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Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

Consumer Bankruptcy

Will my bankruptcy be published in the paper?

A bankruptcy is public record. However, most newspapers no longer publish bankruptcy information. While they still publish foreclosures and court actions, bankruptcy is a federal action and is generally only available on the United States Bankruptcy Court’s website.

Will I lose my vehicle?

If you have a loan secured by your vehicle and are up-to-date on your payments, your bank and the court may allow you to reaffirm the original contract on the vehicle. If you are behind on payments, you will need to get them up-to-date or possibly enter into Chapter 13 bankruptcy to cure any defaults.

If I surrender my home or vehicle, will I be responsible for the difference between the loan amount and the amount my home or vehicle sells for?

Generally speaking, outside of bankruptcy, you could be held liable for the deficiency or remaining debt. However, these deficiencies are discharged in bankruptcy, and you will not be responsible for repaying them.

Is there a court hearing?

You must go to what is called a Section 341 hearing. This hearing is also called a trustee meeting or a meeting of creditors. Generally, you will meet with the trustee for five to 10 minutes. Your attorney will be with you and as the name implies, creditors can attend and ask questions. The trustee will verify that you are who you say you are and put you under oath to answer questions concerning your bankruptcy filing. This meeting is generally where the trustee determines whether a case is an “asset case” or a “no-asset case.” Most cases are determined to be no-asset cases, which means the trustee determines that there is no property that can be sold for the benefit of the creditors.

Could I lose my job because I filed bankruptcy?

It is illegal to fire or discriminate against a person because he or she has filed bankruptcy.

What will happen to my credit score after I file bankruptcy?

Many factors go into determining your credit score, including filing for bankruptcy. A person’s credit score and credit report can fluctuate within the course of a week. Here are factors that influence your credit score:

  1. Payment history: This has the largest impact on your credit score. Missing higher payments has greater impact than missing lower payments. Delinquencies in the past two years have a greater impact as well.
  2. Outstanding credit balances: The ratio between outstanding balance and available credit is one-third of your credit score. Keep the ratio under 10 percent.
  3. Credit history: This is the length of time a credit line was established. A long record of consistent payments on older accounts is positive, while there are small penalties for closing old accounts.
  4. Type of credit: Auto loans and mortgages will have the highest impact on your score. A mixture is best, and store cards have minimal impact compared with bank credit cards.
  5. Inquiries: The number of inquiries on a consumer’s credit report within a six-month period will affect the score. The most a score can be reduced is by 50 points, which happens with 10 inquiries or more.

Will the trustee take my furniture, retirement or other personal assets?

You are required to disclose all your personal and real property and make a reasonable inquiry into the value of those items. There are federal and state exemptions that your attorney will go over with you to protect most, if not all, of the equity in your personal and real property.

Should I try to consolidate my debt first with a debt resolution firm or debt consolidation agency?

Be extremely cautious if you decide to work with one of these businesses. There are reputable ones out there, but most are frauds. Check with the Better Business Bureau and consumer protection agency in your state before sending them money.

Family Law

What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?

If you agree with all the terms of the divorce as listed in the petition, you need not respond. If you want to challenge the terms listed in the petition, you must file a written answer (also called a “response”) with the court within the time stated on the petition and appear in divorce court for the temporary order hearing date.

How much does a divorce cost?

Court costs and filing fees range from $100 to $400. If you hire a lawyer, you will need more money. The more complex the divorce, the more it will cost. The more issues you and your spouse disagree about, the more work your lawyer will have and the more expenses you will have. Your attorney will explain the fee and billing procedures at your first conference.

Can I take back my former name?

Yes. The judge must give you back a former name if you ask for it in a divorce.

What is mediation?

Mediation is one or more private counseling sessions in which a trained person (mediator) tries to help you and your spouse reach an agreement. The judge might order both of you to go to mediation in an attempt to agree on divorce issues such as child custody, support, parenting time and property division.

All mediation proceedings are private and confidential. Neither party is required to agree to any solutions proposed by the mediator. If you can reach agreement on some or all of the issues, a written summary of that agreement is usually sent to the lawyers by the mediator.

If you and your spouse cannot agree and one of you challenges the divorce issues in court, a judge will have to decide the issues.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation is a court order that states who gets the children, who pays support for the children, whether spousal support is ordered and who gets what property. You might want a legal separation if your religious beliefs prohibit divorce, if you or your spouse has not lived in Wisconsin long enough to file for divorce, or if one of you needs to be covered by the other’s medical insurance. A legal separation costs about the same as a divorce. Filing for legal separation does not prevent a divorce from being filed. The main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that you are still married after a legal separation. Therefore, you still have the right to inherit property from your spouse if you are legally separated. If you are divorced, you lose that right.

Contact Us

Contact Steinhilber Swanson LLP to learn more. Call our office in Oshkosh at 920-235-6690 or Madison at 608-630-8990 or Milwaukee at 414-269-8500.

We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.