July 19, 2018

Chapter 12 – Bankruptcy Basics

Background

Chapter 12 is designed for “family farmers” or “family fishermen” with “regular annual income.” It enables financially distressed family farmers and fishermen to propose and carry out a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under chapter 12, debtors propose a repayment plan to make installments to creditors over three to five years. Generally, the plan must provide for payments over three years unless the court approves a longer period “for cause.” But unless the plan proposes to pay 100% of domestic support claims (i.e., child support and alimony) if any exist, it must be for five years and must include all of the debtor’s disposable income. In no case may a plan provide for payments over a period longer than five years. 11 U.S.C. § 1222(b)-(c).

In tailoring bankruptcy law to meet the economic realities of family farming and the family fisherman, chapter 12 eliminates many of the barriers such debtors would face if seeking to reorganize under either chapter 11 or 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. For example, chapter 12 is more streamlined, less complicated, and less expensive than chapter 11, which is better suited to large corporate reorganizations. In addition, few family farmers or fishermen find chapter 13 to be advantageous because it is designed for wage earners who have smaller debts than those facing family farmers. In chapter 12, Congress sought to combine the features of the Bankruptcy Code which can provide a framework for successful family farmer and fisherman reorganizations.

The Bankruptcy Code provides that only a family farmer or family fisherman with “regular annual income” may file a petition for relief under chapter 12. 11 U.S.C. §§ 101(18), 101(19A), 109(f). The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the debtor’s annual income is sufficiently stable and regular to permit the debtor to make payments under a chapter 12 plan. But chapter 12 makes allowance for situations in which family farmers or fishermen have income that is seasonal in nature. Relief under chapter 12 is voluntary, and only the debtor may file a petition under the chapter.

Under the Bankruptcy Code, “family farmers” and “family fishermen” fall into two categories: (1) an individual or individual and spouse and (2) a corporation or partnership. Farmers or fishermen falling into the first category must meet each of the following four criteria as of the date the petition is filed in order to qualify for relief under chapter 12:

  1. The individual or husband and wife must be engaged in a farming operation or a commercial fishing operation.
  2. The total debts (secured and unsecured) of the operation must not exceed $4,153,150 (if a farming operation) or $1,924,550 (if a commercial fishing operation).
  3. If a family farmer, at least 50%, and if family fisherman at least 80%, of the total debts that are fixed in amount (exclusive of debt for the debtor’s home) must be related to the farming or commercial fishing operation.
  4. More than 50% of the gross income of the individual or the husband and wife for the preceding tax year (or, for family farmers only, for each of the 2nd and 3rd prior tax years) must have come from the farming or commercial fishing operation.

In order for a corporation or partnership to fall within the second category of debtors eligible to file as family farmers or family fishermen, the corporation or partnership must meet each of the following criteria as of the date of the filing of the petition:

  1. More than one-half the outstanding stock or equity in the corporation or partnership must be owned by one family or by one family and its relatives.
  2. The family or the family and its relatives must conduct the farming or commercial fishing operation.
  3. More than 80% of the value of the corporate or partnership assets must be related to the farming or fishing operation.
  4. The total indebtedness of the corporation or partnership must not exceed $4,153,150 (if a farming operation) or $1,924,550 (if a commercial fishing operation).
  5. At least 50% for a farming operation or 80% for a fishing operation of the corporation’s or partnership’s total debts which are fixed in amount (exclusive of debt for one home occupied by a shareholder) must be related to the farming or fishing operation.
  6. If the corporation issues stock, the stock cannot be publicly traded.

A debtor cannot file under chapter 12 (or any other chapter) if during the preceding 180 days a prior bankruptcy petition was dismissed due to the debtor’s willful failure to appear before the court or comply with orders of the court or was voluntarily dismissed after creditors sought relief from the bankruptcy court to recover property upon which they hold liens. 11 U.S.C. §§ 109(g), 362(d) and (e). In addition, no individual may be a debtor under chapter 12 or any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code unless he or she has, within 180 days before filing, received credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency either in an individual or group briefing. 11 U.S.C. §§ 109, 111. There are exceptions in emergency situations or where the U.S. trustee (or bankruptcy administrator) (1) has determined that there are insufficient approved agencies to provide the required counseling. If a debt management plan is developed during required credit counseling, it must be filed with the court.

How Chapter 12 Works

A chapter 12 case begins by filing a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where the individual lives or where the corporation or partnership debtor has its principal place of business or principal assets. Unless the court orders otherwise, the debtor also shall file with the court (1) schedules of assets and liabilities, (2) a schedule of current income and expenditures, (3) a schedule of executory contracts and unexpired leases, and (4) a statement of financial affairs. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b). A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. 11 U.S.C. § 302(a). (The Official Forms may be purchased at legal stationery stores or downloaded from the Internet at www.uscourts.gov/bkforms/index.html. They are not available from the court.)

The courts must charge a $200 case filing fee and a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee. Normally the fees should be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. With the court’s permission, however, they may be paid in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(a); Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b); Bankruptcy Court Miscellaneous Fee Schedule, Item 8. The number of such installments is limited to four and the debtor must make the final installment no later than 120 days after filing the petition. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1006(b). For cause shown, the court may extend the time of any installment, provided that the last installment is paid not later than 180 days after the filing of the petition. Id. The debtor may also pay the $75 administrative fee in installments. If a joint petition is filed, only one filing fee and one administrative fee are charged. Debtors should be aware that failure to pay these fees may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1208(c)(2).

In order to complete the Official Bankruptcy Forms which make up the petition, statement of financial affairs, and schedules, the debtor will need to compile the following information:

  1. A list of all creditors and the amounts and nature of their claims;
  2. The source, amount, and frequency of the debtor’s income;
  3. A list of all of the debtor’s property; and
  4. A detailed list of the debtor’s monthly farming and living expenses, i.e., food, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, feed, fertilizer, etc.

Married individuals must gather this information for each spouse regardless of whether they are filing a joint petition, separate individual petitions, or even if only one spouse is filing. In a situation where only one spouse files, the income and expenses of the non-filing spouse are required so that the court, the trustee, and the creditors can evaluate the household’s financial position.

When a chapter 12 petition is filed, an impartial trustee is appointed to administer the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1202. In some districts, the U.S. trustee appoints a standing trustee to serve in all chapter 12 cases. 28 U.S.C. § 586(b). As in chapter 13, the trustee both evaluates the case and serves as a disbursing agent, collecting payments from the debtor and making distributions to creditors. 11 U.S.C. § 1202.

Filing the petition under chapter 12 “automatically stays” (stops) most collection actions against the debtor or the debtor’s property. 11 U.S.C. § 362. Filing the petition does not, however, stay certain types of actions listed under 11 U.S.C. § 362(b). The stay arises by operation of law and requires no judicial action. As long as the stay is in effect, creditors generally cannot initiate or continue any lawsuits, wage garnishments, or even telephone calls demanding payments. The bankruptcy clerk gives notice of the bankruptcy case to all creditors whose names and addresses are provided by the debtor.

Chapter 12 also contains a special automatic stay provision that protects co-debtors. Unless the bankruptcy court authorizes otherwise, a creditor may not seek to collect a “consumer debt” from any individual who is liable with the debtor. 11 U.S.C. § 1201(a). Consumer debts are those incurred by an individual primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose. 11 U.S.C. § 101(8).

Between 21 to 35 days after the petition is filed, the chapter 12 trustee will hold a “meeting of creditors.” If the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator schedules the meeting at a place that does not have regular U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator staffing, the meeting may be held no more than 60 days after the debtor files. During the meeting the trustee puts the debtor under oath and both the trustee and creditors may ask questions. The debtor must attend the meeting and answer questions regarding the debtor’s financial affairs and the proposed terms of the debtor’s repayment plan. 11 U.S.C. § 343; Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4002. If a husband and wife have filed a joint petition, they both must attend the creditors’ meeting. In order to preserve their independent judgment, bankruptcy judges are prohibited from attending. 11 U.S.C. § 341(c). The parties typically resolve problems with the plan either during or shortly after the creditors’ meeting. Generally, the debtor can avoid problems by making sure that the petition and plan are complete and accurate, and by consulting with the trustee prior to the meeting.

In a chapter 12 case, to participate in distributions from the bankruptcy estate, unsecured creditors must file their claims with the court within 90 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 3002(c). A governmental unit, however, has 180 days from the date the case is filed file a proof of claim. 11 U.S.C. § 502(b)(9).

After the meeting of creditors, the debtor, the chapter 12 trustee, and interested creditors will attend a hearing on confirmation of the debtor’s chapter 12 repayment plan.

The Chapter 12 Plan and Confirmation Hearing

Unless the court grants an extension, the debtor must file a plan of repayment with the petition or within 90 days after filing the petition. 11 U.S.C. § 1221. The plan, which must be submitted to the court for approval, provides for payments of fixed amounts to the trustee on a regular basis. The trustee then distributes the funds to creditors according to the terms of the plan, which typically offers creditors less than full payment on their claims.

There are three types of claims: priority, secured, and unsecured. Priority claims are those granted special status by the bankruptcy law, such as most taxes and the costs of bankruptcy proceeding. (2) Secured claims are those for which the creditor has the right to liquidate certain property if the debtor does not pay the underlying debt. In contrast to secured claims, unsecured claims are generally those for which the creditor has no special rights to collect against particular property owned by the debtor.

A chapter 12 plan usually lasts three to five years. It must provide for full payment of all priority claims, unless a priority creditor agrees to different treatment of the claim or, in the case of a domestic support obligation, unless the debtor contributes all “disposable income” – discussed below – to a five-year plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1222(a)(2), (4).

Secured creditors must be paid at least as much as the value of the collateral pledged for the debt. One of the features of Chapter 12 is that payments to secured creditors can sometimes continue longer than the three-to-five-year period of the plan. For example, if the debtor’s underlying debt obligation was scheduled to be paid over more than five years (i.e., an equipment loan or a mortgage), the debtor may be able to pay the loan off over the original loan repayment schedule as long as any arrearage is made up during the plan.

The plan does not have to pay unsecured claims in full, as long as it commits all of the debtor’s projected “disposable income” (or property of equivalent value) to plan payments over a 3 to 5 year period ,and as long as the unsecured creditors are to receive at least as much as they would receive if the debtor’s nonexempt assets were liquidated under chapter 7. 11 U.S.C. § 1225. “Disposable income” is defined as income not reasonably necessary for the maintenance or support of the debtor or dependents or for making payments needed to continue, preserve, and operate the debtor’s business. 11 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2).

Within 45 days after filing the plan, the presiding bankruptcy judge decides at a “confirmation hearing” whether the plan is feasible and meets the standards for confirmation under the Bankruptcy Code. 11 U.S.C. §§ 1224, 1225. Creditors, who receive 21 days’ notice, may appear at the hearing and object to confirmation. Fed. R. Bankr. P. 2002(a)(8). While a variety of objections may be made, the typical arguments are that payments offered under the plan are less than creditors would receive if the debtor’s assets were liquidated, or that the plan does not commit all of the debtor’s disposable income for the three-to-five-year period of the plan.

If the court confirms the plan, the chapter 12 trustee will distribute funds received in accordance with the terms of the plan.11 U.S.C. § 1226(a). If the court does not confirm the plan, the debtor may file a modified plan. 11 U.S.C. § 1223. The debtor may also convert the case to a liquidation under chapter 7. (3) 11 U.S.C. § 1208(a). If the debtor fails to confirm a plan and the case is dismissed, the court may authorize the trustee to keep some of the funds for costs, but the trustee must return all remaining funds to the debtor (other than funds already disbursed to creditors). 11 U.S.C. § 1226(a).

On occasion, changed circumstances will affect the debtor’s ability to make plan payments. A creditor may object or threaten to object to a plan, or the debtor may inadvertently have failed to list all creditors. In such instances, the plan may be modified either before or after confirmation. 11 U.S.C. §§ 1223, 1229. Modification after confirmation is not limited to an initiative by the debtor, but may also be made at the request of the trustee or an unsecured creditor. 11 U.S.C. § 1229(a).

Making the Plan Work

The provisions of a confirmed plan bind the debtor and each creditor. 11 U.S.C. § 1227. Once the court confirms the plan, the debtor must make the plan succeed. The debtor must make regular payments to the trustee, which will require adjustment to living on a fixed budget for a prolonged period. Furthermore, while confirmation of the plan entitles the debtor to retain property as long as payments are made, the debtor may not incur any significant new debt without consulting the trustee, because additional debt may compromise the debtor’s ability to complete the plan.11 U.S.C. §§ 1222(a)(1), 1227. In any event, failure to make the plan payments may result in dismissal of the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1208(c). In addition, the court may dismiss the case or convert the case to a liquidation case under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code upon a showing that the debtor has committed fraud in connection with the case. 11 U.S.C. § 1208(d).

The Chapter 12 Discharge

The debtor will receive a discharge after completing all payments under the chapter 12 plan as long as the debtor certifies (if applicable) that all domestic support obligations that came due before making such certification have been paid. The discharge has the effect of releasing the debtor from all debts provided for by the plan allowed under section 503 or disallowed under section 502, with limited exceptions. Those creditors who were provided for in full or in part under the plan may no longer initiate or continue any legal or other action against the debtor to collect the discharged obligations.

Certain categories of debts are not discharged in chapter 12 proceedings. 11 U.S.C. § 1228(a). Those categories include debts for alimony and child support; money obtained through filing false financial statements; debts for willful and malicious injury to person or property; debts for death or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle while the debtor was intoxicated; and debts from fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity, embezzlement or larceny. The bankruptcy law regarding the scope of a chapter 12 discharge is complex, however, and debtors should consult competent legal counsel in this regard prior to filing. Those debts that will not be discharged should be paid in full under a plan. With respect to secured obligations, those debts may be paid beyond the end of the plan payment period and, accordingly, are not discharged.

Chapter 12 Hardship Discharge

The court may grant a “hardship discharge” to a chapter 12 debtor even though the debtor has failed to complete plan payments. 11 U.S.C. § 1228(b). Generally, a hardship discharge is available only to a debtor whose failure to complete plan payments is due to circumstances beyond the debtor’s control and through no fault of the debtor. Creditors must have received at least as much as they would have received in a chapter 7 liquidation case, and the debtor must be unable to modify the plan. For example, injury or illness that precludes employment sufficient to fund even a modified plan may serve as the basis for a hardship discharge. The hardship discharge does not apply to any debts that are nondischargeable in a chapter 7 case. 11 U.S.C. § 523.


Notes

  1. In North Carolina and Alabama, bankruptcy administrators perform similar functions that U.S. trustees perform in the remaining forty-eight states. The bankruptcy administrator program is administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, while the U.S. trustee program is administered by the Department of Justice. For purposes of this publication, references to U.S. trustees are also applicable to bankruptcy administrators.
  2. Section 507 sets forth 10 categories of unsecured claims which Congress has, for public policy reasons, given priority of distribution over other unsecured claims.
  3. A fee of $60 is charged for converting a case under chapter 12 to a case under chapter 7.

SOURCE: http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics/chapter-12-bankruptcy-basics

Issue Focused Evaluation

Introduction

Raising children is not easy. However, caring for children when parents are no longer together can be even more difficult. Although parents may try to work out their differences regarding the care of their children, visitation schedules, or parenting responsibilities, this is not always possible. In some instances, the Court’s involvement is needed to help make the final decisions. Family Services offers the Issue Focused Evaluation (IFE) as a way of helping parents solve a specific concern through an evaluation that limits the extent and time the family is involved in the process.

For many parents, the evaluation process becomes a learning experience that helps them settle their differences without the need for a court hearing. This resolution also works towards the development of a healthy parenting arrangement that contributes to the positive growth and development of the children.

What to Expect

To take part in an Issue Focused Evaluation you must be referred from the Family Court. The Judge will enter an order defining the concern that will be evaluated and/ or the limits of what will be dealt with in the process. Because the the evaluation is limited, our involvement in the matter will be brief.

Shortly after the court referral, the case will be assigned to a Family Relations Counselor (FRC). A letter from the FRC will be sent scheduling the first appointment. In most cases, the first meeting is held with the parents together. This gives both parents a chance to share their concerns and proposals with the FRC and each other. NOTE: If you have safety concerns about meeting with your child’s other parent, you should contact your FRC when you get the appointment letter to talk about those concerns.

The FRC’s role in this process is to explore and assess the concerns of each parent and to make recommendations about a parenting plan that will benefit the children. To do this, the FRC will gather information from both parents and contact professionals involved with the family (such as teachers, doctors, therapists, and others) The IFE is not confidential, which means that this information will be shared with the parents, the attorneys, and Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) involved in the matter, and the Court.

So that information can be shared between the professional providers and Family Services, Authorization for Release of Information forms must be signed. If either party has copies of records/reports they may also submitted to the FRC. However, the person who wrote the record/report must be available to the FRC during the evaluation process to answer any questions the FRC may have about the report/record.

During the course of the IFE, the counselor may schedule additional individual appointments with one or both of the parents. Arrangements may also be made to meet with the children at one or both of the parents’ homes and/or the Family Services Office. This part of the evaluation process will be decided by the FRC based on the issue that was referred.

At the time the counselor’s work in the IFE in done, a final conference will be held with the parents and the attorneys/GALs in the case. When it is not possible to meet together, other arrangements will be made.

The final conference is when the FRC will share relevant information gathered during the IFE, present an assessment of the referred issue, and provide a recommended plan to resolve the matter. A written report summarizing the information shared in the final conference will also be handed out in this meeting and given to the Court.

If this information and report does not help the parents come to an agreement, the matter will most likely go to trial. At that time, the FRC’s recommendations and report may be used as evidence and the counselor may testify.

What Parents Need to Do

The participation and cooperation of the parents throughout the Issue Focused Evaluation process is essential. It is very important that a commitment be made to cooperate with the Family Services in the following ways:

  1. Keep scheduled appointments and arrive on time for all meetings.
  2. Do not bring your children to appointments that are scheduled for you.
  3. Fill out the Issue Focused Evaluation Questionnaire completely and accurately before the first appointment and bring it with you to the first appointment.
  4. Sign the necessary Authorization for Release of Information forms and bring all requested information to appointments.
  5. Make the children available, both at home and at the Family Services Office, if requested by the FRC.
  6. If your children are going to be interviewed, explain to them that the FRC wants to meet them, but let them know that they will not be asked to choose between their parents.

SOURCE: Connecticut Judicial Branch

Oxygen Mask Theory | Summer Reading List 2018

Last week I enjoyed a ‘staycation’ with my family. We took a few daytrips, ran through the sprinkler and relaxed a bit over the 4th of July holiday. Everyone deserves some downtime to rest and recharge. Self-care is so important. I am sure you have heard of the oxygen mask theory before. I even got a chance to read a book which inspired the idea of passing on a few of my favorite Consumer-related books to you…and one that is just for fun (and a bit of perspective).

The History

“Bankruptcy, that familiar constant in an age of boom and bust, has a moral as well as financial component…A fascinating work of economic history that sheds light on daily life in the young Republic.” -Amazon

Practical Tips

“This new fully updated edition provides precise, practical, and hard-hitting advice from the nation’s consumer law experts on how to deal with crushing debt affecting millions of Americans.” -Amazon

Going Within

“Whenever I’ve needed direction, strength, or centering, I’ve so often turned to my own journals. Why? Because many of the answers we seek are found within ourselves.” -Elena Brower

The Role of Family Services

Our Role in Family Civil Court

The role of Family Services is to assist the Court and clients in the timely and fair resolution of family and interpersonal conflicts through a comprehensive program of alternative dispute resolution services, case management, evaluation and education. With this purpose in mind the Family Relations Counselors will utilize the Family Civil Intake Screen to identify the appropriate service to assist your family.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions Services:

  • Pre-trial Settlement Negotiations – In all Judicial Districts, Family Relations Counselors conduct pre-trial and final judgment settlement conferences with attorneys and litigants in conjunction with their attendance at Family Short Calendar and other Family Civil Court dockets.
  • Mediation – Family Relations Counselors mediate custody and access disputes for up to three 2-hour sessions. These efforts are geared toward assisting parents in resolving differences in a self-determining, non-coercive, and confidential manner.
  • Conflict Resolution Conference – This is a confidential, directive process utilizing negotiation and mediation techniques to resolve the primary issues of custody and access. Parents and attorneys participate in the conferences and information from professional sources may be included. The Family Relations Counselor may offer recommendations to the parents at the conclusion of the process if the parties are unable to resolve their dispute. These recommendations are not provided to the Court.

Case Management Services:

  • General Case Management – A Family Relations Counselor will be assigned distinct responsibilities to assist parties in resolving their parenting issues with a report back to the Court. Some components include gathering specific information regarding the family, monitoring compliance with court orders, facilitating settlement conferences to develop parenting plans, conducting home visits, or completing other court-ordered tasks.
  • Intensive Case Management – This service offers litigants in the early stages of post judgement court involvement the opportunity to enhance collaboration between the parents and formulate mutual decisions regarding the well-being/care of their children. The role of the Family Relations Counselor is to work with the parents as needed to reduce conflict, offer skills for enhanced communication, reinforce positive parenting, and report progress to the Court.

Evaluative Services:

  • Issue-Focused Evaluation – This is a non-confidential process of assessing a limited issue impacting a family and/or parenting plan. The goal of an Issue-Focused Evaluation is to explore the defined parenting dispute, gather information regarding only this issue and provide a recommendation to the parents and the Court. This evaluation format is limited in scope, involvement, and duration.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation – This is an in-depth, non-confidential assessment of the family system by the Family Relations Counselor. The information gathered by the counselor, the assessment of the family, and the resulting recommended parenting plan is shared with the parents and attorneys. This recommendation may be used to form the basis of an agreement. At the conclusion of the process, a report with recommendations is filed with the Court.

Education:

  • Parent Education Program (PEP) – Family Services contracts with community and private agencies throughout the state to provide this program. The PEP is a six-hour statutorily-mandated, psycho-educational course for separating and divorcing parents that provides information about the impact of family re-structuring on children.

Our Role In Criminal Court

The role of Family Services is to assist the Court and clients in the timely and fair disposition of family violence criminal cases through a comprehensive assessment and intervention plan to prevent, reduce, and stop the frequency and severity of violence against victim/complainants.

  • Family Violence Arraignment Proceedings – Family Relations Counselors conduct pre-arraignment family violence intake assessments and screen all family violence arraignment cases. This process includes:
  • Collecting demographic information
  • Reviewing criminal histories
  • Reviewing the Protective Order Registry
  • Screening for handguns and firearms
  • Screening for risk of continued violence
  • Interviewing the defendant and victim
  • Coordinating with Family Violence Victim Advocates
  • Recommending the level of Protective Orders
  • Recommending treatment/services
  • Family Violence Case Assessments – Family Relations Counselors assess all cases that are referred to Family Services subsequent to the arraignment process. Assessments include:

– In-depth victim interview

– In-depth defendant interview

– Coordination with the Family Violence Victim Advocate

– Preparation of detailed case assessment and recommendations for the Court

  • Pre-trial Case Management Services – Family Relations Counselors oversee diversionary programs for cases referred to Family Services and perform the following functions:

– Administrative monitoring/supervision

  • Monthly contact with the defendant
  • Coordination of the Family Violence Education Program (FVEP) and other court-ordered contracted and non-contracted services
  • Coordination with the Family Violence Victim Advocates

Family Services Administration and Staffing

Central Office Administrative Staff: An Executive Director oversees all aspects of the Court Support Services Division (CSSD). The Family Services Unit of CSSD is centrally administered to support field function/operations, coordinate initiatives, and oversee intervention/sanction programs, as well as contracted services providers. Family Services court-based staff includes Family Services Supervisors, Family Relations Counselors, and Family Intake Assistants/Clerical Support.

SOURCE: Connecticut Judicial Branch

Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

– 1.  What is Unemployment Insurance?Unemployment Insurance is temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are either looking for new jobs, in approved training, or awaiting recall to employment. The funding for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers. Workers do not pay any of the costs. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have earned sufficient wages during a specified time (monetary eligibility). To collect benefits, you must meet certain legal eligibility requirements.
– 2.  What are the basic eligibility requirements to apply for unemployment?

  • Be fully or partially unemployed;
  • Be unemployed through no fault of your own [the law imposes disqualifications for certain types of separations from employment];
  • Be physically and mentally able to work full time*;
  • Be available for full-time work*;
  • Be registered with the American Job Center;
  • Be actively seeking work by making reasonable efforts to find employment each week;
  • Participate in selected reemployment services if you are identified as a dislocated worker by the profiling system;
  • File your weekly claims as directed.

*Individuals who cannot work because of a physical or mental impairment that is chronic or expected to be long-term or permanent may qualify for benefits if they are available for suitable part-time work.

– 3.  How do I file a new or reopened unemployment claim?A claim should be filed as soon as possible after you are separated from employment.

  • You may file your initial (new) claim or reopened claim 24/7 online using www.FileCTUI.com.
  • If you are unable to file a new claim online, please visit one of our American Job Centers locations. Go to our website at www.FileCTUI.com for office locations.Do not delay in filing a claim if you do not have your separation packet which includes a pink slip. Your claim will be taken without it. Your claim is effective the Sunday of the week in which you first file for benefits. Ordinarily, you do not get paid for the weeks prior to the week you filed your initial claim.
  • Have your Social Security card and separation packet, if one was provided. If you are separating from the military, have separation form DD214, Member-4. Federal employees should bring separation form SF-8 and a copy of their most recent pay stub. If you are not a US citizen, you must have proof that you are work authorized  in the USA. Do not delay filing a claim if you do not have these documents. Your claim can be filed without them, with the exception of those claimants that are required to provide proof of work authorization documents in this country. However, there may be a delay in payment until the document(s) are received.

– 4.  How do I file my weekly unemployment continued claims?You may file a weekly claim for benefits online or by our automated Telebenefits Line, in English or Spanish. If you file online, our web address is: www.FileCTUI.com. The automated Telebenefits Line can also be used for claim inquiries and provides general information on Unemployment Compensation Benefits.

Automated TeleBenefits Phone Numbers – filing weekly claims and claim inquiries
        Ansonia (203) 230-4939
        Bridgeport (203) 579-6291
        Bristol (860) 566-5790
        Danbury (203) 797-4150
        Danielson (860) 423-2521
        Enfield (860) 566-5790
        Hamden (203) 230-4939
        Hartford (860) 566-5790
        Interstate 1-800-942-6653 (from out-of-state) or
(860) 256-3900 (from in-state)
        Manchester (860) 566-5790
        Meriden (860) 344-2993
        Middletown (860) 344-2993
        New Britain (860) 566-5790
        New London (860) 443-2041
        Norwich (860) 443-2041
        Stamford (203) 348-2696
        Torrington (860) 482-5581
        Waterbury (203) 596-4140
        Willimantic (860) 423-2521
TDD/TTY Users Call: 1-800-842-9710.

– 5.  How much will I get?We look at wages for a 12-month period that is called the Base Period. The time is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the calendar quarter in which you initiated the claim. Individuals who cannot establish monetary eligibility using wages in the previously described base period will use an alternate base period.  The alternate base period consists of the four calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which the claim is filed. To determine if a person has sufficient wage credits, the law requires that he or she must have total base period earnings that equals or exceeds 40 times the Weekly Benefit Rate. Normally, the maximum number of weeks of regular benefits payable is 26.
– 6.  What wages are used in determining monetary eligibility?Wages are drawn from a one-year period (four calendar quarters) to calculate eligibility. This one-year period is called the Base Period. By law, neither the quarter in which your claim is initiated nor the calendar quarter immediately preceding that quarter can be used for this calculation. Therefore, the Base Period normally will be the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of the new claim.

  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: January, February, or March
    The Base Period will be the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of last year and the last three months (Oct-Dec) of the year before last;
  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: April, May, or June
    The Base Period will be all twelve months (Jan-Dec) of last year;
  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: July, August, or September
    The Base Period will be the first three months of the current year (Jan-Mar) and the last nine months (Apr-Dec) of the last year;
  • If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: October, November, or December
    The Base Period will be the first six months (Jan-June) of the current year and last six months of the last year.

– 7.  How will my part-time job affect my benefits?If you are working part-time, your Weekly Benefit Rate will be reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds (2/3) of your gross wages for that week, rounded to the nearest dollar. To be eligible for this payment the law provides that:

  • You must be employed less than full-time; the number of hours you are working during the week is less than the number of hours customarily considered to be full-time for that job and/or employer;
  • You must be able to work and available for work as defined by law;
  • You did not refuse additional hours.

– 8.  How will my Pension Benefits affect my benefits?If you receive a pension, the law requires that the Weekly Benefit Rate be reduced by the pro-rated weekly amount of the pension that was contributed by the employer . A pension reduction of the Weekly Benefit Rate will increase the number of weeks for which Unemployment Compensation Benefits can be paid. You must still be able, available, and looking for full-time work to be eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits.

You can report your pension when you file your new claim. If you start to receive a pension after your new claim has already been filed, you must report your pension at www.filectui.com by selecting “receiving a pension”.

– 9.  Can I quit my job and collect Unemployment Insurance Benefits?The general rule is that a person who voluntarily leaves suitable work without good cause, attributable to the employer, is not eligible for benefits. However, there are a few non job-related reasons for quitting under which a person may be approved for benefits. These include quitting to care for a spouse, child, or parent with an illness or disability, and quitting to escape domestic violence.

For good cause to be attributable to the employer, it must relate to the wages, hours, or working conditions of the job. A change in conditions created by your employer or a breach of your employment agreement which is substantial and adversely affects you may be good cause to quit. Also, if the job itself adversely affects your health or aggravates or worsens a medical condition, it could be good cause to quit.

Regardless of the cause, in most cases, good cause attributable to the employer may only be found if you took reasonable steps to inform your employer of your dissatisfaction and sought to remedy the problem before you left. If you quit, it is your burden to prove that there was good cause for leaving. When applying for benefits, after quitting a job, you will be scheduled for a pre-determination hearing by mail to establish whether you had good cause for leaving. Your employer will be notified of this hearing and will be invited to also send in a written statement.

-10. I was just fired. Can I collect Unemployment Insurance Benefits?If you are fired or suspended, you may be disqualified for benefits if the employer can prove one of the following:

  • Willful misconduct in the course of your employment. The term wilful misconduct means deliberate misconduct in wilful disregard of the employer’s interest, or a single knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly-enforced rule or policy of the employer, when reasonably applied, provided such violation is not a result of the employee’s incompetence. In the case of absence from work, an employee must be absent without notice or good cause on three separate instances within a 12-month period;
  • Conduct which is a felony under the law and occurred in the course of your employment;
  • Larceny of property or service whose value exceeds $25 in the course of your employment;
  • Participation in a strike which is illegal under law or regulations;
  • You were sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 30 days or longer and had begun serving that sentence;
  • You were discharged or suspended because you were disqualified by law from performing the job for which you were hired as a result of a drug or alcohol testing program mandated by law;
  • If you are discharged, it is the employer’s burden to prove that there was wilful misconduct. When applying for benefits after being discharged or suspended from a job you will be scheduled to attend a pre-determination hearing to determine eligibility. Your employer will be notified of this hearing and will be invited to attend or to send in a written statement.

-11. My boss is doing … can he/she do that?The employer must pay you for work you have performed and in accordance with any contract or written policy. The employer can change the nature of a job in accordance with any contracts or written policies.

-12. I’m moving … what can I do about my Unemployment Insurance Benefits?If you move out of Connecticut, you may continue to file for Unemployment Compensation Benefits from out of state. This is called an Interstate claim. Connecticut will still be the paying state so you must continue to meet all Connecticut eligibility requirements.

-13. How do I file an appeal?Click here to obtain information on filing an appeal. -14. What other unemployment related programs are available?”(The Labor Department is not responsible for accuracy of the information provided by the following non-DOL programs)

National School Lunch Program (Conn. State Department of Education)
Children may become eligible for the free lunch program upon a change in a parents’ financial circumstances.-15. I will soon exhaust my Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Are there other services that may be helpful to me?▪ Contact United Way’s 2-1-1 infoline program. This is a free referral service, with information about workforce programs, community services, basic needs assistance, crisis intervention and much more. 2-1-1 is toll-free from anywhere in Connecticut and it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service offers multilingual operators and TTY access. You can reach this service by calling 2-1-1 or visit the United Way website at www.211ct.org.

CTHires, CT Department of Labor’s no cost on-line job bank, offers individuals the ability to search for jobs based on multiple search criteria such as location, occupation, employer, and more.  The Résumé Builder component of CTHires helps individuals build a résumé step-by-step, gathering essential background information and arranging skills, employment history, education and other essential information in an organized format for prospective employers to view.  In addition, the Virtual Recruiter component of the system allows individuals to save a job search and run it periodically to identify new job postings that match their search criteria. Job search results are sent to an individual’s email account. You can access CTHires at www.CTHires.com.

▪ Information regarding the Subsidized Training and Employment Program (Step Up), summer and seasonal jobs  at state agencies that are open to all jobseekers, and the Veterans Manufacturing Job Match program can be found on the main page of the Labor Department’s web site at www.ct.gov/dol.

SOUCRE

Frequently Asked Connecticut Bankruptcy Law Questions

Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray

Q: What is bankruptcy?

A: Bankruptcy is a legal process for people who cannot afford to pay their bills, and offers them a fresh start. The right to file for bankruptcy is granted by federal law, and all Connecticut bankruptcy cases are handled in federal courts located in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford.

Q: How can Bankruptcy help me?

A: Bankruptcy can eliminate unsecured debt, end collection harassment, stop foreclosures, prevent repossessions, stop wage garnishments and bank executions, and/or restore utility service.

Q: How often can I file bankruptcy?
A: You can file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy every eight (8) years. Chapter 13 Bankruptcies can be filed every six (6) years.

Q: What is the difference between a consumer bankruptcy and a corporate bankruptcy?

A: A consumer bankruptcy is for individuals or married couples that have personal, and not business, debt. A corporate bankruptcy is for a corporation, or non-human entity.

Q: What is the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13?

A: A Chapter 7 results in a total discharge of most unsecured debt. A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan. Please see our Laws Page for an extended discussion on this topic.

Q: What does it cost to file for Bankruptcy?
A: We charge a fee for our services which will be quoted at our initial consultation. In addition to our fee for services, the bankruptcy court also charges filing fees.

Q: How can I pay for my Bankruptcy?

A: We offer affordable payment plans and accept all forms of payment, including cash, check, and debit cards from the person filing for bankruptcy. If a non-filer wishes to pay for our fees for their family member or friend, we will accept a credit card from that person. We honor MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express.

Q: What property can I keep?

A: You may keep all “exempt” property like your home, car, wedding rings, home furnishings, etc. All property that is not exempt is subject to liquidation and the resulting monies used to pay back your creditors. Do Not Be Alarmed: we strive to maximize your exemptions and protect all of your property.

Q: Will bankruptcy wipe out all my debts?

A: Yes, both Chapter 7 and 13 are designed to give you a fresh start with a clean slate.

Q: What is a discharge?

A: A discharge is a court order that says you do not have to repay your debts, but there are some exceptions, such as child support.

Q: Will I have to go to court?
A: Yes, in a Chapter 7 case, you will have to attend a proceeding once which is like a “court hearing,” although, it is very informal and presided over by a trustee and not a judge. A Chapter 13 case may require more than one court appearance, usually two or three.

Q: Will bankruptcy affect my credit?

A: Yes, but there are easy ways to rebuild your credit in a relatively short period of time following your final discharge.

Q: Will I be able to keep any credit cards?

A: No, you will have to fully disclose all of your debts and accounts, which will be closed and discharged. Bankruptcy is an all or nothing process. Full disclosure of your assets and liabilities is required and subject to penalties of perjury.

Q: Can I keep and use my debit card?

A: Yes, a debit card is not a credit card.

Q: Can I get a credit card after bankruptcy?

A: Yes, and you will be counseled on how and when to apply, and which type of card works best to rehabilitate your credit.

Q: Are utility services affected?
A: Current services will not be affected if the account is current or near current. Requests for new services after a bankruptcy may result in the utility company requiring a deposit.

Q: Can I be discriminated against for filing bankruptcy?

A: Absolutely not. Filing bankruptcy is a right given and protected by Federal Law.

Q: I am married, can I file by myself?

A: Yes, you may file as a married individual.

Q: If I am married and I file individually, will my spouse’s credit be affected?
A: No, your spouse’s credit will not be affected if he or she does not file.

Q: Can filing bankruptcy stop bill collectors from calling?
A: Yes, they will be prohibited from harassing you.

Q: Can I discharge my student loans by filing bankruptcy?

A: Generally student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. There are a few exceptions to this general rule.

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.

Senior$afe

Protect your money and financial accounts from scams, exploitation, and identity theft.

Know who to contact if you need help.

Senior financial exploitation and fraud is the illegal or improper use of a senior’s resources for another’s profit or advantage.

  • Exploitation usually involves someone the senior knows, such as a family member or caregiver.
  • Fraud is usually perpetrated by a stranger, such as a telemarketer or investment promoter.

 

Vulnerability Factors

Are the conditions of your current situation ripe for potential exploitation or fraud? You may be at an increased risk if any of the situations below apply to you:

  • Recent loss of a spouse or partner and/or social isolation.
  • Dependent on someone to provide everyday care, transportation, or other services.
  • Financially responsible for an adult child, grandchild, or other family member.
  • Recent change in health.
  • Socially isolated, depressed or lonely.
  • Frequent mistakes in managing finances or feeling overwhelmed in managing household budget or investments.
  • Excessive anxiety about finances.
  • Running out of money regularly at the end of the month.
  • Willingness to listen to telemarketing or other calls from unknown parties, attend commercial “free lunch” seminars, or investigate work- at-home opportunities or sweepstakes.
  • Pressure from children, caregivers, or others to share money or change will.

Prevention Steps

1.
Limit phone calls from strangers.
  • Do not accept calls from any person you do not know. Use caller ID, and don’t answer if you don’t recognize the number. Studies show that consumers who answer unsolicited calls are much more likely to be scammed than those who don’t.
  • As a precaution, put all your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. Call 888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov. But don’t expect all calls to stop, especially from determined scammers.
  • If necessary, get an unlisted telephone number.
2. Never give out personal information to strangers in response to texts, emails, or calls, regardless of who they claim to be or where they claim to be calling from.
3. Never wire money to strangers under any circumstances, regardless of who they claim to be or how urgent the situation.
4. Review your financial account statements at least monthly and contact your financial institution, credit card issuer, or other provider immediately if you see unauthorized charges or other issues.
5. Monitor your credit report at least annually. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You can get one report from each of the three bureaus free each year.
6. Consider enlisting a trusted family member or reputable bill-paying service. Consult your local Area Agency on Aging for help with routine payments.
7. Use caution when utilizing joint accounts as a method of planning for incapacity or getting help with paying your bills. Both parties are equal owners and have equal access. Talk to your financial institution, attorney, or your local Area Agency on Aging to learn about all of your options for assistance with your finances.
8. Execute a power of attorney only if you can appoint an agent you trust completely and only after consultation with an attorney. Be aware of gifting clauses in power of attorney documents. You can and should limit the power you give your agent. Only grant authority that is absolutely necessary.
9. Never convey or quitclaim an interest in real estate without consulting an attorney.
10. Use a document shredder for all discarded paperwork and credit card offers.
11. Remember, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. It is illegal to participate in foreign lotteries. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. That windfall you’ve been promised is a scam. Don’t be a victim!

Resources

Senior$afe Client/Customer Brochure (pdf)

Red Flags/Quick Response Card (pdf)

SOURCE: http://ct.gov/dob/cwp/view.asp?a=2235&q=593840

Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Rate on Diesel Fuel Effective July 1, 2018

Purpose: This Announcement notifies taxpayers of the motor vehicle fuels tax rate per gallon on the sale or use of diesel fuel that goes into effect for the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2018.

Effective Date: July 1, 2018.

Statutory Authority: Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-458(a)(2), and Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-458h.

Change to the Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Rate on Diesel Fuel: The Commissioner of Revenue Services has calculated the new diesel fuel tax rate for the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2018. Effective July 1, 2018, the new diesel fuel tax rate is 43.9¢ per gallon and will remain in effect through June 30, 2019.

Effect on Other Documents: The following forms will be revised to reflect the rate on diesel fuel discussed in this Announcement for the 12-month period effective July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.

Form OP-216, Special Fuel Tax Return;

AU-724, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim Off Highway, Marine, Governmental, School Bus, and Waste Hauling Use;

AU-725, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim Farm Use;

AU-736, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim, Motor Bus, Taxicab, & Livery;

AU-737, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim, Airport Service Motor Bus;

AU-738, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim, Nutrition Program; and

AU-741, Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax Refund Claim, Commuter Vans.

Effect of This Document: Announcements alert taxpayers to new developments (other than newly enacted or amended Connecticut or federal laws or newly released judicial decisions), including new administrative positions, policies, or practices.

For More Information on the Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax: Call the Excise Taxes Unit of the Audit Division at 860-541-3224 during business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Forms and Publications: Visit the DRS website at www.ct.gov/DRS to download and print Connecticut tax forms and publications.

Paperless Filing/Payment Methods (fast, easy, free, and confidential): Business and individual taxpayers can use the Taxpayer Service Center (TSC) at www.ct.gov/TSC to file a variety of tax returns, update account information, and make payments online.

File Electronically: You can choose first-time filer information and filing assistance or log directly into the TSC to file returns and pay taxes.

Pay Electronically: You can pay taxes for tax returns that cannot be filed through the TSC. Log in and select the Make Payment Only option. Designate a payment date up to the due date of the tax and mail a paper return to complete the filing process.

DRS E-alerts Email Service: Get connected to the latest DRS news including new legislation, policies, press releases, and more. Visit the DRS website at www.ct.gov/DRS and select Sign up for e-alerts under How Do I? on the gold navigation bar.

SOURCE: http://www.ct.gov/drs/lib/drs/publications/pubsan/2018/an2018-2.pdf

About the Department of Justice

MISSION STATEMENT

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT

The Office of the Attorney General was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, sec. 35, 1 Stat. 73, 92-93), as a one-person part-time position.  The Act specified that the Attorney General was to be “learned in the law,” with the duty “to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments.”

However, the workload quickly became too much for one person, necessitating the hiring of several assistants for the Attorney General. As the work steadily increased along with the size of the new nation, private attorneys were retained to work on cases.

By 1870, after the end of the Civil War, the increase in the amount of litigation involving the United States had required the very expensive retention of a large number of private attorneys to handle the workload.  A concerned Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice (ch. 150, 16 Stat. 162), creating “an executive department of the government of the United States” with the Attorney General as its head.

Officially coming into existence on July 1, 1870, the Department of Justice was empowered to handle all criminal prosecutions and civil suits in which the United States had an interest. To assist the Attorney General, the 1870 Act also created the Office of the Solicitor General, who represents the interests of the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1870 Act remains the foundation for the Department’s authority, but the structure of the Department of Justice has changed over the years, with the addition of the offices of Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, and the formation of various components, offices, boards and divisions.  From its beginning as a one-man, part-time position, the Department of Justice has evolved into the world’s largest law office and the chief enforcer of federal laws.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The most sacred of the duties of government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.”  This sacred duty remains the guiding principle for the women and men of the U.S. Department of Justice.

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

The position of Attorney General was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789. In June 1870 Congress enacted a law entitled “An Act to Establish the Department of Justice.” This Act established the Attorney General as head of the Department of Justice and gave the Attorney General direction and control of U.S. Attorneys and all other counsel employed on behalf of the United States. The Act also vested in the Attorney General supervisory power over the accounts of U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals.

Edmund Jennings Randolph – First Attorney General

The mission of the Office of the Attorney General is to supervise and direct the administration and operation of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Prisons, Office of Justice Programs, and the U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals Service, which are all within the Department of Justice.

The principal duties of the Attorney General are to:

  • Represent the United States in legal matters.
  • Supervise and direct the administration and operation of the offices, boards, divisions, and bureaus that comprise the Department.
  • Furnish advice and opinions, formal and informal, on legal matters to the President and the Cabinet and to the heads of the executive departments and agencies of the government, as provided by law.
  • Make recommendations to the President concerning appointments to federal judicial positions and to positions within the Department, including U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals.
  • Represent or supervise the representation of the United States Government in the Supreme Court of the United States and all other courts, foreign and domestic, in which the United States is a party or has an interest as may be deemed appropriate.
  • Perform or supervise the performance of other duties required by statute or Executive Order.

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/

Memo from the Desk of Theresa Rose DeGray, Esq.

“Leverage: the use of a small initial investment…to gain a very high return.”

— Dictionary.com

a3134378-503b-43cb-b2bc-d930fe80a902

I have been debating how to talk about this in a delicate manner and I simply could not figure it out. So, I will just come out and say it: People being crushed by debt can leverage their tax refunds to file Bankruptcy and get a Fresh Start. There, I finally said it.

 

It may not sound kosher but it is. Instead of using your tax refund to pay off a portion of your debt, or to buy a big screen TV, people can pay for their legal fees to get out of massive amounts of debt if they qualify and it is the right thing for them to do based on their circumstances.

 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with debt and wants to explore this option, please contact my office and schedule a free and confidential consultation.

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.