Overwhelming debt can cause problems in all areas of your life, from being less productive at work to having money arguments at home that can lead to family breakdown. Adding to the stress is the accompanying harassment by creditors and the fear of repossession of your property and foreclosure on your home.
If you are struggling to meet your consumer debts, you are not alone. Overall household debt stood at more than $13 trillion at the end of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve. That includes $8.8 trillion in mortgages, $1.4 trillion in student loans, $1.2 trillion in car loans and more than $1 trillion in credit card debt.
Fortunately, you can find solutions to money woes by working with an experienced Ohio consumer debt lawyer. The skilled and seasoned Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that even the most well-intentioned people can wind up in a financial hole. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your financial situation. We can help by looking at your debts, your income, and your goals and coming up with a debt-relief plan that’s best for you.Contact us online all one of our conveniently located office branches for your free consultation.
Basics for Working With an Ohio Consumer Debt Lawyer
The following are basic things you need to know about working with a debt-relief attorney:
- Understand the importance of having an attorney.
If you are having financial problems, you are probably faced with harassing phone calls from creditors and the stress of being threatened with lawsuits, garnishment of your wages, foreclosure on your home, and repossession of your vehicle. An attorney can deal with all these situations, using techniques that range from negotiating with creditors to having debts eliminated by filing for bankruptcy.
Attorneys can advise you about what financial solutions are best for you and then handle all processes involved by completing extensive forms, researching exemption laws, meeting deadlines and following all local court rules. The right attorney can ensure that everything is done properly and correctly and that you will wind up in the best financial situation for your individual circumstances.
- Find an attorney you can trust.
Ways to find experienced debt relief lawyers in your area include:
- Internet – Search for attorneys who specialize in consumer bankruptcy law. Examine websites for information, such as attorney profiles, education and client recommendations. In addition, check reputable sites that rate attorneys objectively.
- Get referrals from others who have used attorneys or gone through bankruptcy.
- Consult your Bar Association for a list of competent attorneys.
- Take advantage of free consultations.
Many attorneys offer a free office consultation which will help you understand more about how the attorney practices law and determine whether you feel comfortable with the attorney and staff. You should come to the consultation with some simple questions and concerns.
At this consult, you can determine whether you feel comfortable with the office and attorneys, learn about their experience in your area of legal need, and get a feel for their knowledge, empathy, understanding, and philosophies.
- Understand types of bankruptcy.
Before you go for your consultation, you should have a basic understanding of what bankruptcy is and what it can do for you.
Filing for bankruptcy allows you to eliminate or restructure certain debts while under the protection of the federal bankruptcy court. The more complex your situation, the more you need the help of an attorney, who will help you decide whether bankruptcy is right for you and, if so, which type.
The most common types of consumer bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy is over quickly and allows you to eliminate many types of unsecured debt such as medical bills and credit cards. It requires that you liquidate your assets, except for those that are exempt. However, there are Ohio exemptions that may allow you to keep most or all of your property, which may include cars, work-related tools, and basic household furnishings.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to reorganize assets and consolidate your payments to avoid fees and fines and repay some or all of your debt affordably over a three- to five-year period. If you successfully complete the court-approved payment plan, the debts covered by the plan are discharged and you can keep most assets, such as your home and vehicle. Also, Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to pay a portion of your attorney fees through the repayment plan.
Once you file, both types of bankruptcy provide protection from your creditors. Ohio has an automatic stay that prohibits most creditors from collection activity such as harassing phone calls, lawsuits, garnishments, repossessions, and foreclosures.
- Let your attorney handle legal complications and paperwork.
Once you have decided on and hired an attorney, let them handle any issues and lawsuits you are dealing with. This includes:
- Examining your bills and statements. Attorneys know what creditors are entitled to collect and can find out whether extra charges, such as fees and interest charges, may have been added to your account.
- Protecting you legally. Attorneys can represent you in a lawsuit filed against you, file countersuits challenging legal actions your creditors have taken, and represent you in a lawsuit against your creditors for violations of consumer protection laws. Collection companies need to prove they have “standing” — the right to collect — in order to be in court. If they lack the chain of custody of paperwork, or if they do not have the original signed agreement or accurate documentation of the debts owed, the case can be dismissed.
- Negotiating with creditors. Creditors may be open to negotiating the amount you owe and settling for less than the original debt in the form of a lower lump sum payment or lower monthly payments. They do this because chasing after money costs them time and money, and handing over the debt to attorneys or collection agencies costs them as well since they have to pay legal or collection agency fees on what is recovered. Have your attorney handle any negotiations for you.
- Stopping garnishment. If creditors get a judgment against you, the court will send a demand letter to you requesting payment of the judgment amount. The notice must provide you with information about options available to you to avoid wage garnishment.
Your attorney can make sure you return the notice on time, with either a payment or a calculation showing your total earnings are exempt. If you disagree with the garnishment, your attorney can represent you at a court hearing. If you decide to file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay provision will stop creditors from garnishing your wages.
- Filing for bankruptcy. Attorneys can help you decide whether bankruptcy is right for you and get the process done in the most efficient way, filing all documents in a timely manner, and finding the type of bankruptcy that will benefit you the most.
The last thing creditors want to hear is that you are considering filing for bankruptcy. Once you do, they will be unable to collect their debt and are stuck with any costs they have made in an effort to do so. So just hearing from a bankruptcy attorney can make creditors more willing to negotiate.
Contact Us For Help and a Free Consultation
If you are in a situation where you are overwhelmed with debt or are considering filing for bankruptcy, we can help. The experienced and compassionate Ohio Consumer Debt lawyers at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer offer a free consultation to evaluate your entire financial situation. We will make sure you are aware of all your options and help you decide on the path to a brighter future that makes sense in your individual case. We will work with you throughout every phase of the process.
Delaying can only make your situation worse, so contact us online or call our offices today.