Tag Archives: divorce

Reflections on a Webinar

Last week I taught a Webinar on the intersection of divorce law and bankruptcy law.  I have taught CLE before, and I have been recorded when teaching CLE before.  Last week, though, was the first time that I have taught a presentation where I was teaching solely to a camera.  Now, there were quite a few people watching live from their computers; and I received 5 or 6 questions by the end of the session.  I couldn’t see any of that, though.  All I could see was the big, blue eye on the camera.  The only other person in the room was the tech who was running the transmission feed and who wrote down the questions as they came in and walked them over to me.  I have to say it was an interesting experience, but not one that I am sure I want to do again.

First of all, I went through my material much faster than I expected.  I think that is a result of having no visual feedback.  I hadn’t realized how much I cue off of the expressions of the audience.  I started wondering afterwards just how fast I had to have been talking.  When I got questions, it was all at once at the end of the segment.  They were written in the Tech’s handwriting who brought them to me.  I had no idea when they were written, who wrote them and they had no facial expression or body language attached.  I’m not sure why that matters, but it does.

I’m all for virtual, and I am all for making things more accessible to people whenever and wherever they are.  I just think that the whole experience would have been better for all concerned if there had been a few real, live students in the room with me.

Oh, I said at the time that I would put the questions and answers up here; and I will — just as soon as I remember to take the questions home with me.

Elaine

Divorce Debt and bankruptcy — everybody loses but the lawyer

I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from both prospective clients and other lawyers with questions about how divorce related debt is handled in a Bankruptcy.

Support debt — child support, alimony, anything that is intended in the actual nature of support, regardless of what it is called, is yours for life.  No Bankruptcy court can help you.

Non-support debt, i.e., the credit cards, the medical bills, your own divorce attorneys fees, possibly (but not necessarily) your ex-spouse’s divorce attorneys fees, anything other than support that you are ordered to pay in a divorce decree — this is different.  If you file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you are stuck with this.  If you file a Chapter 13 — not so fast.

Typical scenario, prospective client calls following a nasty divorce.  Decree orders this person to pay tons of credit card debt, and he owes his lawyer a fortune.  (For purposes of this scenario it makes no difference to me how much the other spouse was ordered to pay, how much the other spouse makes, how much the other spouse has or has not suffered.  For one thing the other spouse is not my client.  For another thing, I’m just not that impressed by tales of other people’s poor judgment in things like choosing spouses.)

Here is what I tell the prospective client.  You can file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  You will pay me several thousands in attorneys fees.  You will pay the Trustee a not inconsiderable amount to administer your case.  You will pay your mortgage, car, any recent taxes and any support debt that you owe over a period of five years.  You will pay some additional amount, probably a small amount and almost certainly a lot less than all, of the rest of your debt — what you were ordered to pay in the divorce decree and whatever else you’ve got lying around.  I can’t predict how much of that you will have to pay, but it is generally a lot less than all.  Oh, and it will be paid without interest.  At the end of the five years, you will get a discharge.  Your ex-spouse will not.  Any creditors to whom your ex-spouse is also liable will then be able to try to collect money from the ex-spouse.  Not only can they try to get the remainder of the principle balance, but the interest you didn’t have to pay during your Bankruptcy.

In other words, you two fought for years over this debt.  You paid attorneys thousands of dollars.  You are going to pay me thousands more — and you will both still get the bill.

Now, wouldn’t it just have been better to have both filed for Bankruptcy before the Decree?  Not had all that debt to argue about and then agreed to pay the money it would have taken to fund a Chapter 13 plan and added it to your kids’ college funds?

Elaine