Curran Law Office helps individuals solve their debt issues and, when necessary, file for bankruptcy. We help to keep businesses in business, farmers in farming, and manufacturers in manufacturing. We have the legal knowledge and experience to analyze your financial situation, to recommend an appropriate plan to resolve your problems, and to help you follow through to completion.
We are a debt relief agency. We help people eliminate or restructure their debts and get a fresh start by filing for bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy is not always the best solution to all debt problems. After gathering and analyzing the facts regarding your financial situation, we will advise you as to the available alternatives to resolve your financial problems.
Here are the kinds of matters we routinely handle for our clients:
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Foreclosure Defense
- Debt renegotiation and restructuring
- Debt defense litigation
Do you have questions about Bankruptcy or debtor rights in Wisconsin?
Look below for answers to frequently asked questions.
Bankruptcy is a legal process which allows people and businesses, who are unable or partially unable to pay their debts, to rid themselves of these debts and obtain a fresh start. Bankruptcy cases are handled by Federal bankruptcy courts.
There are 6 different types of bankruptcy. Although they differ in form and procedure, they all provide for permanent relief from certain debts.
- Chapter 7 is the most common. It provides for liquidation of the debtor’s non-exempt assets. Certain assets, such as a home or car, may be exempt from bankruptcy. A court-appointed trustee conducts the sale of debtor’s non-exempt assets and distributes the proceeds to creditors. Both individuals and businesses may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7.
- Chapter 9 provides for the reorganization of municipalities.
- Chapter 11 is used by partnerships and corporations. It provides for a supervised reorganization of a business, and allows the debtor to maintain the business while implementing a payment plan.
- Chapter 12 is for family farmers and fisherman.
- Chapter 13 is for individuals with a regular income to resolve their debts by establishing a payment plan to pay debts, usually within three to five years.
- Chapter 15 applies to cross-border bankruptcies. It adopts and implements the United Nations’ Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency.
In Wisconsin, you must be at least 18 years old.
No, but it is highly recommended. The rules and procedures governing bankruptcy are complex, and the Bankruptcy Court will expect you to know them. They won’t hold your hand.
The process depends on the type of bankruptcy you are filing. Hence, the first step is to determine which type of bankruptcy you are eligible to file. For example, you are only eligible for Chapter 7 if you pass the “means test.” You can only file for Chapter 13 if you have the income necessary to follow a payment plan. Once you have determined which type of bankruptcy to file, you commence your bankruptcy case by filing a bankruptcy petition in Federal Court. This filing triggers an automatic stay of all collection efforts by creditors.
The filing of bankruptcy immediately stops all collection proceedings, including pending lawsuits, against the debtor until the Bankruptcy is concluded. This is called the “automatic stay.” In some limited circumstances, a creditor can file a motion with the Bankruptcy court to lift the stay as to that creditor.
A “discharge” is an order from the bankruptcy court which cancels or “discharges” a debt. If a debt is discharged, you no longer have to pay it and the creditor may not take any steps to compel you to pay it. However, a “discharge” only applies to the person filing for bankruptcy. Therefore, if someone guaranteed the debt, their obligation to pay is not “discharged.”
No, not all debts will be discharged through the bankruptcy, even if you have followed all of the rules. A bankruptcy only discharges debts that you owed and listed at the time you filed the case, not those you incurred after filing the case. In addition, even after bankruptcy, you will have to pay certain debts that are “non-dischargeable” such as:
- debts for income and property taxes,
- debts you failed to list in your bankruptcy paperwork,
- debts for child support and spousal maintenance,
- debts for fines payable to the government,
- debts owed as part of a criminal sentence, and
- student loans.
Other debts that may not be discharged include debts you may have incurred through fraud or by willful or malicious actions. An example of a debt incurred by fraud is a loan you obtained when you knew you could not repay it. Some credit card use immediately before bankruptcy may be considered fraudulent, especially if you use the card to pay for “luxury” goods or services, such as a vacation.
When you file for bankruptcy, your case becomes a matter of public record. This means that anyone can access court records online or call the bankruptcy court to obtain details regarding your case. Your bankruptcy case will also involve a “Meeting of Creditors” that is open to the public, though it is unusual for anyone who is not involved in the case to attend. It may be possible to seal portions of your case, but this only occurs in rare instances. Aside from court records, you may be listed in a local newspaper in relation to any public notices that are relevant to your case. Additionally, lenders you approach to apply for credit, and possibly employers, will learn of your bankruptcy filing if they review your credit history. A bankruptcy generally stays on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, depending on whether you filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
It is not uncommon for people to file for bankruptcy to stop or delay a foreclosure or repossession. Filing for bankruptcy triggers an “automatic stay,” which requires creditors to stop their collection efforts, including efforts to foreclose on or repossess property. Whether the bankruptcy fully stops foreclosure or repossession, or merely delays these events, depends on the type of bankruptcy you file. Filing for Chapter 7 allows you to stall a foreclosure sale for 3-4 months, which can buy you time to negotiate with a lender to change the loan period or loan terms of the mortgage. Filing for Chapter 13 can not only stop the sale, but also allow you to propose a debt repayment plan that will cover arrearages as well as mortgage payments that come due during bankruptcy. As long as the plan is approved and you make timely payments on this plan, you can avoid foreclosure altogether. Moreover, you may be able to strip any junior mortgages that are not secured from your home.
While a Chapter 7 automatic stay stops a lender from repossessing your car, the lender can and probably will ask the court to lift the stay, unless you show that you are going to catch up on car payments or cure the default. If you cannot afford to catch up on car payments or cure your default, the court will lift the stay and will not stop a lender from repossessing your vehicle. In Chapter 13, you should be able to stop a repossession altogether if you adequately address arrearages and upcoming car loan payments in your debt repayment plan. To keep your vehicle, you will also need to make adequate protection payments from the date you file for bankruptcy until the date the judge approves the plan.
Yes, medical debt is a common cause of bankruptcy for individuals. Medical bills usually represent a form of unsecured debt, and they can be discharged through bankruptcy.
Probably not. Student loans are considered non-dischargeable, unless you can prove to the court that repaying the loans would be an undue hardship. You must file a Complaint to Determine Dischargeability, which initiates a separate adversary proceeding. Different courts use different undue hardship tests, but most courts only grant a student loan discharge if you suffer a serious disability that prevents you from working, you have dependents, or you are elderly. Under one test, known as the Brunner test, you can only obtain a discharge if: (1) repaying student loans would result in you and your dependents living in impoverished circumstances, unable to maintain a basic standard of living; (2) your situation will continue over most of the student loan repayment period; and (3) you tried in good faith to repay the loan. Another hardship test looks at the totality of the circumstances. While it is difficult to pass these tests, it is not impossible.
If a chapter 7 or 11 discharge is entered by the Court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted another discharge in a subsequent chapter 7 case filed within eight (8) years of the filing of the first case. If a chapter 7, 11, or 12 discharge is entered by the Court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted another discharge in a subsequent chapter 13 case filed within four years of the filing of the first case. If a chapter 13 discharge is entered by the Court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted a discharge in a subsequent chapter 13 case filed within two years of the filing of the first case. If a chapter 12 or 13 discharge is entered by the Court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted a discharge in a subsequent chapter 7 case filed within six years of the filing of the first case.
The Bankruptcy Code prohibits an employer from firing you solely because you filed for bankruptcy or because you did not pay a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy. If your employer has other reasons for firing you, the fact that you filed for bankruptcy will not protect you.
Talk to the creditor. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, talk to a lawyer experienced in handling these types of cases. Try to propose to pay off the full debt in regular but specific payments. Be prepared to provide evidence concerning your current financial condition. Make sure that the payments are in an amount you can afford. Write both the creditor and collection agency with your proposal, and you might want to consider including a payment with that letter in the amount of the proposed payment. The payments should be in an amount that would pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. Offering to pay $5 a month on a $1,000 debt probably would not be accepted by a creditor or collection agency because it would take over 16 years to pay the debt. If the collector approves these new payments, it is extremely important that you not miss any payments.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law which imposes various rules on debt collectors and makes it illegal for debt collectors to use abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when they collect debts.
Your credit card debt, auto loans, medical bills, student loans, mortgage, and other household debts are covered by the FDCPA. Business debts are not covered by FDCPA.
No. Debt collectors can’t contact you at inconvenient times or places. They can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to it. They also can’t contact you at work if they’re told you’re not allowed to get calls there.
Debt collectors can call you, or send letters, emails, or text messages to collect a debt.
Send a letter by mail asking them to stop (and make yourself a copy of the letter before you mail it). You might want to send it by certified mail and pay for a “return receipt” so you have a record the collector received it. Once the collector gets your letter, it can only contact you to confirm it will stop contacting you, or to tell you a specific action, like filing a lawsuit, will be taken. If you are represented by an attorney, and inform the collector, the collector must communicate with your attorney, not you, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to the communication from the debt collector.
You might want to talk to the collector at least once, even if you don’t think you owe the debt or can’t repay it immediately. That way you can confirm whether it’s really your debt. If it is your debt, you can find out from the collector more information about it. In talking with a debt collector, be careful about sharing your personal or financial information, especially if you’re not already familiar with the collector.
A debt collector generally can’t discuss your debt with anyone but you or your spouse. If an attorney is representing you, the debt collector has to contact the attorney. A collector can contact other people to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work, but usually can’t contact them more than once.
A collector has to send you a written “validation notice” within five days of first contacting you. The notice has to say:
- how much money you owe
- the name of the creditor you owe it to
- what to do if you don’t think it’s your debt
You can send a debt collector a letter saying you don’t owe any or all of the money, or asking for verification of the debt. If you send the letter within 30 days of getting the validation notice, the collector has to send you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe, before it can start trying to collect the debt again. You also can get a collector to stop contacting you, at any time, by sending a letter by mail asking for contact to stop.
They can’t harass you. For example, they can’t:
- threaten you with violence or harm
- use obscene or profane language
- repeatedly use the phone to annoy you
They can’t lie. For example, they can’t:
- misrepresent the amount you owe
- lie about being attorneys or government representatives
- falsely claim you’ll be arrested
They can’t engage in unfair practices. For example, they can’t:
- try to collect interest, fees, or other charges on top of the amount you owe, unless the original contract or your state law allows it
- deposit a post-dated check early
- take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally
If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you, you must respond, either personally or through your attorney, by the date specified in the court papers. That will preserve your rights. If you don’t respond properly and on time, a judgment can be taken against you.
Yes, but the collector must first sue you to get a court order — called a garnishment — that says it can take money from your paycheck to pay your debts. A collector also can seek a court order to take money from your bank account. Don’t ignore a lawsuit, or you could lose the opportunity to contest such actions.
Sometimes. Many federal benefits are generally exempt from garnishment, though they might still be garnished to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans. States have their own laws about which state benefits can be garnished.
Debt collectors have a limited amount of time within which they can sue you to collect a debt. The amount of time is set by the “statute of limitations,” and it usually begins when you fail to make a payment on a debt. Once the time expires, your unpaid debt is considered “time-barred.” The length of time depends on (1) the kind of debt and (2) the law in your state or the state specified in your credit contract.
A “secured creditor” is a creditor that has a lien on an item of your property. A lien is an interest in property that allows a creditor to have your property sold to satisfy your debt to that creditor. Mortgage lenders and car lenders are secured creditors. They have voluntary liens on your property. An “unsecured creditor” is a creditor who has no interest in any of your particular property. Most credit card issuers are unsecured creditors. In bankruptcy, secured creditors have greater protection because its lien on your property is usually honored. The bankruptcy does not remove it from your property.
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