I represent individuals in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases filed in the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta, Newnan, Gainesville and Rome. I publish several informative web sites, including https://www.atlanta-bankruptcy.com and an Atlanta bankruptcy blog, https://www.thebklawyer.com/thebkblog. Please mention Bankruptcy Law Network when you call.


Author: Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.

06 Jul Attorney’s Fees Awarded in a State Court Support Proceding: Dischargeable in Bankruptcy?

alimony, child support and attorneys fees in bankruptcyThe United States Bankruptcy Code clearly states that domestic support obligations such as alimony and child support are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Section 523(a)(5) excepts from discharge a "domestic support obligation." But what about attorney’s fees awarded to the spouse who is awarded this support? Often, when a state court awards child support or alimony it also awards attorneys fees to the prevailing spouse. Should this attorney fee award also be non-dischargeable, or are attorney’s fees a separate category of debt, and treated like any other unsecured debt? Section 523 of the Bankruptcy Code does not address the fate of this class of attorney’s fees but bankruptcy judges have weighed in. In the 11th Circuit, where I practice, attorney’s fees arising from a post-dissolution custody [or alimony] action constitutes support for the former spouse where the award is based on ability to pay.
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06 Jun Octomom’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Dismissed – Why and What Does it Mean?

Chapter 7 dismissed for incomplete filingsYou may have read news reports that Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as “Octomom,” recently filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, only to have her case dismissed because she failed to file the required financial disclosure schedules. Ms. Suleman, as you may recall, made headlines in 2009 for giving birth to 8 children following fertility treatments, and adding to her existing family of 6 kids. Octomom is both unmarried and without any regular source of income. Ms. Suleman has been living in a four bedroom, three bath home she had purchased in 2009 from a gentleman named Amer Haddadin. Ms. Suleman’s purchase agreement was with Mr. Haddadin - he remained the sole borrower on the mortgage note, and she agreed to pay him $3,000 per month, which he would, in turn, use to pay the mortgage company. When Ms. Suleman failed to make her mortgage payments to Haddadin for 11 months, the mortgage lender initiated foreclosure proceedings. This pending foreclosure apparantly prompted Ms. Suleman to file Chapter 7 and thus stop the foreclosure.
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06 May Increase in Homestead Exemption Good News for Georgia Bankruptcy Filers

Georgia homestead exemption increasedGeorgia bankruptcy filers got two pieces of good news this past week - the Governor has signed Senate bill 117 increasing the bankruptcy homestead exemption from $10,000 to $21,500, and the median income tables for Georgia families has been adjusted upwards, reversing a steady downward trend. By far, the new homestead exemption is the most significant of these two events. Georgia, like several other states, has opted out of the federal exemption statute, substituting in its place Georgia Code Section 44-13-100. For the past 10+ years, Georgia permitted bankruptcy filers to shelter or exempt $10,000 of equity in real estate ($20,000 for a married couple filing jointly).
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06 Apr Repo Alert: Are You at Risk?

Last year, a potential client called me to say that her car had been repossessed and that she needed help. I explained that one option would be to file a Chapter 13, then a Complaint for Turnover as a means to get the vehicle back. We would argue to the bankruptcy judge that my client’s vehicle was necessary for her to fulfill the terms of her plan, and thus the judge should order the lender to “turn over” the vehicle immediately. In this case, however, I felt that Chapter 13 might be premature. Instead, I called the lender’s customer service number and after being transferred from department to department, I finally spoke to someone in the default department. I explained that I was a bankruptcy lawyer who was prepared to file Chapter 13 on behalf of my client and I suggested that everyone might be better off if the bank returned the vehicle voluntarily in exchange for my client’s payment of all missed payments + finance charges.
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03 Feb Child Support Delinquency Will Hold Up Chapter 13 Discharge

All payments made to Chapter 13 trusteeIt is a real accomplishment to complete your Chapter 13 case. In an environment where jobs come and go, unexpected expenses can pop up and more than two-thirds of all Chapter 13 plans fail, anyone who fulfills the terms of his Chapter 13 plan should take pride in this milestone. Be aware, however, that making trustee payments for five years may not be enough to get your Chapter 13 discharge. As I previously wrote on this blog, every Chapter 13 debtor must obtain a Financial Management certificate and submit through counsel a certificate of completion for this post-filing educational course. If you do not submit the certificate, your case will be closed without the issuance of a discharge thereby potentially leaving your exposed to post-bankruptcy collection actions. If you choose to ask the court to reopen your case so that you can file the financial management certificate you will incur additional time and cost. A second possible hurdle arises from Bankruptcy Code Section 1328. This Code Section precludes the judge from issuing a discharge if you do not certify that all domestic support obligations that have come due during the pendency of your case have been paid. In the Northern District of Georgia, where I practice, every Chapter 13 debtor receives a Section 1328 certificate to complete as their case winds down.
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03 Jan Why You Should Not Expect Your Bank to Voluntarily Rewrite Your Loan

no mortgage modificationEconomists of every political stripe agree that our recent recession and lackluster recovery arose from a collapse of real estate markets in cities all over the country. Homeowners are either stuck in properties worth less than what is owed on them, while other homeowners have just walked away. The result is a landscape where real estate has lost its liquidity and banks are afraid to rely on real estate to extend needed loans, thereby freeing up the capital markets. A few years ago, a several members of Congress floated the idea of empowering bankruptcy judges to “cram down” mortgages to equal the fair market value of the underlying real estate. Currently bankruptcy judges can, with some restrictions, cram down auto loans and other secured debt to fair market value in Chapter 13. From my perspective as a bankruptcy lawyer, this cram down power does a lot of good. Debtors can now afford to keep their vehicles, and thus their means to and from work. The used vehicle and used furniture market is not depressed with excessive inventory of returned property and more people are able to reorganize rather than liquidate.
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