Advice about Bankruptcy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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2010 - 2012 Recommendations

How did bankruptcy change things for you?

Aug 2012

Hi there. We are in a really tight financial place (cc debt, out of state mortgage underwater in a non-walkaway state, auto loan underwater due to an accident, 2 small kids) and considering all our options. We do have income and are very grateful for all the good things in our life... I just want to see what options we do have. I'm interested in hearing stories from people who filed for bankruptcy. How did your financial situation change before and after? What kind of bankruptcy did you file? Did you use a lawyer? What was in your control during the process and what out out of your control? What have been the effects of the process? If it's been a few years, how has your life changed? Please, no judgement or advice... just real stories from people who have been though it. so much love and too much debt

Arcolina Panto is an incredibly brilliant and charismatic and affordable attorney who focuses on Bankruptcy. She has been retained by a friend of mine for another type of case and he is pleased with her work. Personally, she gave me key and specific advice for my sister when she was unexpectedly laid off. She would be the first person i would talk with if i was in your position. Her practice is based in Oakland. Law offices of Arcolina Panto 510-282-5604 Hope this helps. Tara
Hi, my heart goes out to you. We were in a similar situation. We looked into credit counseling, bankruptcy (free consultation) and a financial coach based out of Stockton. We decided to work with the coach. Even if we would go the bankruptcy route, we wanted to make sure we were never going to get in that position again. We had our first meeting in March of this year and now five months later we are living cash only, have settled three credit cards at 50%, are short selling our house, and are really loving the system she taught us. We were somewhat skeptical because I found her on the Dave Ramsey site and there's somewhat of a little evangelical element to it, but she is sincere and we feel like she saved us from bankruptcy. Working with her each month, using her method, spreadsheets and rules have been amazing for us. You have to ready. It's like deciding to go to Weight Watchers, in that you need to make a serious lifestyle change, but I am so happy with the results. We think we will be completely out of debt in three years. To think if we had not gone this route we would have declared bankruptcy but I think this route will allow us to recover our credit sooner and not have that black mark on our record. Not saying everyone ends up this way, but I can't recommend it enough. Feel free to email me with details. And no matter what, all the best.
Oof. Sounds like you've had a series of unfortunate events. I'm so sorry. I did a Chapter 13 bankruptcy 25 years ago. In a 13, you do a payment plan. Some people pay 10 cents on the dollar. For various reasons, our attorney recommended about 50 cents on the dollar. And we didn't do a Chapter 11 because my husband owned a house with his parents, and the creditors could have taken the equity.

We hired a very nice attorney who treated us very kindly. He explained our rights and how he would be paid. It's been so long ago that I don't remember the details, but I think there was a very limited fee at the beginning and then the rest came out of our court payments.

He immediately contacted our creditors to explain we were filing for bankruptcy and they could no longer harass us. All future contact had to go to the attorney, not us. What a relief. He presented a repayment plan to the creditors. A court hearing was scheduled. The creditors could challenge or just not show up. None came. I found the hearing embarrassing, but not because the trustee treated us badly. Everyone was very nice and respectful.

Then we had our payment plan. I think we pay about $300/month, but it was years ago. We sent a money order to the trustee of our case each month until we were done. The whole thing was off my record seven years later. I'd say the only long-term negative was that BofA rejected us for a very good mortgage because we had gone bankrupt on one of the banks they later acquired. I can't remember if this was within the seven years or not. glad we did it

Bankruptcy - can you recommend a lawyer?

July 2012

Hi BPN, I'm considering whether bankruptcy is right for me and my family. We have a number of issues, including a pending home foreclosure. Does anyone have a lawyer recommendation? I'd prefer someone who works in the East Bay. Thanks! I recommend Geva Baumer - he can help you assess and then file: Geva Baumer geva [at] hope it helps

Hi, Kathy: Stopping foreclosure is one of the most common reasons why people file bankruptcy cases, typically Chapter 13 cases. A Chapter 13 case stops the foreclosure, gives you five years to get caught up, and deals with all your other debt as well. I primarily practice bankruptcy law. Eric
I am glad to recommend Jim Shepherd as a wonderful bankruptcy attorney. Besides being an excellent attorney, he's a good listener and a kind man. He'll let you know all the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy; I believe that the consultation is even free. You can check out his website ( or call him at 510-527-9600. His office is in El Cerrito Plaza. Kathleen

Time for Bankruptcy?

Sept 2010

I am 28 years old and have been considering bankruptcy. I just got married a year ago but have incurred over $30,000.00 in debt before I was married.I got a very good job right out of high school and started to get credit cards and was able to keep up with the payments. Though nothing I bought was ever to ''big'' no cars no jewelery no home. I ended up getting injured on the job but did not report it in hopes of being able to come back. But since I took to many sick days due to the injury I was fired. I then had no job and no health insurance and a very painful injury which I paid with the credit cards. I tried for unemployment but could not recieve it due to be considered a temporary employee. So for many years I dealt with having to live on credit and trying to find small jobs but could not work for long due to having issues with my kidneys, which also ended up getting expensive. So now I have a one year old son and can barely make minuium payments. My husband has been great and has tried to keep up with the payments which total $1000.00 a month and we only have a income of about $2000.00 a month. We have a very special child which makes me unable to work because I need to care for him. We have no car loans, all our cars are used and only worth $2000.00 each. We own no home and are staying with his grandmother. We have no money in savings because we have to pay bills. None of the credit card payments are late, but they are not getting anywhere. I am so stressed every month trying to make sure we have enough money every month to pay my bills and survive.And I have tried to pay back what I can. But, I do not have the means to do it anymore. My husband had not co- signed any of my credit cards, he does however have 2 credit cards that are in my name but he just has the extra card which has his name on it. I would like to know if this bankruptcy is a good idea? What has been the experience of others that have been in a similar situation? Should I file for Chapter 13 and can I use my husbands income to pay back the monthly amount on Chapter 13 every month? How much do the payments range with chapter 13? How much does a bankruptcy lawyer range and what are some good ones? Will this affect my husbands credit? And any other advice on this matter would help. No judgements please I know that bankruptcy is a very awful thing and that many are against it. I was one of them until it is know happening to me, it only take a couple of bad decisions to be in that situation.

After losing both my job and my savings, I found myself working for my creditors, living hand-to-mouth to make payments. It was a hard decision to choose bankruptcy but, without making that choice, I believe I would never have escaped the emotional and financial death spiral in which I found myself.

If you talk to a bankruptcy attorney, find out how to discharge, rather than reorganize, as much debt as possible. You're going to take a credit hit no matter which one you choose and taking the hit while continuing to let debt service dominate your life doesn't make sense.

Don't do half the job; you have only one chance to do this. If you reorgnaize your debt and it continues make your life hell, those creditor's you decided to ''spare'' won't be there to comfort you and tell you how morally upstanding you are; they don't care. You must depersonalize them and, with the advice of your attorney and family, make a business and quality of life decision that brings the most long-term benefit to you and your family. Anon

I recommend you speak with a Bankruptcy lawyer to learn your options. I will be happy to give you a referral to a good one if you write to me off-line, or if you post on the Recommendations list. best, Susan
I don't know why you think bankruptcy is awful, I think it's great. Best thing I ever did, wish I had done it years earlier. I filed on $33K.

A friend who owned a collection agency told me that the credit card companies already had my bankruptcy figured into their business plan and I shouldn't worry about it. After the abhorrent behavior of the big banks in recent years (not like they were ever angels, but sheesh) I'm THRILLED that I stuck it to those immoral corporations.

I would do it again in a SECOND. Save yourself some grief and file. You can rebuild your credit with a car loan and secured card almost immediately, and eventually you'll be a real person in the eyes of the banks again. smash the banks

You need to do something. Spending half of your monthly income on credit card payments (which must be at very high rates if you are paying $1k a month on $30k of debt) is unsustainable. Before you look into Bankruptcy (more on that in a minute) I would start by trying to talk to your creditors. Here is my experience, about a year ago I had about $20k in credit card debt and I was finding the payments unmanagable. One month I just didn't make the payments and within days the Credit card companies were calling me. I told the first creditor that I had a drop in income (which was true) and was having trouble with the payments and without hesitation they offered to reduce the rate to 6% interest (it was much higher) and give me low payments for 4 years to pay it off if I closed the account. When the next creditor with whom I had 2 cards and the majority of the debt called I gave them the same story, they initially offered me something similar to the first one but I was feeling confident and told them that that was still not going to be enough because the balances were high and I just wanted to pay it off. They then agreed to 0% interest and gave me lower payments over 5 years to pay it off. I think you have to stop paying and make them come to you because then they know you are serious. It will not hurt your credit as long as you deal with it right away, make a deal and make a payment within 30 days. Right now credit card companies want to clean up their books, they want to get paid and they would rather get paid then have you file for Bankruptcy so they will work with you. You have to close your accounts, which is actually a good thing, and that hurts your credit score a bit but nothing like a Bankruptcy (you cannot even qualify for a home loan for at least 4 years after a Bankruptcy). If that still is not going to help Bankruptcy may be the answer for you. You are now required to go through some type of credit counseling before you can file, I don't know how onerous it is. I would not bother with a chapter 13, it has the same effect on your credit and you really can't afford the payments even if they were cut in half. Don't feel ashamed, it happens to a lot of people. Been there

Financial hardship. Filing for bankrupcy yes or no?

April 2010

Hello, my husband and I bought a home in East Oakland in 2004 at $350k and then we took an equity line of $73K to fix it up. Now, the home value is of $195K and our payments are way too high. The neighborhood was already sketchy but it is getting worse by the minute: shootings, police cars chasing people at night etc. My husband and my income is not sufficient to pay for all of our expenses, so we relied on credit cards to pay property taxes and bills. We even used a lot of my student loans to make payments on this home and still we have not been able to pay down our principle. At this point, we are so exhausted by trying to keep this home, especially in a neighborhood where we are afraid to walk around with our two year old daughter. We sleep with the alarms on and we are afraid of going to dinner parties or going out at night for fear of being outside in this neighborhood. We were considering filing for bankruptcy but we don't know where to start and also we don't know if we are going to be able to get rid of all of our debts. I know that we can't file bankruptcy on our student loans and we can deal with it. But we would like to know if there are other options to free ourselves from this financial burden. Home loan debt$319K, equity line $73K, credit card debts $23k and we are trying to make payments into our $180k student loans! Please, any advise given would be appreciated:-) thanks so much, Desperate mom

If you are in that much hardship, I suggest foreclosure of your house instead of bankruptcy. When you file bankruptcy, I understand that you have bad credit for like 10 years after that. You will not be able to get any credit or loans or borrow any money or open any accounts for a long time. How are you going to live? I have not had direct experience with bankruptcy but I have had direct experience with foreclosure. What you do is STOP paying your mortgage. You can still live in the house for a long time (like 2-3 years?!?!) because it takes them that long to evict you. First the bank calls you and tries to work with you to reduce the amount of your mortgage. Anyway, it's a long process. Meanwhile, you are living in you house rent/mortgage free!!! What's that worth to you? This is probably not good legal advice, but it is happening all over the place. There are so many houses in foreclosure they can't get to them in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, you are in limbo. Take advantage of the limbo time and take care of the OTHER debts.Good Luck! This must not be a fun time for you. I know.
There are several options for you:

1. Loan modification to lower the payments. Banks are starting to do a lot of these. Even home equity lines are doing them. It is totally lender dependent on how hard it is and often the modification is only temporary but it depends on your situation.

2. You might want to consider doing a short sale and be rid of a negative asset. These are less damaging on your credit than a bankruptcy or foreclosure. There are agents that handle these as it will take a specialist to get through the process. One phenomenal agent is Julie Cuellas at Red Oak Realty.

3. Filing for Bankruptcy is quite damaging but you might be able to get rid of your non-secured debts completely i.e. the credit cards and the home equity line and stay in the house if that is what you want. Some good referrals for BK attorneys are Basil Boutris at 430-1518 and Lawrence Szabo at 834-4893.

4. Let the house go into foreclosure. However, the HELOC might be able to come after you for the deficiency.

One great resourse to explore all of these options is the forums at Loansafe.

We personally went the loan modification route and then the short sale route after investigating all the options. Good luck. Anon

Oh God, I can't imagine the stress your family is going through right now. Everywhere people seem to be in some kind of financial hardships lately. I have heard rumors that even if you file for bankruptcy, you still have to pay back some portion. If you decide to go that route, perhaps you should stop making all payments now(mortgage, line of equity, and credit cards), and start saving that money for what is lying ahead. The bank probably can't kick you out of your house for 6-9 months, so you can put aside a good chunk of money (mortgage + credit cards + line equity) until you know what to do. Remember that you may have a hard time renting a place to live due to bad credit, but with the money you saved, perhaps you can negotiate with the landlord. Also, when filing for bankruptcy, your creditors will likely go after your cash and any properties you may have, so maybe don't keep your cash in your banking accounts until things are finalized? I think you should consult with a professional to make sure. I hope things will look brighter for you soon. My final thought is ''there is a time to let go of those possessions that brings more pains than joys to your family.'' Kim
You've gotten a lot of varying advice on this one. I would highly recommend you go see a bankruptcy attorney. They will give you all the details you need. Most of the assertions given in the advice here are not correct. It does effect your credit for 7 years, not 10. You can clear all unsecured debt (except student loans) if you file chapter 7. You can open bank accounts, etc.

We filed about 18 months ago and it was the best thing we ever did. But, to see if it is indeed right for you, please see a bankruptcy attorney. Most will do the first visit for free. They will get all the detail correct. Crissy

Oh my gosh - I so understand the stress you are under. We were/are in your shoes---too much credit card debt and too high of a mortgage payment, plus my hours at work had been cut by 75%. We talked with a couple of lawyers, and decided to throw it all in: bankruptcy with a foreclosure.

Our reasoning was that our house will never regain the value it has lost, or at least won't regain the value in time for it to make a difference. We live in a neighborhood that is not nice, at all, and like you, I don't like to walk around my 'hood. We have many expensive repairs that our house needs and that we can't afford. We can rent a place in a nicer neighborhood. The credit card debt we had was out of control, and we couldn't make the monthly minimum payments.

So, yes, our credit is shot, but now we have our sanity back. As part of the bankruptcy settlement we've had to take credit counseling classes, and only live with cash. It has been a blessing! It sounds ridiculous, but my husband and I have finally learned to live within our means. There have been ups and downs, a lot of looking back and wishing I had done things waaaaay differently, but I am at peace with it all now. I am who I am, and I learned a hard and difficult lesson. I will NEVER find myself in this situation again.

We are still in the process of foreclosure, but the bankruptcy is in the final stages, so it's not 'done' yet. We found a lawyer we liked and trusted, and there's a lot of paperwork and paper chasing to do - but it's really the best thing we could have done for ourselves.

Many people on this list will look down on you and tell you you 'must' pay your debts, but bankruptcy and foreclosure are legal options for you to take if you chose. You owe over $400K on your home, and it's worth way less. You have a substantial credit card debt, and you still owe student loans. I say go for it. You can talk to a lawyer and they will be able to tell you for sure.

I imagine that you, too, will have your emotional ups and downs, but think about what a relief it will be to not owe so much. Owning a house is expensive! If owning a house is important to you, then you'll get a chance to do it again, one day, when you are genuinely financially stable. Not so desperate anymore

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Bankruptcy: pros and cons?

June 2009

Hi, I'm finding only some older posts about bankruptcy, and hope to get some advice. What are the ''pros and cons'' of filing bankruptcy? If you did so, how did you know ''it was time''? Any helpful resources (books, financial advisors, attorneys) that you used? How has it turned out (and after how many years...) Thanks for any advice you can offer. Might be ready to file

I knew it was time to declare bankruptcy 20 years ago because it was impossible to pay all the bills each month, every month. We had no choice. We went to Consumer Credit Counseling, where they treated us with respect, agreed that bankruptcy was the only option, and referred us to a great attorney. We did a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, paying back about 50 cents on the dollar over three years (no interest). I found the process emotionally difficult, but otherwise straightforward. Long-term it wasn't a problem; we even bought a house near the 7-year mark. Now it's totally off my record, of course. Bankruptcy laws have changed, so your experience may vary. Good luck

Filed for bankruptcy, recently?

April 2009

Hello, We're wondering if others have had recent experience with filing for bankruptcy. Where did you go to learn about the process, figure out the pros and cons, determine how to actually do it? Our understanding is that your credit score (FICO) will be essentially ''ruined'', you can't use any kind of credit card, etc. Is that true? And, for how long do you stay in this ''no credit card'' mode? Assume your bank check card / debit / VISA is not affected, but is that true? We saw the older BPN postings, but are looking for some recent advice/discussion on the whole consideration of filing for bankruptcy. Thanks. Excessive debt

Hi. We filed bankruptcy about 10 years ago and it literally stays on your credit report for 7 years, however, that did not stop us from purchasing a home within that time. Cash is king. We had the cash and although we had the BK on our credit report it was overlooked! The entire system is a scam. With a Chapter 13 you can keep your home but have to give up the credit cards. You can also keep your cars. With a Chapter 7, you give up everything, including your home. It's supposed to be a ''fresh start'' but you are judged financially based on your FICO score.

My attitude is ''do what it takes to survive.'' If it's bankruptcy, then file, if you can manage without filing, then don't file. You have to also remember that with a Chapter 13 (reorganizing your debt), you have to pay the Trustee a certain amount per month. Get a bankruptcy attorney; they generally give a free consultation.

We filed and kept out home, kept our businesses, kept our cars and have not looked back. We dont regret it but each case is different. Seek professional advice. Good luck! One who cares

Due to a divorce, I filed bankruptcy many years ago. And now that it's all behind me, the credit card companies treat me as if nothing happened and offer me anything and everything (but no thanks from me)...anyway, life does go on after bankruptcy. been there
I filed for bankruptcy 2 years ago and what I did and thought it was the very best thing I could do, was to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. He handled all the paperwork, filed the appropriate papers. A bankruptcy lawyer is crucial because he helps you transfer your car, house and any other possessions you own and keep what you want to keep. When you file for bankruptcy there is the Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. The lawyer will help you decide which type of bankruptcy fits your situation. You can file the paper work yourself and forgo the expense to pay the lawyer, but if you don't know the law or the stipulations, you can get yourself in deep water.

In regards to your credit, you start from the bottom up, all the credit cards you had are wiped out. You can only use cash or your debit card. My lawyer told me to wait 2 years for the bankruptcy not to be cleared because it won't be for 7 years, but creditors will look the other way. Filing for bankruptcy was tough at first, but boy was it nice not to have such a worry on my mind about how I was going to pay the creditors, the phone calls, etc. Leslie

First you need to figure out you if you have any other options, bankruptcy is the absolute last resort. Do some research online- I think I just googled '' California bankruptcy law''. Are you living beyond your means, have you tried credit counseling, have you tried contacting the c.c companies to negotiate, can you spend less, sacrifice extras and pay down your balances?

Next, you must decide what you're prepared to loose. In bankruptcy you generally must get rid of all your credit cards (hence where the problem began). We filed Ch. 13 two years ago and having no credit cards has been the best thing. Yes, sometimes we barely manage to keep the lights on but we are finally debt free.In some cases you may be able to keep one card for emergencies as long as you have no balance on it when you file but the idea of bankruptcy is to get out of debt and stay out. Also some credit card companies may close your account once they find out you're in bankruptcy. You keep any debit cards and bank accounts.

Yes, your credit score is essentially ruined for up to 10 years meaning it will be difficult if not impossible to finance a home for several years. I know people who have had no trouble financing a vehicle one year post bankruptcy however your interest rate will be high (15%+).

Depending on your situation you will file either Chapter 13 in which you pay back a portion of your debt over 5 years and keep most secured property (home, vehicles, etc) or Chapter 7 in which you surrender most of your property and pay nothing back. Do some research and talk to a bankruptcy attorney before you make any decisions, most offer a free consultation- don't file alone. We used Patrick Forte in Oakland who was knowledgable, fair and worth the fee (which you can pay over time). good luck There is life after bankruptcy

Check out the Nolo Press materials on bankruptcy--there are articles on the website (, and they also have books that explain all the issues you're asking about. Good luck! Reader

Newly single parent considering bankruptcy

Sept 2008

''He'' has left our family to explore other women. We have 3 young children and are getting no support from him (financial or otherwise). I work 2 jobs, am seriously considering personal bankruptcy and need to talk with someone who really gets it. Would prefer a seasoned professional who can guide and counsel. Oakland is preferred since that is where one of my jobs is. Any recommendations? Never thought it would come to this

Call Lawrence L. Szabo. He is an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law. 510-834-4893 Anon

Need a reasonable and compassionate bankruptcy lawyer

August 2008

Can anyone recommend a reasonable and compassionate bankruptcy lawyer in Berkeley, Oakland? All the recommendations are years old. The ideal candidate will be up on the latest mortgage issues.

Lawrence Szabo on Grand Avenue in Oakland did a good job for us. He was very knowledgeable. We didn't compare prices with other attorneys, so I can't speak to that. His office is modest, so you don't get the feeling you are paying for all his overhead. His secretary is kind of unpleasant but Larry himself is very friendly and easy to talk to. Best wishes.
I recommend Lawrence L. Szabo 510-834-4893 Of all the bankruptcy attorneys we consulted with, he was the only one who took the time to talk to us like we were human beings. Also, he does most of the paperwork for you unlike the others who make you do it yourself. Anon

Thinking about filing for bankruptcy, not sure where to start

January 2007

Thinking about filing for bankruptcy and wonder if there was anyone out there who had to file, and what your experience was. I'm not even sure where to start. I can't afford an attorney, thinking about filing on my own? Any books out that are super helpful? Any advice would be appreciated.
Money Trouble in Berkeley

Nolo Press in Berkeley publishes a how to guide- they have an impecible reputation in most do it yourself legal matters. How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Stephen R. Elias, Attorney Albin Renauer & Attorney Robin Leonard Order online or call 1-800-728-3555

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Pros and cons of personal bankruptcy

March 2006

I'm seriously considering filing for personal bankruptcy, primarily because of credit card debt. (accumulated, btw, to meet basics during periods of inadequate income, not to buy luxury items...) I don't want to, but I feel that trying to keep up with the payments (over $1000 a month to meet the minimums) may be as much of a burden for me, a single parent getting ready to start graduate school, as the consequences of a bankruptcy on my credit record. I qualify under the new laws because my income is low enough to exempt me from a repayment plan.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experience with this. I'm particularly concerned about the ways a bankruptcy on my credit report can hurt me. Has anyone else out there had to make this choice, and if you chose bankruptcy, was it worth it or has it caused you a lot of problems? I'm particularly concerned about its effects on future student loans, student visa for Canada, and (eventually) a home mortgage. Anon

Check out the Nolo Press book ''The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work For You.'' It has lots about deciding whether or not to file for bankruptcy and the effects of filing. (They have other books that actually have the forms.) It's in bookstores and Nolo also has a website, Mary
Why are you starting graduate school if you can't afford to pay your debts? Could you defer school for a year and try to pay down your debts? Have you tried consumer credit counseling services? Have you tried talking to the credit card companies to reduce the interest or set up a payment plan? Whether you used the credit cards for basic living expenses or luxury items, you used them and you should pay them back. In my opinion, going to graduate school is just going to put you further in debt, unless you are one of the lucky ones getting funding to cover all your living expenses and tuition.

Hate the thought, but feel trapped by finances

May 2004

I have read the archived posts regarding filing bankruptcy but would like some new opinions too. I hate the thought of filing Chap. 7 or 13 but feel trapped by our current financial position. I would like advice about the real pro's and con's of filing. A little history: My husband was laid off a year ago. We had just bought a home just before he was laid off. I am a stay- at-home mom but do have a tiny side income. We have gone through all our savings and retirement and have had to use credit cards to survive. My husband has a job now and always is looking for extra work on the side, but it is never enough. We are $1000 short every month to pay even the very basics (not including health insurance, which we can't afford). Our mortgage is consistently late, credit cards aren't being paid, property taxes are delinquent, utilities almost get shut off each month, food is ''rationed'' etc. On top of it all there is a penalty if we sell our home before two years. So we would actually owe money if we sold our house now. I feel trapped with no hope in sight. I can see now how easily middle-class families wind up homeless! We would greatly appreciate any legal/financial advice regarding bankruptcy or alternatives. anon

I am a legal assistant with an attorney who has been handling bankruptcies for 20+ years. Though I help process the bankruptcy petitions, I do not have enough experience to let you know, definitively, whether you should claim bankruptcy or not (especially since you own your own home.) My advice to you would be to contact the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association to see if you would qualify for a free consulation with an attorney. (If you don't qualify, I think the fee is $25.00.) Or, if you don't mind the trek across the bay, our office is located in SF if you'd like a consultation with the attorney I work for. He is an excellent attorney and would not recommend a bankruptcy to you if it were not in your interest to file. At any rate, I wish you the best of luck and remember, the law entitles everyone a fresh start so don't feel badly about filing a petition if you do, in fact, have to file. PJ
This is may or may not be helpful to you as your situation sounds pretty dire-but my younger sister thought she was going to have to go bankrupt due to large credit card debt. All her accounts were closed due to late payments. Anyway she called the credit card companies saying she was considering bankrupcy because of her large debt load and asked them to negotiate her debt down to a level she pay back instead of doing bankrupcy. The upshot was that she managed to negotiate her debt down to about 35% and paid off those amounts- she got them to commit in writing to the agreement- instead of doing bankrupcy. I don't know all the details but if this is helpful i could put you in touch with her and perhaps you find out more about how she did this. Your situation sounds dreadful and i hope you have family or someone who can help. Perhaps you can find some kind of part time job, maybe when your husband is home from his job and can watch the little one(s). Maybe if you let BPN know what kind of qualifications or hours you can work someone can find you a job. Also recently, there was a discussion about salaries - think it was ''reality check'' and people discussed useful ways to trim ones monthly overhead. Good luck. eva
From what you said it sounds like bankruptcy is a good option for you. In general, you should not file for bankruptcy as long as you are ''judgment proof.'' Now that your husband is working, however, his wages could get garnished and you want to protect his earnings and your home. I strongly suggest you consult with an attorney who is knowledgable about bankruptcies before proceeding. Depending on your income and assets, you may qualify for legal aid. As to the ethics - the point of bankruptcy laws are to give a new start in people in your position. As for your debtors, assuming they are not family and friends, but rather are businesses, that is the cost of doing business. I urge you to do what is right for you, financially, and not spend time feeling guilty about it. If you do have debtors that are friends/family or small businesses that would feel the impact of the debt being discharged, you can choose to pay them voluntarily after the bankruptcy is complete. Anon

Should I go backrupt?

January 2003

I owe about 20,000.00 or a little more to credit cards I haven't charged for years and all I have been doing is paying them off but at times it seems like I will never see the end of the tunel. I have been enrolled in a debt management program but the rates are not as lowest as I hoped they would have been,I have been with them for about a year this makes me feel a little better knowing that I am doing the responsible thing by tying my best to pay this off how ever I am a single parent and pay rent ,a car note ,food and the other expenses we take on by working here such as the parking and union. I stuggle so hard by the 8th of each month my monies are as low as $20.00 to last me until the next pay day and I am even trying to look for a second part time job to help me get by . By going bankrupt I can save monies for a house pymnt and for my teens daughter's college education. What should I do. Single Mom, needs advice

Just found a relevant article on the Motley Fool website. Food for thought: Jennie
Going bankrupt was the best thing I ever did. I just wish I had done it sooner. I was left after my divorce with a $30,000 debt. I tried paying it off for about a year and then I consolidated the payments through a credit counseling service and paid for about another year. I never put a dent in the debt, I only covered the interest. I was afraid to file bankruptcy because I thought it would ruin me financially. What I didn't realize was that I was already ruined financially. It would have lasted much longer had I not filed. Although the bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, I had good credit by 4 years post bankruptcy. Good luck, Danielle
I sympathize with your financial difficulties. We were in the same situation about five years ago. I was so stressed! I decided to file Chpt 13 Bankrupcy and I do not regret it. Once we were out from under the credit card payments, we were able to pay our bills and eventually get ahead of our debts. After four years of good credit, we found that creditors are willing to forgive a bankruptcy. We have financed two cars and refinanced our mortgage in the last couple of years. And we have ONE credit card that is always paid in full every month. It was hard to face a bankruptcy (we defaulted only on our credit card debts) but it was definitely the best choice for us. We're in terrific financial shape now and will stay that way. anon
Although I don't know enough about your financial situation to give a yes or no answer to your question, here's a couple of things for you to think about. You said declaring bankruptcy would help free up enough financial resources for you to start saving for a house down payment. Don't forget that a bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years, and that it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for you to get a mortgage -- if you can get one at all, you may have to pay a much higher rate. Another question to ask yourself -- do you have the spending habits under control which caused you to rack up $20,000 in debt in the first place? You want to be sure that you do, otherwise, even if you do declare bankruptcy, you'll end up back in the same place a few years down the road. -- anon
You say you want to save up to buy a house. I believe that if you declare bankruptcy, you won't be able to buy a house until that is off your record (7 years). Since you're already making inroads in your debt, I encourage you to stay the course. Read ''How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously'' for more encouragement--you're already taking several of the steps! Also read ''The Complete Tightwad Gazette'' for ways to curb expenses and have more at the end of the month. It's a really inspiring read. Jennie
$20,000 seems like a lot of money to owe, but in my opinion, it's not worth the stigma of a bankruptcy on your credit report for 10 years for such a relatively small sum. I'd try to find a friend with a house who can let you use some of their home equity line of credit. Those rates are really low these days, (like 5%)and you can pay your friend back at their rate much faster than any other rate you could find. Just an idea. TC in Berkeley

Friend considering filing for bankruptcy

July 2002

A very good friend of mine and her husband have run into financial difficulties during this recession. The husband was laid off from his well-paying job about a year ago. The wife had been staying at home taking care of their 3 year old daughter. Since then they have eaten through their savings and have been paying their most pressing bills (mortgage, property taxes, health insurance, etc.) in part with credit cards. While she is hopeful that her husband will land a job shortly, she thinks they will in any case probably be unable to afford to pay off the credit card debt they have incurred, or even make the monthly payments. Does anyone have any experience (positive or negative) regarding filing for personal bankruptcy? thanks

Please tell your friends to contact Consumer Credit Counselors first! Banckruptcy stays on your records for ten years. It's a quick short term solution, but is a burden later on. I know, I did it. Anonymous
My partner had declared bankruptcy about 11 years ago and it did affect us whenever we had to rent an apt., or eventually when we bought our home. Thankfully it had gone off his record by the time of our closing. Otherwise, expect to pay higher interest rates, and have trouble getting any kind of services (utilities, cell phones, other credit cards). There are other options. Can your friends refinance their house with a no-cost mortgage and take some $$ out to pay off their bills? Not the best way of doing it, but if you have to, you have to. And what about signing up for one of the credit card's protection plans? They're expensive, and once you start up using the service, you can't use the credit card. Also, it's completely possible to call the companies and let them know what's going on...usually, they'll give you some grace period. It's when you aren't in contact with them that they start collection proceedings. Also, try some consumer debt services (Consumer Credit Counseling of SF is the one I know of, but there's one in the EB, I think.) Good luck! anon, because my partner still doesn't like to talk about his bankruptcy!

2003 & Earlier

Seeking a Bankruptcy lawyer in the Berkeley/Oakland area

November 1999

I am looking for a Bankruptcy lawyer in the Berkeley/Oakland area. I hate to do this, but I have no choice being a single parent with a deadbeat ex-husband (unemployed and now into drugs). How expensive is this service?? And what am I to expect afterwards??

Before pursuing backruptcy talk to Consumer Credit Counselors of the East Bay. They will professionally assess your situtaion and give you excellent advice about your alternatives. Their phone number is (510) 729-6966. They have offices in Oakland and Berkeley.
If you're a UC employee sign up for Legal care during this open enrollment period! The deadline is November 21st I think. The cost of bankruptcy is quite small with the legal insurance and the premium is affordable. They have a list of lawyers. Bankruptcy was the best thing we could have done at the time we filed, just becoming solvent again. What a relief. It's a challenge to rebuild your credit afterwards and takes a long time, but if your housing is fairly secure, and you're not planning on buying a new house or new model car in the next 10 years, it can be accomplished. Nolo Press in West Berkeley has good self help books in both bankruptcy and in rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy. Their publication will actually guide you through a do-it-yourself bankruptcy (if you are not eligible for the UC legal insurance plan). You could meet with a lawyer for a one time appointment to go over your paperwork before actually filing, to see if you've put it together correctly. The Nolo Press book also helps you look at your situation to see if there is another option that you can pursue short of bankruptcy. They have some good suggestions for consolidating or negotiating; organizations that will counsel you, etc. The legal insurance can help here too so you can have a lawyer communicate (usually by letter) with a difficult and aggressive creditor. Good luck!
Although I do not have a recommendation for a bankruptcy lawyer in the Oakland/Berkeley area, I would suggest that you can ask for a referral from the Alameda County Bar Association (510) 893-8683. If you qualify, you may be able to get a referral to an attorney who will provide representation at a discounted rate. An attorney (not incl. any discount) should be able to give you a flat fee of around $500.
A good, but inexpensive, bankruptcy lawyer is Patrick L. Forte in Oakland at the Kaiser Center. He also has an office in Hilltop - Richmond.
Feb 1998

In reply to the person whose sister is thinking about filing bankruptcy: Nolo Press has a book called How to File for Bankruptcy, and for $27.00 you get EXCELLENT, humane, supportive advice as well as all the forms to do it yourself. It's a tad time-consuming, but unless you have huge holdings, assets, real estate, furs, jewelry, etc. it's a cheap and easy way to go. I also saw an attorney advertising in the Express yesterday as a bankruptcy specialist. Good luck and whatever you do, tell her not to beat herself up. The banks set this up and are comfortably poised to weather it. Mai

In response to the request for a bankruptcy lawyer. I know of a good one located in Oakland at One Kaiser Plaza. His name is Patrick Forte and his phone number is (510) 465-3328.