October 27, 2010

BK to Avoid Foreclosure

Posted in Bankruptcy, Forclosure tagged , at 6:18 pm by demetriagraves

Many clients I work with are facing foreclosure and they don’t know what their options are. Working with an attorney who handles bankruptcy cases can make the difference between keeping your home and losing it to foreclosure. If the foreclosure process has started, you have basically have four options to avoid foreclosure.

 
The first option is to leave voluntarily. This option may avoid an actual foreclosure in certain circummstances but you’re still losing your home. This can be tricky and you need to be aware that if you leave voluntarily the bank can still foreclose on you unless an arrangement is made with the bank before hand. Still, this is a viable option if you’re way under water on your home’s value or if your situation is such that you won’t be able to afford even modified mortgage payments.
 
Your second, and probably the toughest option, is to pay back the amount that is in arrears. In addition to the missed payments there will likely be other charges such as penalties, etc. so the payment will probably be several thousand of dollars. The chances are that if the cash was available you wouldn’t be facing foreclosure, which is why it’s such a tough option.
 
Your next option is to apply for a loan modification. This process can be dicey, complex, and extremely frustrating but the rewards can be substantial if your application gets approved. The problem here is that lenders are under no obligation to modify mortgages, even if you qualify for government programs like HAMP. If your application for a modification is rejected, your lender could move to foreclose quickly so be prepared.
 
Ultimately, your most effective option to avoid foreclosure may be found in filing for bankruptcy with the help of an experienced attorney. This option stops any foreclosure activity that is underway as soon as the bankruptcy petition is filed, a valuable benefit especially if you’re already late in the foreclosure process. If you are facing foreclosure, it’s imperative that you learn the details of all your options as soon as possible. I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered and get the right advice to work out which option is best for you.

Tweet Truce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:15 pm by demetriagraves

If you’re going through a divorce it’s advisable to stay away from social networking sites until the divorce has been finalized. There’s been a trend of using websites like Facebook and Twitter to complain about soon to be ex-partners during divorce proceedings. With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter becoming more and more popular, it’s easy for people going through a divorce to be tempted to share their feelings online. In some cases it may be posting information about the stress they’re under, but equally it could be derogatory or unpleasant accusations leveled against their former partner.

 Divorce is a highly charged and emotional time, but it’s important not to turn the situation into a public slagging match that is played out for everyone to see online. If the situation is allowed to escalate, then it can lead to added tension between the divorcing partners and this may even prolong the settlement.
 
Especially when seeking an amicable divorce, I advise my clients to steer away from ‘bitter twitter’ rows, and I believe that divorcing couples should consider an internet truce until divorce proceedings are complete. It is also important to think about the impact these online outlets could have on children, particularly in the case of an on-going custody battle.
 
It seems that U.S. celebrities have also fallen into this social network trap – there have been a number of prominent ‘bitter twitters’ in the news recently. Frasier star Kelsey Grammar, posted a series of personal tweets about his ongoing divorce case earlier this year.
 
 It’s important to highlight the ‘bitter twitter’ issue to people going through divorce and to show how it can have a negative effect on them – time for a ‘tweet truce’.  I even advise estranged couples not to post pictures of their new flames online and not to share information about their children on their Facebook pages . Wait until after the divorce settlement is final. This type of activity can add fuel to the fire and even a divorce that starts off amicably can quickly degenerate into an ugly battle, which is undesirable.

October 21, 2010

Chapter 7 – Still the Most Common Bankrupty

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 4:43 pm by demetriagraves

This October marks the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed to make it more difficult for Americans to seek the debt relief that Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides. Its seems that this Act hasn’t really had much of an effect on the number of bankruptcy cases that file under Chapter 7 as its still the most common form of bankruptcy filed in the United States.

The new bankruptcy law created income and credit counseling requirements intended to reduce the number of bankruptcy cases filed in the United States. It also funneled more cases into Chapter 13, which requires some repayment of outstanding debt. Whereas, Chapter 7 allows most people to wipe out their unsecured debt.

Leading up to the changes, nearly 80 percent of two million bankruptcy cases filed in the United States in 2005 were under Chapter 7. In 2006, just over 58 percent of the less than 600,000 bankruptcy cases filed under Chapter 7. Unfortunately for those who crafted the law, economic conditions didn’t remain as good as they were in 2005 and 2006. The downturn in the economy and the real estate meltdown led to a growing number of people trying to save their homes from foreclosure through bankruptcy. In 2009, over 1.4 million bankruptcy cases were filed in the United States and 2010 looks like it will come even closer to the record set when the law changed in 2005. So far in 2010 there’s been about 1.6 million bankruptcy cases filed in the United States.

Some bankruptcy experts have even questioned if the new income requirements and restrictions on the use of bankruptcy protections have prolonged the recent recession. With more people waiting until their financial situation is even worse so that they can qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In 2009, just over 70 percent of bankruptcy cases were filed under Chapter 7. Reaching the same percentages of Chapter 7 cases filed in 2004 and 2005. So have the changes to the law really had much of an effect? Time will tell – but the bottom line is when someone becomes inundated with debt declaring bankruptcy may be their only viable option.
 
If you are struggling financially and aren’t sure if bankruptcy is the best option for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me as I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.

Divorcing? What About The Mortgage?

Posted in Divorce tagged , at 4:39 pm by demetriagraves

If you are a homeowner and you’re facing a divorce, there’s a wide range of difficult matters to sort through as you separate from your spouse and start new a new life. If you own a home together, mortgage and possession issues must be resolved as part of the process.

The decisions made regarding a mortgage are crucial to your long-term financial well-being. Even if your spouse is the one to get the house and accompanying mortgage payments in your divorce, you are still financially obligated to make sure those payments are made. When you signed the mortgage documents and loan papers, you both agreed to that obligation.

There are several mortgage options to consider as part of your divorce; three of the most common include selling the house, transferring it to your spouse or refinancing.

Selling the Property

In good economic times, selling the house is one of the easiest ways to remove mortgage liability from both spouses. The proceeds of the sale pay off the loan and the couple splits whatever is left over.

In these situations it is best to sell the property before the divorce is finalized, enabling you to deal with disagreements over sale price or other details with your attorney before the divorce decree is issued.

In current economic conditions, property sales are not as desirable as they once were, since many couples find themselves “underwater” (owing more money on the mortgage then the house is valued at) and sales are not always quick or easy.

Interspousal Transfer Grant Deed or Quitclaim Deed

Many divorcing couples opt for an interspousal transfer grant, which is a transfer of property that changes community property into separate property. With the assistance of a family law attorney, you file the notarized paperwork with the county recorder’s office.

A quitclaim deed is similar to the interspousal transfer in that it transfers interest in a property from one person to another. Even though you may have physically transferred the property to one spouse, mortgage liability may still exist, so be sure to talk to your attorney about what financial obligations remain after either of these transactions.

Refinancing

Another tactic divorcing couples often use is the refinancing of the loan into one spouse’s name only. In this transaction, it is typical that the spouse taking the house pays off the other spouse’s share of equity while refinancing the home into his or her name only.

Again, discuss this transaction with your divorce attorney. Some prefer that their clients sign quitclaim deeds when refinancing a home in order to eliminate the possibility of future mortgage obligations.

Assuming the Mortgage

This mortgage option is not used as often as the previous ones, though it can be attractive because fees for a mortgage assumption transaction can be significantly less than those for refinancing.

Some lenders are leery of the assumption transaction; not all mortgages are assumable. This will need to be determined by contacting the mortgage holder to find out if this option is available to you.

If it is an option open to you, the process begins with an assumption agreement and release of liability. The lender will require financial proof of the ability of the spouse assuming the loan to pay it off.

The divorcing couple may also need to provide a quitclaim agreement. The details of that agreement and other aspects of an assumable mortgage are best discussed with an experienced family law attorney who understands both divorce law and mortgage liability options.

Depending on your individual circumstances, a different solution may be the answer for you. It is best to talk to an attorney before you make any financial transactions or decisions about what to do with jointly-owned property. I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered, so that you’ll start off on the right track.

October 14, 2010

Harper Divorces Dern

Posted in Celebrity Divorce tagged at 6:35 pm by demetriagraves

Ben Harper has filed for divorce from wife Laura Dern. The 40-year-old two-time Grammy winner cited irreconcilable differences in his divorce papers which he filed in Los Angeles recently and apparently he is asking the court not to grant Laura spousal support.

Ben says the two have been separated since January, but there are rumors that Laura has been living and traveling with Ben throughout the year.

 
The couple married in 2005 and have two children together – Ellery, 9, and Jaya, 5. Ben is seeking joint legal and physical custody of their two children. Dern and Harper married in 2005 after dating for five years.

Laura Dern is the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, appeared in David Lynch’s 1986 “Blue Velvet” and 2006 “Inland Empire” and will star in the upcoming HBO series “Enlightened,” in the past Dern has been romantically linked with fellow Lynch thespians Kyle MacLachlan and Nicolas Cage, “Jurassic Park” costar Jeff Goldblum and Billy Bob Thorton, pre-Angelina Jolie. Harper, who coincidentally was born in Southern California’s Inland Empire, also has two children from a previous marriage.

Bankruptcy Extreme Makeover

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 4:34 pm by demetriagraves

In these tough economic conditions, the word “Bankruptcy” has experienced an “extreme makeover.” For millions of people over the past couple of years, bankruptcy has become a saving grace, enabling people to make a fresh financial start in life. Bankruptcy filings have been on a steady increase. More than 1.4 million people filed Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcy in 2009, which is 300,000 people more than 2008 (1.1 million filings), and 600,000 more people than 2007 (880,000 filings). With unemployment in America slightly below 10 percent, and many people with mortgages on their homes that exceed the value of the home, millions of Americans are facing the prospect of being saddled with debt and no hope in sight. For those people experiencing financial problems, Bankruptcy may be a solution.
 
Being heavily in debt is frustrating and difficult. The creditor harassment can be constant, and it’s difficult to stop worrying about what will happen next. One solution is to file bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the form of bankruptcy that most people use. Many people have questions about chapter 7 and what it will mean for them. This is an overview of the chapter 7 process and how it unfolds for most people. Most people file a chapter 7 because it is the fastest and easiest way to get out of debt, as well as the least expensive.
 
Chapter 7 is ideally suited for someone who has credit card debt, medical bills, deficiency judgments or garnishments. If you were to try to resolve your debts on your own or pay them back, it could take years and cost you thousands of dollars. Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually takes about three months. During those three months you are not making any payments but you are protected by an automatic stay. As soon as your bankruptcy attorney files your chapter 7 petition, you get the automatic stay. The automatic stay requires that all of your creditors stop calling you stop harassing you and stop trying to collect a debt from you. As soon as you file bankruptcy, any garnishments against you will stop immediately.
 
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is designed to provide relief by discharging most types of debt, secured and unsecured. Some examples of unsecured debts Chapter 7 may eliminate are credit cards; deficiencies on repossessed vehicles; medical bills; and most loans. If you’d like more information on how bankruptcy may be right for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free confidential intial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.

October 7, 2010

Marital Property Rights

Posted in Divorce tagged , at 7:43 pm by demetriagraves

Many people don’t realize that if you are married, what’s “mine” is really “ours.” A large percentage of my family law practice deals with divorce and dissolution cases. Many people are shocked to learn about laws concerning the division of property and debts in a divorce case. There is a common misconception that just because some property, bank account, credit card or other asset or debt is in the name of only one spouse and not the other, it belongs to them, even after a divorce. When parties are divorced, the court is required to divide all marital property and debts. That division first requires the judge to determine what constitutes marital property and debt.
 

Any assets or debts acquired from the date of the marriage to the date of the divorce are considered marital. An exception to this is any assets or monies received as a gift or an inheritance during the marriage are considered separate property, but the spouse must prove it was an inheritance or gift. Any assets or debts that existed prior to the marriage are separate, but again, the spouse who wants to declare something separate has the burden of proving it.

 

A common area of concern for clients is a division of retirement and pension plans. Those plans, including military, government and private pensions, are considered marital property. Social Security is one exception and cannot be divided by federal law.

 

Once the court has determined which assets and debts are marital, the judge can divide them up between the parties. Courts begin with a presumption that an equal property division is what is equitable or fair. Thus, a 50/50 division of all assets and debts will be the starting point.

 

However, sometimes a 50/50 property division would not be fair to one of the parties. For example, if one of the spouses is hiding or stealing money from the other, the court can take that into account. If a spouse has given gifts away to friends or family, those also can be considered by the court. In extreme situations, an attorney might even decide to try to recover those missing assets. In these cases, the court has the ability to divide the assets and debts in some other way that would be fair.

 

If you are uncertain about your rights or how you should proceed, consult with an attorney first. If you are contemplating divorce or dissolution, a family law attorney can evaluate your assets and debts and advise you as to whether it is likely for them to be considered marital or separate. I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.

Mel to Pay More

Posted in Child Support tagged at 7:39 pm by demetriagraves

Here’s the latest news in Mel Gibson’s child support battle with Oksana Grigorieva. Recently a judge has ordered Mel Gibson to boost his child support payments to Oksana Grigorieva to $20,000 a month from the $5,000 he’s been paying his ex-girlfriend. This is a $15,000 per month increase.

 
Their eleven-month-old daughter Lucia reportedly needs round-the-clock security, plus the usual necessities like food and medical care – plus it seems that mother and child were used to the “Mel Gibson lifestyle”. The judge agreed that security was a legitimate need to protect mother and child from ravenous paparazzi. Lucia was born in October 2009, and Gibson and Grigorieva broke up in April.

According to one of Grigorieva’s attorneys, Daniel Horowitz, “Everything in Hollywood is to excess. Mel Gibson is worth upwards of $1 billion. It’s a very modest award by Hollywood standards and a very high award by normal people standards.”

Mel Gibson’s divorce from Robyn Gibson, his wife of almost 30 years, with whom he had eight children, is not yet final, though there are reports that indicate a settlement might be near. Robyn filed for divorce in April 2009.

October 1, 2010

Tips for Custodial Parents

Posted in Child Support, Custody tagged , at 3:08 pm by demetriagraves

As a family law attorney, I often get asked advice on what is appropriate to tell the kids regarding, divorce, custody and child support. Deciding what you should or should not tell the kids you have custody of is very simple. It requires you to keep in mind what is healthy for your children and what they really need to know. Reasons for the separation and divorce of their parents is not something that children need to know. Especially if the circumstances were painful for either parent. Far too many parents use their ex’s flaws to drive a wedge between them and the children. They fail to recognize that this doesn’t just hurt their ex, it can have a lasting impact on their kids emotional well being.
Divorce and the court proceedings are not information that kids need to be privy to. Should your child question you about things that happen, be firm in telling them that the divorce is between you and your ex and not something they need to have details on. Not only is this the “right” way to handle it, most judges will warn the parents against saying things which may result in alienation.
Child support should never be discussed with your kids. That is a financial issue that should be left to the adults. You would not be likely to sit and discuss a cut in your wages with a child, why should you feel that telling them support was not paid is any different? Using potentially harmful information to turn your child against the non-custodial parent can be damaging. Furthermore, child support is the monetary way in which courts insist the other parent pay to help with their needs. It is not, nor should it ever be treated as payment to see their children.
Any derogatory comments about the other parent should not be said in front of the children you share. Just because the marriage did not last, does not mean that you have the right to turn kids against the other parent. While you may briefly get some enjoyment out of this, ultimatley this can put you in a less favorable light in everyone’s eyes.
Sadly, many divorced parents use their children as weapons against the other parent. They encourage them to take sides, wanting the child’s devotion to them to be a slap in the face to their ex. It is so important for custodial parents to take the high road and encourage a healthy relationship between their children and the other parent. Hurt feelings and bitterness should be put aside in order to make the best decisions for your children.
As a family law attorney I always work toward the outcome which is going to be best for the kids and having the parents at war with one another doesn’t help anyone. If you are uncertain about the best way to move forward no matter what your custody situation is, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I offer a free confidential initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 3:05 pm by demetriagraves

There are many clients that I work with who are considering filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy but are worried about losing all their assets and being left with nothing. This is a common misconception but because there are exemptions in bankruptcy law where many personal assets can’t be touched – you don’t have to worry about being taken to the cleaners.

The laws of chapter 7 bankruptcy are designed to help protect a debtor’s human rights. Before the existence of chapter 7 bankruptcy the laws and the court were more in favor of the lender or the creditor. The act of filing chapter 7 bankruptcy has given the creditors a bit of space to breathe and be comfortable. Filing chapter 7 bankruptcy means requesting the bankruptcy court to liquidate all the un-exempted assets and paying off the debts. This means most of the property of the applicant is at a risk of getting sold off. The best part of Filing chapter 7 bankruptcy is getting rid of the personal bankruptcy including medical bills and credit card debt.
The exemptions for chapter 7 bankruptcy include the following:
  • Homestead Exemption: The idea of this exemption is to prevent the debtor from becoming homeless. The rules of the personal bankruptcy code differ from state to state and some states do not have the Homestead Exemption. In most of the states there is provision to save the whole or part of one’s primary residence depending in your circumstances.
  • The cash value of the insurance is exempted from being attached to pay off the debt. The debtor is allowed to keep the cash value of the insurance policies.
  • The bankruptcy code protects the benefits of the retirement plans. This is to make sure that the citizens do not suffer in their old age.
  • The personal property such as furniture, household goods, furnishings, books, clothes (except furs), musical instruments, and appliances are exempted from being liquidated. The debtor can even keep jewelry worth not more than $1000. Some states include the vehicle in personal property that cannot be attached to get rid of the debt. The laws pertaining to this can vary from state to state.
  • The exemptions include the public benefits such as Social Security, welfare, and unemployment insurance.
  • The tools used for work purposes or for earning a living are also exempted. This depends on the profession or trade of the applicant and the laws of the state.
I offer a free initial confidential consultation where you can get all your questions answered concerning bankruptcy. Please don’t let common misconceptions get in the way of working out the best way for you to move forward and start off with a clean financial slate.