July 23, 2019

The Confirmation Hearing

The next step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process will be to attend your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing.  Do not be alarmed!  You will likely not have to testify at this Hearing at all.  But I will explain below the process leading up to and including your Conformation Hearing, so you can have a preview of events and can ask me questions well in advance so you are fully prepared for this step in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process.

After we sign and file your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and Plan, your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee will review your plan and may suggest changes to the Plan.  These changes may adjust the amount paid to your Creditors, the period of the Plan or the Plan payment.  Once I make the suggested changes to your Plan, I will have you review them and sign an Amended Plan.  This is common, and amendments to Plans usually occur at least once or twice in each typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case.

Once your Chapter 13 Trustee believes that your Plan is “confirmable” (or feasible) and has no further changes to suggest, a date for your Confirmation Hearing will be scheduled by the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court.  I will inform you of that date as soon as it is available to me so that you can arrange to take time off from work or other commitments, if need be, to attend the Hearing with me.

Your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Confirmation Hearing is not like your Chapter 13 Section 341 Meeting in any way.  The Confirmation Hearing will be held in a Federal Courtroom and there will be a Judge present to make an Order of the Court as to whether your Plan is Confirmed or not.  You will likely not even have to stand with me or speak at all.

This is usually a very simple procedural Hearing as we usually know in advance if the Chapter 13 Trustee will support your Plan or not, and most times the Plans are Confirmed as Amended.

At the conclusion of the Confirmation Hearing the Judge will make his or her Order and a copy of the Order will be emailed to my office.  We will send you a copy for your records.

Once the Plan is confirmed the Trustee usually requests that payments be made by way of wage garnishment (or income deduction) if you have a regular salary or wages (not if you are self-employed or retired collecting social security and/or a pension).  This may also be made a Court Order.  This takes the worry and hassle of making the monthly payments away from you.  Again, do not be alarmed, your employer will understand and will not be allowed to discriminate against you for having the wage garnishment.

At this point in your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy process your work is nearly done.  The Plan will now run for 3 or 5 years and there should be no changes unless there is a substantial change in your circumstances, like an illness or loss of income.  You will be responsible for reporting any major changes to me and/or the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee.

You will also be responsible for delivering a copy of your filed tax returns to me each year.

If there are no major changes in circumstances, you will have to complete one last step (a Debtor Education Course) sometime before your last payment is due to the Trustee.

I will send you a gentle reminder to take the Debtor Education Course sooner rather than later so you don’t forget in the up to five year period it takes to reach the end of the Plan.  In the following blog of this Chapter 13 Series, I will explain what Debtor Education is and how it will assist you in rebuilding your credit.

For more information on this and other Bankruptcy topics, contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877.

FAQ: Connecticut Foreclosure Mediation Program

“The Foreclosure Mediation Program was established pursuant to P.A. 08-176 and its purpose is to assist homeowners and lenders achieve a mutually agreeable resolution to a mortgage foreclosure action through the mediation process.”

-Connecticut Judicial Branch

1. What is the Foreclosure Mediation Program?
The Foreclosure Mediation Program was created in 2008 in response to the record number of foreclosure cases filed in our courts. In foreclosure mediation, a neutral third party (mediator) helps the homeowner and bank try to reach a fair, voluntary, and negotiated agreement. During mediation, the homeowner will meet with a mediator and a representative of the bank to try to reach an agreement.

2. Who are the mediators?
Foreclosure mediation specialists are Judicial Branch employees who are trained in mediation and foreclosure law. They have knowledge of different community-based resources and mortgage assistance programs that may be able to help homeowners. Most of the mediators are lawyers with many years of mediation experience. Mediators do not represent either party and cannot give legal advice.

3. How do I know if I am eligible for foreclosure mediation?
You are eligible if (a) you are the borrower (the person who signed the note secured by a mortgage on the property), (b) you are an owner-occupant of the property, (c) the property is your primary residence, (d) the property is a 1, 2, 3 or 4 family residence in Connecticut, and (e) your case is a mortgage foreclosure with a return date on or after July 1, 2008. If you are not a borrower, but you meet all other requirements for eligibility, you may be able to participate in the program if you are a permitted successor-in-interest. You are a permitted successor-in-interest if (1) you are a defendant in the foreclosure action, (2) the foreclosure action has a return date on or after October 1,2015, and (3) you are either (a) the spouse of a deceased borrower, and you became the only owner of the property because it was transferred to you from your spouse’s estate or because of the way you held title to the property with your deceased spouse; or (b) the spouse or former spouse of a borrower, and (i) you became an owner of the property because it was transferred to you as a result of a decree of divorce or legal separation, or a settlement agreement that was a part of either decree and (ii) you and all borrowers have consented to the release of nonpublic personal financial information by the plaintiff/mortgagee, if any, that is in its possession.

Certain religious organizations may also be eligible for the program.

Homeowners who do not meet these requirements could be referred to the Foreclosure Mediation Program by a judge.

SOURCE: The Connecticut Judicial Branch Website

IF YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS:

Please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray here for immediate assistance or text “HELP” to 203-814-0600.

This is no April Fools’ Joke: Means Test Numbers are Going Up as of April 1, 2019!

After your initial consultation, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test. A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so. In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process. Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis:

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy. Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions. It does not include social security benefits. The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size. If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations. After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will then have passed the Means Test and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, to schedule your free consultation today!

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1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)

2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)

3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

Wife, Mother, Attorney and…now, Author!

About a year ago, over the course of many months, in between taking care of my son and clients, I co-authored a book called “Tiger Tactics: Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms.”  Below is a sample.  Copies can be ordered on TigerTacticsBook.com.

Balance

They say when you have a baby, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. I say work when the baby sleeps.

Thirteen months ago I had a baby. I did not have a maternity leave. I emailed clients within one hour of having a C-section. When you are a solo, there is no other choice.

My son’s name is Chase. I now think of my life in two parts: (1) Before Chase (aka BC) and (2) After Chase (aka AC). Before he was born, I worked all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. I loved it. I know, I am weird. But I wanted to be a lawyer all my life and I love what I do……all aspects of it, working in the business as well as working on the business. My husband didn’t love it. But he adjusted BC and understood why I didn’t have many friends or hobbies, because I was always working and that was my passion.

After Chase, things were immediately different. I now have this little human that depends on me 24/7 and is the cutest, most fun little guy in the world, so of course, spending time with him has become my first priority, and my work has naturally taken a close second place.

My number-one piece of advice to any lawyer who has children or wants to balance their work and life, even if they don’t have kids, is this: Make a schedule and stick to it.

Easy to say and hard to do, I know. It’s the nature of our profession and one of the top reasons why I love it. No day is the same. Mondays I might spend all morning in court and all afternoon in client meetings, and on Thursdays I might spend all day doing networking, going to Rotary meetings, and meeting new referral sources. But the longer you practice, the more you will notice a rhythm to your practice and your schedule, so you can make a rough schedule and try to stick to it. That goes for home too.

When you have small children, they rule your schedule, and you have to adapt to them. That’s where the rule “work when the baby sleeps” comes in. But as they grow and organically create their own routine, you can work your business and personal responsibilities, tasks, and events into and around their routine…

To continue reading, head over to www.TigerTacticsBook.com.

What to Expect at an Initial Consultation

THE FIRST STEP on your journey to a fresh start begins with a free and confidential consultation to learn exactly what your options are.  I offer initial consultations at various locations around the state of Connecticut (including Milford, Shelton and Wethersfield) and will strive to find a convenient time and place to meet with you.  I have day, evening and weekend appointments available and will even skype or facetime with you!

An initial consultation with a lawyer is a great opportunity for many reasons.  When you meet with me for the first time you will be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.  I understand the hardship you are facing and will give you my full attention.  The meeting will be an opportunity for you to interview me, just as much as it is an opportunity for me to interview you.  Always remember, when you hire an attorney, they work for you, and you must feel comfortable with them as you will have to trust your attorney to guide you through each and every step of the Bankruptcy process.

During our consultation I will ask pointed questions that are focused on painting a picture of your financial circumstances.  This inquiry will include questions pertaining to your income, assets and debts.  Through your answers I will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and offer you options.

Next I will show you various disclosure statements that I am required to give to you by the United States Bankruptcy Court under the Bankruptcy Code1.  These documents will explain the Bankruptcy process, the difference between the various chapters of Bankruptcy, what a Discharge is and what credit counseling services are, among other important things.  You will be asked to sign these documents, acknowledging that you received them.

Finally, if I determine that you are a likely candidate for Bankruptcy and you are interested in hiring me to file your Bankruptcy Petition, I will conclude my presentation by guiding you through a checklist of documents I will need from you to perform a Means Test.  A Means Test is a formal assessment used to determine if you qualify for Bankruptcy.  Do not be alarmed, it is not a test like the SATs and does not require you to pencil in any bubbles!  On the contrary, you will gather the documents and my staff and I will prepare the test for you as part of our package services.

Throughout the consultation and especially at the end, I will ask you if you have any questions.  I will be happy to answer all of your questions and you should not hesitate to ask any question or ask for clarification if something is unclear.

At the conclusion of the initial consultation I will give you a folder with all of my contact information and copies of all the documents you read and signed during the meeting.  A follow-up appointment will be made with you for either a telephone conference or an in-person meeting to go over any further questions you may have and to help you with the gathering of your documents.

The next part of this series will go into more depth about the specific documents you will gather so that we will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and prepare your Means Test.

To schedule your initial consultation, please call us at 203-713-8877 or visit our website at www.ConsumerLegalServicesLLC.com.
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111 U.S.C. §§ 101-1532

GOOD NEWS: Updated Census Bureau Median Family Income Data

March 14, 2019

The Census Bureau’s Median Family Income Data accessible through the “Means Testing Information” page has been updated. The U.S. Trustee Program will apply the updated data to all cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

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

FAQ: Child Support Enforcement Services (Re-posted from Connecticut Judicial Branch Website)

BANKRUPTCY COURT OPEN DURING PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Tax Amnesty

A Guest Blog by Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA

Now is the perfect time to come clean and catch-up on your outstanding tax obligations. Connecticut has introduced “CT Fresh Start” which is a Connecticut tax amnesty program which runs through November 30, 2018. Almost all tax types are eligible under the program including both business and individual income taxes, payroll withholding taxes, business entity taxes, gift taxes, and sales & use taxes. A taxpayer is eligible if they failed to file a return, or failed to report the full amount of tax on a previously filed return, for any return due on or before December 31, 2016. The program is generally not available for taxpayers who have already received a bill for unpaid taxes or are currently under audit by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. The benefits include no assessed penalties on the outstanding obligation as well as interest at 50% of the normal rate. The program also allows for a limited look-back period for eligible non-filers of only three years and no criminal prosecution. Connecticut has not offered a tax amnesty program in quite a few years and the window to apply under the program is relatively short, so don’t miss out! To see if you can take advantage, please contact Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA of Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 immediately.

Special thanks to my colleague, Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA (pictured here on the right with me and Attorney Karen Zarkades on the left), for submitting this article to my newsletter and blog. He is a partner at Walsh & Dickinson, a full-service CPA firm operating out of Shelton, Connecticut, specializes in the needs of small to medium size privately held business and individual clients. Josh has over 22 years of diverse experience helping clients located throughout Connecticut. Please contact Josh at Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 or www.cpaswd.com. Thank you.

October or…Never?

MEANS TEST NUMBERS ARE GOING DOWN

 

Bad News in the Bankruptcy World:

Bankruptcy qualification is based solely on household income. Every six months or so the Office of the United States Trustee changes the Means Testing figures. Come Novermber 1, 2018, the Means Testing Numbers are going down. This directly results in less people being qualified to file for Bankruptcy.

Good News For You:

If you are contemplating Bankruptcy, I am urging you to get tested as soon as possible to see if you qualify and can file in October before the changes take effect. During the remaining days of October, I am offering FREE Consultations 7 days per week and FREE Means Testing. Click HERE to schedule your appointment right away.

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