Divorce and bankruptcy: Simple enough? NOT!
Think you can handle your divorce and division of assets on your own? Think again. You may just be in for a nasty surprise if you bring legal counsel into the game too late or choose to go it on your own. Just read this cautionary tale:
In 2001, a husband and wife were separated and in process of divorcing. Communication was nonexistent due to the restraining order between them. In those circumstances, the husband, without consulting the wife, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He listed all the assets owned by he and his wife, including the new Subaru in the wife’s possession. However, he only claimed exemptions for those household furnishings and the vehicle in his possession. His wife, at the time of the filing, had the right to claim her possessions and vehicle to be included in the exempted property. However, she was not consulted in the filing of the bankruptcy and either didn’t know about or didn’t understand the process. She did not file any exemptions, and her husband didn’t file any exemptions on her behalf. Big surprise, right? A decree of divorce was entered by the judge, with the division of assets still pending because of the husband’s (joint) bankruptcy filing.
It was after this divorce decree was finalized that the now ex-wife realized her financial situation was imminently threatened and tried to file exemptions for her property (her vehicle). She was denied! She lost out on her chance to protect her rights and keep her vehicle, while her husband got to keep his! Hers was ordered to be sold and used to pay off debts. She was the only one to lose property in the bankruptcy!
Why didn’t she get involved in the bankruptcy sooner? There is no requirement that paperwork be served formally with a joint bankruptcy, since the state generally sees a married couple as one single entity. Did she sign paperwork for the bankruptcy? Not sure. What we do know is she didn’t get involved in the right way soon enough. Whether she didn’t know about the bankruptcy until too late or didn’t understand the process and how to advocate for her rights, the results were the same. She got the raw end of the deal and lost her transportation, undoubtedly affecting her capacity to provide for herself, and making the already difficult processes of divorce and bankruptcy even more difficult! Now who is going to loan her money to buy a car? Where is she going to get cash for a reliable vehicle? Could you make if you lost your vehicle and didn’t have funds to replace it? How would you get to work? Pick up your kids? Buy groceries? A divorce is already stressful enough without losing your transportation!
What could she have received had she proactively engaged legal counsel from the beginning?
1. Foresight and the capacity to plan ahead for potential hazards
2. Access to the kind of information needed to successfully advocate for her financial interests – including keeping her car!
3. A loyal team to keep her grounded as she navigated the usually overwhelming and emotionally charged decisions required in major life-changing legal processes.
Don’t let this happen to you. Protect yourself and your loved ones by seeking competent legal counsel today. We’ll give it to you straight and take a load off your mind. Give us a call before you lose your window of opportunity (and head off a disaster before it’s too late!).
In re Sheryl M. Pixler fka Sheryl M. Lopez, B. R. 87 (Bkrtcy. D. Idaho 2002)