Planning for the Future / Dealing with the Past
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Planning for the Future / Dealing with the Past

Bankruptcy A to Z: E is for Exemptions

by Betty Burley on 01/16/17

This series of blog posts discusses some of the aspects of personal bankruptcy.  This information is meant for educational value only, and you should talk with a lawyer if you are considering filing for bankruptcy.  Many of us give a free initial consultation where you can ask your specific questions.

Here's the required legal disclaimer:  "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code."

E IS FOR EXEMPTIONS

Exemptions are laws that protect certain property from creditors. When you file a Chapter 7 "fresh start" bankruptcy, you are allowed to keep property that is protected by Ohio's bankruptcy exemptions.  When you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the exemptions are a part of the formula that allows your attorney to determine how much you will pay to creditors.

Commonly used exemptions protect equity up to the exemption limit in your home, your automobile, household goods and furnishings, jewelry, cash and wages. Other exemptions protect your pension or IRA, and your earned income tax credit or child tax credit.  

Certain valuables that aren't otherwise on the exemption list can be saved through use of a "wildcard" exemption.  

Many of our bankruptcy clients are surprised and relieved to learn that much or all of their property falls within the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions.  

If you are curious about how filing for a bankruptcy would affect you, and how exemptions would apply in your case, we are happy to provide a free consultation.

Call 440-967-1529 today to schedule your free consultation, or email burleylaw@gmail.com. 

Bankruptcy A to Z: D is for Discharge

by Betty Burley on 01/12/17

This series of blog posts discusses some of the aspects of personal bankruptcy.  This information is meant for educational value only, and you should talk with a lawyer if you are considering filing for bankruptcy.  Many of us give a free initial consultation where you can ask your specific questions.

Here's the required legal disclaimer:  "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code."

D is for Discharge

Debtors (another D word!) are how we refer to the people who are filing for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.  Debtors are generally looking for several kinds of relief:  
1) A halt to legal action, including garnishment of wages for their debts;
2) An end to harassing letters and phone calls from their creditors and;
3) Discharge of the debts that they are no longer able to pay.

When a debt is discharged, the Debtor no longer has any personal obligation to pay it.  A discharge does not completely erase the debt, however.  If you have a co-signor or a co-debtor who does not file for bankruptcy relief, that person will still be liable on the debt.  Your discharge does not protect them.  

If you have debt that is secured by a lien, such as on your home or on a motor vehicle, your liability on that debt is discharged, but if you want to keep the property, you will need to continue to pay for it.  

A discharge in bankruptcy also does not extinguish debts that haven't occurred yet.  For example - if your mortgage is discharged in bankruptcy but the deed is not transferred back to the bank, you may still be liable for property taxes, home owner's association fees and assessments on the property that become due after the bankruptcy is filed.

Certain debts cannot be discharged.  Most student loan debts survive bankruptcy as do most tax obligations.  

If you have mountains of medical or credit card debt, or if you are paying too much money for a car that needs expensive repairs and you're caught in the negative equity trap, schedule your free bankruptcy consultation with Attorney Betty Burley to see if your debts are potentially eligible for Discharge.

You can reach us at 440-967-1529 or email us at burleylaw@gmail.com

"We want to be YOUR family lawyer!"

Divorce 101: Uncontested Divorce

by Betty Burley on 01/12/17

This article is part of a series of blog posts concerning Dissolution, Divorce and Child Custody matters.  These blog posts are intended for educational purposes only.  They are no substitute for obtaining legal advice from a family law attorney.  

The Burley Law Office offers a free initial consultation for a potential client considering a divorce or dissolution.  Call 440-967-1529 to schedule your consultation with Attorney Betty Burley.

UNCONTESTED DIVORCE

A Divorce can begin as uncontested or as contested. “Contested” means that the parties are not in TOTAL AGREEMENT. When the divorcing couple disagrees about any aspect of their divorce issues, the case becomes “contested.”

The vast majority of “Contested” divorces filed eventually end up at an “uncontested” final hearing at which the Court adopts the agreement that the parties have reached.

When parties are in total agreement on the terms of their separation from the very beginning, I prefer to file the case as an Uncontested Divorce. Several of the documents have different names, and the parties have different labels, but from a practical standpoint, the case proceeds very similarly.

Instead of a Separation Agreement, I prepare an Agreed Judgment Entry / Decree of Divorce that outlines all of the terms of the financial settlement. If the parties have agreed upon Shared Parenting, I also prepare a Shared Parenting Plan and a Decree of Shared Parenting.

As in a Dissolution of Marriage, the unrepresented spouse (if applicable) signs a Waiver of Representation and both parties sign a Waiver of Service of Summons, which avoids any issues having to have someone served with the action by certified mail, sheriff or process server.

Rather than a Petition for Divorce, the case begins with a Complaint for Divorce. The person filing is known as the Plaintiff and the spouse is known as the Defendant. These are merely labels. The term “Defendant” does not mean that anyone did anything “wrong.”

As in a Dissolution of Marriage, the case can generally proceed straight to a final hearing in 45-90 days without having a pre-trial hearing. Just as with a Dissolution of Marriage with minor children, the parents will each need to attend a seminar for divorcing parents.

Aside from the names of the documents and the labels for the divorcing parties, the biggest difference is in the requirements for the final hearing. The final hearing may proceed with both parties present. However, only the Plaintiff is required to appear. It is important to note that if the Defendant is not going to be present for any reason, then the Plaintiff will need to bring a Witness to the final hearing, or the Court cannot grant the Divorce.

PROS:

  • An Uncontested Divorce is often substantially less expensive than a Contested Divorce.

  • Instead of paying two lawyers to attend multiple hearings where little is accomplished, one lawyer can draft the documents for the other to review with the other party.

  • Working with your soon-to-be-ex spouse to come up with an agreement that you both feel is fair sets the tone for a smoother post-divorce relationship -especially where children are involved.

  • An Uncontested Divorce can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

  • An Uncontested Divorce is possible even when one party has moved far away.

CONS:

  • If both parties are unable or unwilling to attend the final hearing, then the Plaintiff must bring a Witness.

  • Both parties must be willing to cooperate by voluntarily sharing financial information and by compromising .

MY OPINION:

  • Where two parties are in total agreement, Uncontested Divorce is the way to go. Unless the parties are uncomfortable with the “labels” of Plaintiff and Defendant, this option has all of the benefits of a Dissolution of Marriage without the complicating factor that both parties must show up for the final hearing.

Is a Dissolution Right for You?

by Betty Burley on 01/06/17

This is the first of a series of blog posts concerning Dissolution, Divorce and Child Custody matters.  These blog posts are intended for educational purposes only.  They are no substitute for obtaining legal advice from a family law attorney.  

The Burley Law Office offers a free initial consultation for a potential client considering a divorce or dissolution.  Call 440-967-1529 to schedule your consultation with Attorney Betty Burley.

Is a Dissolution Right for You?


We have two legal “procedures” to end a marriage in Ohio. Both end up in the same place.

A Dissolution of Marriage can only be used when the parties involved agree on absolutely everything concerning ending their marriage. When I say absolutely everything, that is exactly what I mean. If you can’t decide who gets custody of the family dog, Dissolution is not for you.

A Dissolution of Marriage begins when a potential client tells me that he or she wishes to end the marriage and that they and their spouse are in agreement.

A lengthy document called a Separation Agreement must be drafted. The Separation Agreement covers every aspect of dividing the marriage. It states how assets (property) will be divided, how debts will be paid, and whether or not there will be spousal support paid (and how much and how long) to one party. This document may also cover the child-related issues, or there may be another document called a Shared Parenting Plan that covers everything from where the children will live to what holidays they spend with each parent to religious upbringing and education details.

My client brings the information regarding their agreement to me and I draft the documents. Once my client is satisfied that the documents really do reflect both parties’ wishes, we review them in my office.

Although this is generally a cooperative process, each party is making decisions that will potentially impact him for many years. For this reason, even though there is no “fighting,” I still recommend that another attorney be involved, even if it is only to review all of the documents and to advise the other party of the agreements’ impacts on their rights and their responsibilities.

When one party decides not to hire his or her own lawyer, I ask that party to sign a Waiver of Representation to show that I have explained to the party that I do not represent both parties, and that he or she understands and agrees to allow me to file the paperwork with that understanding in place.

In Addition to the Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan, there are other documents that must be prepared, reviewed, signed and filed. These include financial disclosures, affidavits regarding child custody and documents concerning parenting classes that must be attended by parties with minor children.

Finally, there is a Petition for Dissolution that indicates that both parties are, jointly, asking the Court to dissolve their marriage. There is no “Plaintiff” or “Defendant” in a Dissolution of Marriage. Instead, both of the parties are known to the court as “petitioners.”

Once all of the documents are signed and notarized, multiple copies are prepared for filing with the Court.

After the paperwork is filed, you will receive notice of your final hearing date.

A final hearing date is scheduled, usually 45 - 90 days later. Both parties must attend the final hearing in the case of a Dissolution of Marriage.

There will never be a Trial for a Dissolution of Marriage. When your attorney files a Dissolution of Marriage with the Court, there are no additional hearings (although both parties must attend the parenting seminar if they have minor children). If parties self-file a Dissolution of Marriage, the Court may require a meeting with a Magistrate to review the paperwork for completeness before scheduling a final hearing.

Your lawyer will prepare a Decree of Dissolution prior to the final hearing. The Decree will become the Court Order that ends your marriage by adopting the terms of your Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan.

Recap:

Dissolution of Marriage is possible in Ohio only when

1) both parties agree on all aspects of the financial settlement and on all child related issues, AND

2) both parties are able and willing to testify at the final hearing.

PROS:

  • Dissolution of Marriage is often substantially less expensive than Divorce.

  • Instead of paying two lawyers to attend multiple hearings where little is accomplished, one lawyer can draft the documents for the other to review with the other party.

  • Working with your soon-to-be-ex spouse to come up with an agreement that you both feel is fair sets the tone for a smoother post-divorce relationship -especially where children are involved.

  • A Dissolution of Marriage can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

CONS:

  • Both parties must be able to attend the final hearing. If the other party moves, or gets cold feet and does not show up, the final hearing in your Dissolution of Marriage cannot take place. The hearing must be rescheduled or, the action must be converted to an action for Divorce, both of which result in additional legal fees and court costs.

  • Both parties must be willing to cooperate by sharing financial information and by compromising .

MY OPINION:

  • Although Dissolution of Marriage is what most of my potential clients think of when they want a low-cost, low-drama way to end their marriage, this is not generally the procedure that I prefer. I prefer to use the procedure that we will explore in the next installment, “Uncontested Divorce,” for reasons that will be explained theree. Each case, however, is different, and Dissolution of Marriage may be the right path for you.


Bankruptcy A to Z: C is for Creditors

by Betty Burley on 01/05/17

This series of blog posts discusses some of the aspects of personal bankruptcy.  This information is meant for educational value only, and you should talk with a lawyer if you are considering filing for bankruptcy.  Many of us give a free initial consultation where you can ask your specific questions.

Here's the required legal disclaimer:  "We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code."

 C is for Creditors

If you're reading this blog post, chances are you have at least one creditor.  A creditor is someone to whom you owe a debt.  That debt may be for goods that you purchased or services that you consumed.  That debt might be for a loan that you co-signed for someone else.  

When circumstances prevent you from paying your bills on time, creditors may begin to call your home phone or your work phone.  They may send "nastygrams" through the mail.  Creditors may file lawsuits and eventually garnish your wages.  Without creditors, there would be no bankruptcy.

We talk about two general classes of creditors:  secured and unsecured.  A secured creditor has some type of collateral for the debt, which means that if you do not pay the debt back, you will lose a piece of property or a property right through repossession or foreclosure.  For example, the bank that issued your car loan has a lien on the title, and the bank that issued the mortgage on your home has a mortgage lien on your property.

By contrast, an unsecured creditor is one who does not have a right to repossess or foreclose on your personal property - their only right against you is to pursue a judgment lien which they can then satisfy through garnishment of wages or bank account or some other legal means.

Unsecured and Secured creditors are treated differently in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. 

To learn more about how Bankruptcy Law can help you to deal with your creditors, call The Burley Law Office today at 440-967-1529 to schedule your free consultation with Attorney Betty Burley.