We know you have questions. We have your answers.
*These responses cover most but not every scenario. If you have additional questions or want to discuss your individual case, feel free to contact Curry, Pearson & Wooten P.L.C. We are here to help you.
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I earn above-average money, but my support payments to my ex-spouse and children are very high—can I still qualify for an Arizona Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
When filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona, you will first need to find out if you qualify to file. To discover if you are eligible, you must first take that Chapter 7 means test, created as a way to weed out debtors whose income to expense level would allow them to repay a portion of their debt.
The Chapter 7 means test looks at a six month window of your income, and compares it to your expenses, your household size, and other comparable households in Arizona. If your salary is at or below the median for an Arizona household of your size, you qualify—it is as simple as that. If your salary is above the median, as it sounds like yours is, you will have to delve a bit deeper into the means test.
As you continue with the test, you will be asked to enter information about your monthly expenses—including support expenses like alimony and child support. After subtracting your expenses from your average monthly income, the test will determine if your disposable monthly income is low enough to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or if you will have to instead file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
If you do qualify for an Arizona Chapter 7 bankruptcy, keep one very important thing in mind—support payments are considered priority debts. This means that when you file for bankruptcy, you will still need to stay (or become) current on all support payments, and continue to pay even when your other debts are discharged.
If you are having a difficult time making ends meet financially, the time to act is now. Contact Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Phoenix bankruptcy lawyers today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with experienced professionals.
After losing my job, I fell dangerously behind on many of my bills, including child support payments to my ex-wife. Will filing for bankruptcy in Arizona help me ease some of my financial stress?
Bankruptcy is an incredible powerful financial tool, but even bankruptcy has its limitations, and child support payment is certainly one of the biggest. No matter which way you decide to file—for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy—your outstanding child support debt is nondischargeable.
Child support is considered a priority debt in bankruptcy, so should you file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your ex-spouse will be one of the first “creditors” that benefits from the liquidation of your assets. While your other debt may end up being discharged, not only will you be held responsible for the remaining back child support payments, but you will also need to keep up with current payments, as well.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy treats child support payments very similarly. Priority debts are included in the three or five year repayment plan, so your back payments will be included in that plan. Before your other debts will be discharged, however, you will need to be up-to-date on all back payments as well as current on your ongoing support payments.
While it may not seem as though bankruptcy can do much directly to ease your financial stress from child support dues, in reality, filing can still be very helpful. When you are able to eliminate your other financial stressors, such as overwhelming credit card debt, you will find that your money is freed up to attend to your true priority debt.
Being behind in your child support payments while you are already spread too thin financially can be incredibly stressful, especially because caring for your children is a top priority regardless of your finances. If you are concerned about your ability to keep up with your child support payments and are considering filing for bankruptcy, give our Phoenix, Arizona bankruptcy attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten a call today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your options.
Can I file for bankruptcy in Arizona without a lawyer?
To get straight to the point, yes—you can file for bankruptcy in Arizona without the help of an attorney. If you want the assurance that you will enjoy the maximum protection that bankruptcy offers, however, you may want to call in the professionals.
On the surface, it really does sound easy enough. File the paperwork, show up to your meeting of creditors, and voila—your debts are discharged. Once you get deeper into the bankruptcy process, you may find that there is a lot more to bankruptcy than many do-it-yourself sites let on.
Beyond the most basic “oops” like filing paperwork incorrectly, one of the biggest (and most financially devastating) mistakes that many solo-filers make is not maximizing their exemptions. This could mean the difference between keeping or losing your home, treasured family heirlooms, or car.
As you can imagine, creditors are not always overjoyed to hear that your debt to them will be discharged, so they may protest loudly—and legally—when they find out that you have filed for bankruptcy. If your attorney has been with your case from the start, he or she will know your case and your finances like the back of their own hand, and will be able to swiftly act to ensure that your bankruptcy case moves forward past adversary proceedings.
When you are moving forward with a major financial decision, let alone a major life decision, why leave anything to chance? An experienced lawyer can help you pave the way to financial independence from start to finish—call the Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to learn how a lawyer can help you.
I’ve just filed for bankruptcy in Phoenix, but one of my creditors is arguing that my debt to them cannot be discharged. What does this mean for my case?
In an ideal Arizona bankruptcy case, your debts are discharged and you are protected from harassment from your creditors. For you, this is considered a good thing. For your creditors, it is understandably a bit less palatable.
Of course, while most creditors are not happy to have your debt to them discharged, they will usually let it happen without much fuss, as bankruptcy law states clearly which debts are dischargeable. In your situation, it sounds as though this particular creditor disagrees that the debt you owe them falls under the category of dischargeable debt.
You may be wondering why the creditor is objecting the discharge of this particular debt to begin with. While a common reason for discharge objection is intentional falsification of financial or tax statements, the odds are that the reason is something far less sinister. Oftentimes, in a last ditch attempt to pay bills or even get by before filing for bankruptcy, filers will charge large amounts to their credit cards or take out cash advances. If you did this within a certain window of filing for bankruptcy, your creditor will likely prevail.
In order to dispute the discharge of the debt in question, the creditor must first file an objection with the bankruptcy court. This objection must be filed no later than 60 days after your 341 meeting. This will not affect the discharge of any of your other debts. If the objection is successful, you will be required to repay your debt; if the objection fails, the debt will be discharged along with the rest.
If you feel as though this dispute has been wrongfully filed and you have questions as to what may be next for you, Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys are standing by to help. Call us now at 602-258-1000 to learn more.
My Arizona bankruptcy case was dismissed by the court, but I am unsure why—did I do something wrong?
Filing for bankruptcy in Arizona takes a lot of time, effort, and even costs a considerable amount of money. There are seemingly endless forms that you must fill out, careful analysis of your assets and finances to be done, and many items to check off on the “to-do” list before your debts can be discharged.
Assuming that you have not committed bankruptcy fraud, which would be an automatic dismissal, there are still several small details that may have tripped up the success of your petition. One of the most common reasons that a person’s case was dismissed is that he or she failed to submit all of the required paperwork, forms, and documents to the court or the trustee. A missing tax return or pay stub could be the only thing standing between you and a solid case for bankruptcy; if this is the case, you can refile right away and include these items with a much more favorable outcome.
If you feel as though your case was dismissed before it could even get to the point of submitting paperwork, you could be right. Pre-filing credit counseling is mandatory, and if you have not completed a course—or forgot to submit the certificate of completion—your petition will be denied. Another reason cases are dismissed in the early stages is a means test failure—if you make too much money to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your case will be dismissed. If this is the case, filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy could yield better results.
Whatever the reason, if your case was dismissed because of simple errors, you will be able to refile right away. The experienced Arizona bankruptcy attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten can help you refile a more airtight case—call us today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your options with a lawyer now!
I filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Scottsdale last year, but I can no longer keep up with my payment schedule—what are my options?
An Arizona Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a big financial commitment. For three to five years, you are expected to adhere strictly to a repayment plan that was designed to work with your current financial situation, including your income and current debts. What happens, then, if you lose your job or have a major medical emergency? Suddenly, the payment schedule that seemed so simple may become an unbearable burden.
Luckily, for many people, there is a solution to help you cope with your difficult new situation. If you have not received a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge within the last eight years, you may be eligible to convert your Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
In order to convert your case, you will need to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy just as you would if you filed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy from the start. You will be required to pass the Chapter 7 means test, which compares your income and expenses to your current debt. While you may not have initially passed this test, if your financial situation has changed—such as losing a job or getting divorced—you may pass when your new circumstances are considered.
Once you pass the means test, the procedure for conversion is very similar to your initial Chapter 13 filing process. You will need to attend another meeting with a bankruptcy trustee, and address any new debts you have taken on since your last filing.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your current Chapter 13 repayment plan, you do not have to continue to struggle alone. The Arizona bankruptcy attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are available to help you find a solution to your debt. Simply call us at 602-258-1000 or toll free at 888-929-5292 to discuss your options with an experienced lawyer today.
I have just filed my petition for bankruptcy in Phoenix, and my creditors’ meeting is coming up—what can I expect?
The very early stages of any Arizona bankruptcy are always stressful. Going through your debt-to-income ratio with a fine tooth comb is harrowing enough, but when you factor in the possibility—even likelihood—of having to liquidate some of your personal property, the experience can be downright crushing. Factor in having to go to a creditors’ meeting with your bankruptcy trustee grilling you, and it is easy to see why you might be fighting off nerves and dread.
The good news is that this meeting is less of an attack zone than you are expecting. In fact, creditors rarely even attend the meeting, so it is more commonly referred to as a 341 hearing. At this hearing, you are basically verifying that you are who you claim to be, and that the petition you filed is complete and factual.
When you attend the hearing, you will be required to bring a government-issued photo ID along with your social security card or other proof of your SSN. At the meeting, a notice called the “Bankruptcy Information Sheet” will be posted for you to read prior to beginning the meeting. This short, two-page notice describe the basics of bankruptcy.
When the meeting begins, you will be sworn in, and the trustee will begin asking you straightforward questions about your petition. He or she is essentially trying to verify that everything you own and every debt you owe is listed on your petition so that your bankruptcy can go as smoothly as possible.
While this meeting may seem intimidating, it will likely be over in less than 15 minutes, unless your case is particularly complicated. As your bankruptcy lawyers, Curry, Pearson & Wooten will work with you to ensure that your petition is filed correctly, and can help prepare you for your 341 hearing. Call us at 602-258-1000 to speak with an experienced Phoenix bankruptcy attorney today.
Can I stop the foreclosure process on my home by filing for bankruptcy in Arizona?
When debts begin to pile up or you have lost your job, it can be very easy to fall behind in your mortgage payments. If you miss enough payments, your lender may initiate the foreclosure process on your home to recover payment against your debt.
That does not mean, however, that you are simply expected to throw your hands up and hand over the home that you worked so hard for. By filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can temporarily hold off your lenders. The automatic stay, one of the most important parts of an Arizona bankruptcy, is a protection that prevents lenders and creditors from pursuing collection of your debt for a certain amount of time.
If you are employed and make a livable wage, filing for an Arizona Chapter 13 bankruptcy will likely be your best option. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to make a three- to five-year repayment plan on your debt—including your current and unpaid mortgage payments—allowing you to remain in your home as long as you stick with your payment plan and schedule.
If you do not qualify for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filing for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may still be a viable option. While the automatic stay is temporary, it does buy you some time. Also, if you are current on your mortgage payments but have other debts, discharging the other debts in bankruptcy could allow you to continue paying your mortgage and living in your home without fear of foreclosure.
Bankruptcy is not a foolproof way to escape foreclosure, but under the right circumstances it can be a useful tool. Our Arizona bankruptcy attorneys can help ensure that you gain the maximum possible protection and benefits from your Phoenix area bankruptcy case. If you are concerned about losing your home to foreclosure, the time to act is now—call us at 602-258-1000 to speak with a lawyer today.
I am married and considering filing for bankruptcy without my spouse. How will the Arizona bankruptcy courts decide how our property will be used to pay off my creditors?
There is no doubt that being married while filing for bankruptcy makes the process more confusing and challenging. Deciding whether to file alone or jointly is a huge decision, but if only one of you is in debt, it may make the most sense to file alone.
When you do file alone, property owned by your spouse alone may be protected from creditors, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what property is at stake. Many married couples own things together, which makes the process even more challenging.
Arizona is a community property state, which makes filing alone a bit more confusing. In a common law state, if your name alone is on the deed, you own it—period. In a community property state, spouses typically have a 50/50 share in all property, income, and debt of the household. That means that if during your marriage your spouse bought a car and registered it in her name, Arizona community property law still sees that car as being owned by both of you. This leaves a lot of property “up for grabs” when it comes to repaying your creditors.
If your spouse came into your marriage with a lot of property, or inherited money specifically in her name, that property is likely considered separate property and will be protected from creditors. Separate property consists of:
- Property owned by you or your spouse before your marriage
- Gifts given to just one of you during your marriage
- Property or money inherited by only one of you during your marriage
While some separate property does become entangled with community property making the division more difficult, our Valley bankruptcy attorneys can help walk you through your assets to determine what may be at risk when you file. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to speak with an experienced Phoenix bankruptcy lawyer and decide your next step.
It seems like every penny I earn (and more) goes towards paying off my student loan, and I am swimming in debt—will filing for bankruptcy in Phoenix help?
Whether you are a Sun Devil or a Wildcat, one thing is certain—you student loan debt is a burden. For many people, student loans stay with them for decades, and drain hundreds of dollars a month out of their disposable income. If they are lucky, they do not have many other large outstanding debts, so it is simply another bill to pay. If you are swimming in debt, however, the student loan payment could be what makes you drown.
While the standard rule is that student loan debt is not dischargeable in an Arizona bankruptcy case, there are always exceptions to rules. Courts are always hesitant to dismiss your student loans, but if you have a solid case, you may be able to discharge part (or even all) of your loans.
The Brunner Test: Measuring Hardship
One of the most common means of proving undue hardships is the three-part Brunner test. To discharge a sum or all of your student loan debt, you must meet all three requirements:
- Your student loan payments make it impossible to maintain a minimal standard of living based on your current salary.
- Your current financial state is not expected to improve over the span of your repayment.
- You have made every effort to make your student loan payments in full and on time.
Even if you “pass” the Brunner test with flying colors, it can still be an uphill battle discharging your student loan debt in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Our experienced and tough Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys can help you determine your odds for successfully discharging your loans, or help you make a plan to lower your payments considerably over the course of your bankruptcy. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten at 602-258-1000 today to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss a solution that works for you.