Bankruptcy and Family

bankruptcy and family

Bankruptcy and family issues arising from debt problems are not easy to reconcile. But this much is clear. Your family’s well being is jeopardized when you incur debts beyond your means to repay them. Your family’s health and happiness is not jeopardized because you file bankruptcy to eliminate debts. But your family is obviously jeopardized if your debt problems are making you late on your necessities, like rent and your car payment. Filing bankruptcy can give you back control over how you spend your income. You can regain the ability to cover the real financial necessities for your family. Things like keeping a roof over your heads. Having a car to drive to work, getting the kids to school and going to the grocery store. Using your money to pay for necessities like those probably has more benefit to your family than if you struggle on with debts you will never succeed in paying off.

Feeling trapped in debt? Bankruptcy and family issues should be confronted honestly to arrive at the best solution.

Are you trapped in debt? If you are, getting yourself out of the debt trap should help your family be more stable and happier than if you stay in a dead-end debt cycle. Debt problems are very hard on relationships and families. Bankruptcy and family advice from an experienced legal specialist can help you break free of the debt trap.

Bankruptcy is the only LEGAL process that may free you from enforceable debts. For more general reading, .

Solving your family debt crisis. Bankruptcy and family.

I am a bankruptcy lawyer in Los Angeles, California. I started practicing bankruptcy law in 1979. My law firm is Bayer, Wishman & Leotta, and it was started in 1989. We have handled about 15,000 Los Angeles bankruptcy cases.

I recently gave a bankruptcy talk for the collection department of a major local bank. One of the things I discussed was the strain that debt problems can put on families and relationships. Someone asked me for a real world example of what bankruptcy can do. I told the audience about a certain case I handled. I don’t mean for this to sound like a sob story. The problems these people faced are problems they brought on themselves. They are not victims. I actually came close to turning these people away. They were not very pleasant to deal with. But they were in total crisis mode when when I met them. And for the sake of their children, they needed somebody to help them.

Here’s their bankruptcy story. And, it’s all true.

Ralph and Joan, (not their real names), are married and have 3 small girls. They lost their home in foreclosure. Instead of moving out, they waited for the sheriff to order them out. That was a huge mistake. It put an eviction on their record. As a result of the eviction, they were unable to find a landlord who would rent to them. Another huge mistake they made was in not filing bankruptcy sooner than when they did. They had tons of debt. Their credit reports looked like a toxic waste dump.  The parents had spent years committing total financial irresponsibility.

After being evicted from their home, they resorted to living, (five people) in a single room at a dumpy hotel. It was the only place they could find that would take them in. The mother is a school teacher with a decent middle class income. The father had no work, and no income. They lived in that squalid hotel for about 6 months. They finally got lucky and found a landlord who would rent them a house.

After that, Joan received a notice that her wages were going to be garnished. True to form, Joan did nothing about it until two days before the garnishment would start. Someone told her that filing bankruptcy would stop the garnishment.

Joan called me. On the phone she was sobbing and out of control. The lady really was actually having a nervous breakdown as we spoke. Joan managed to tell me her story. She said they were barely making ends meet. If the wage garnishment hit, they would be unable to pay the rent. They would be evicted, and back living in a dreadful hotel.

The next morning, Joan and Ralph were in my office to file an emergency bankruptcy case. They had brought some cash for the lawyer fee and court fees, but not the full amount they needed. They also brought one of their daughters – a beautiful, bright, well mannered little six year old. As we talked, Joan was sobbing again. Ralph was spaced out. The little girl started comforting her mother, telling her not to cry and that everything would be alright. The little girl then tried to climb up on her daddy’s lap. He shooed her away and said he didn’t love her anymore. The meeting grew extremely uncomfortable for me. The only thing that kept me on the case was the little girl. She had more maturity and intelligence than both of her parents put together.

Joan was sorry for not bringing the whole amount of the fee, and between sobs she offered me a personal check for the difference. (Most lawyers have learned the hard way not to take a check as payment for an emergency bankruptcy case.) Normally, a lawyer will tell the client to come back when they have the entire fee. I looked at that little girl, and I cheerfully said their check would be fine, “No problem,” I  said. “Glad to take your case, and happy I can help you.”

I put them in a room to fill out some paperwork that I needed. The little girl wandered back into my office. She thanked me for helping her parents! Then she said she was scared, because her parents said they might have to move back to the hotel. She said she didn’t want to live there again. I told her her not to worry. She said she was worried, because it happened before. I told her this time was different, because now they have me helping them, so not to worry any more. Her face brightened and she thanked me.

Here’s how the case ended. We got the emergency bankruptcy case filed that morning. It was a major effort because the clients were ill prepared, socially unpleasant and highly disorganized. The wage garnishment was stopped. The paycheck was saved. Joan, Ralph and their kids got to stay in their home.

That is one example of how bankruptcy and family issues were successfully reconciled. I’m sure that Joan and Ralph have not changed. Bankruptcy will not make them perfect parents. Oh, and that check Joan gave me? Well, it bounced. They promised me 3 or 4 times they would pay it. But they never did, and I never did anything about it.



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Leon Bayer and Jeffrey Wishman are Los Angeles Bankruptcy attorneys. They have been practicing bankruptcy lawyers in Los Angeles for 37 years and are Certified Bankruptcy Specialists by the State Bar of California. These are lawyers who bring experience, skill and creativity to the highly complex area of bankruptcy law. At this Los Angeles law firm, the your initial consultation with an expert is free. Mr. Bayer is a coauthor of Nolo's The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You?, authors the “Ask Leon” series on Nolo’s Bankruptcy, Debt & Foreclosure blog, and writes on bankruptcy topics for Nolo’s website. In addition, Mr. Bayer devotes a significant number of hours to volunteer legal services. The State Bar of California has commended Mr. Bayer for this work every year since 2004.