21 Mar Seek Legal Advice Before Making Significant Financial or Lifestyle Changes
Several months ago, I referred a potential bankruptcy client to a colleague because the case involved a business situation very similar to a somewhat complicated case my colleague had handled previously. The prospective client called my friend and actually paid a fairly sizeable retainer, but never ended up hiring him.
Now, some 18 months later, the prospective client called my friend back and said that he is ready to proceed. “Any changes?” my friend asked. “Oh yes,” said the client – I moved to a city 200 miles away and my wife and I got divorced. But we still want to file a joint case.”
As you might imagine, these changes create a lot of issues. First, the case is no longer eligible to file in the Northern District of Georgia, where we practice. While the client still lives in Georgia, any case that he might file would have to be filed in a different filing district, and neither my friend nor I practices in that district.
Second, the divorce changes many things. Only a married husband and wife can file a joint case. Divorced ex-spouses cannot. And my friend cannot represent one spouse if he previously provided counsel and representation to both of them if there is any chance that the other spouse could be damaged. In a bankruptcy situation damage to the other spouse is almost a given, especially if there is a lot of joint debt.
There are other issues, but these are enough to prevent my friend (or me) from accepting this case. These folks have spent a lot of time and money with a lawyer and, while they will get some of the money back, this is not the best use of their resources.
The lesson here: if you are in the bankruptcy planning stages, keep your lawyer in the loop. Significant lifestyle or economic decisions usually have an impact on bankruptcy filings. If you have paid for a lawyer’s advice, take advantage of that expertise and avoid making guesses that could have a significant negative impact on your financial future.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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