just keep trying to pay all these bills, or settle them,” when, clearly, the best thing for them to do would be to just get the liposuction – to just pull the trigger on bankruptcy and get rid of all their debt that they cannot afford to have.
What I tell people who are struggling with that decision is that: If you are struggling to pay, and struggling to keep up, and feeling the pressure, and losing sleep at night, then consider pulling the trigger on bankruptcy to give you peace of mind, to be done with it.
And, for many people, the early part of the year – January through March, i.e. the start of tax season – is the best time to consider doing just that.
It is the first few months of each year that most people think about filing for bankruptcy, because they have extra money – thanks to their tax return – to pay the legal fees that come with it.
We find, though, that bankruptcy, for whatever its reasons, is very cliché, and not in a good way. Even knowing that they should, and even with their tax return in hand, many people are afraid to move forward with bankruptcy because they do not want to have a bankruptcy on their record. What they must consider is that, if your credit is already in the toilet, filing for bankruptcy is not going to hurt you anymore.
I have been working in bankruptcy on behalf of clients for almost seven years. Many of my clients are not just people who want to get out of their bills. They are mainly people who have fallen on tough times, be it job loss, death, disability, divorce, something of the sort, and now cannot keep up with their financial obligations. Not because of anything they have done, but just because circumstances of life happened to them.
And I understand that embarrassing stigma. But bankruptcy is not meant for people who go on 20-day tours of Europe, and then decide to file for bankruptcy because they do not want to pay for their trip. Nobody comes to me for that reason. Ninety-nine percent of my clients come to me because of circumstances in life. Things did not go how they expected. Maybe they had no problem paying their bills prior to the circumstance, but then something happened, and they just can’t keep up.
Filing for bankruptcy allows you the chance to get your life back in order. And, especially at this time of year, you have a choice to make. Are you better off using your return to try and pay off some debt? Or are you better off filing for bankruptcy and getting rid of all your debts?
It is no easy decision. And a bankruptcy lawyer will not [should not] make it for you. Only after discussing with my clients their debt and their overall household bills and finances, do I give them the pros and cons of bankruptcy. I will not tell you whether you should – or should not – file. I give you all the options for you to make that decision.
I will ask you questions that you need to truthfully answer, such as: If you are considering using your tax refund, do you want to use it to settle your debts? If so, are you going to be able to settle your debts with that money? Or, would it be better invested with a bankruptcy attorney to help get rid of all your debts once and for all?
That is the real kicker. Don’t try to keep spinning wheels while hoping you’ll catch up. Because maybe you’ll pay back some loans, but you’ll still be in debt with other things, such as credit cards. Or, you can pay one fee, one flat-rate fee, and get rid of all your debts. That is the big kicker. That is what people are trying to decide what to do at this time of year.
But no matter your answers to those questions, and no matter your situation, I do strongly suggest people remember this advice: There is no shame in giving yourself an option that can free you from all that, and give you your piece of mind back. None whatsoever.
Sophia Dean’s practice focuses on bankruptcy and foreclosure defense. She has represented debtors in all stages of debt collection. She is the co-chair of the Orange County Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Committee. To contact Dean for a free consultation, or for more information about The Orlando Law Group, please visit TheOrlandoLawGroup.com or phone 407-512-4394.