How Much Do Bankruptcy Lawyers Charge?

Bankruptcy attorney discussing a case with clients in office

If debt has become an insurmountable problem for you, then filing for bankruptcy may be the best way to get back on your feet. However, the idea of spending money on an attorney may not sound very appealing if you’re already struggling financially. Knowing your options will help you make an informed decision so you can determine the best course of action for your situation. To help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how much bankruptcy lawyers charge and what you can expect when working with one.

How Much Do Bankruptcy Lawyers Cost?

While all experienced attorneys are expensive, a bankruptcy lawyer will likely be the least expensive attorney you will ever hire. Chapter 7 attorney fees typically run between $1,000 and $2,000. Meanwhile, Chapter 13 fees generally range from $3,000 to $6,000.

If you aren’t sure which type of bankruptcy you should choose, our skilled attorneys are here to help! With 40 years of experience helping individuals and businesses throughout the state of Oregon, we know the ins and outs of bankruptcy laws and can seamlessly guide you through the process.

Can I File Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer?

Though bankruptcy lawyers are less expensive than other attorneys, the fees can still feel overwhelming. For that reason, many people wonder if they even need the help of an attorney.

While it is possible to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer, doing so could become complicated and expensive. Filing for bankruptcy is an intensive process that can easily become overwhelming, and mistakes along the way could cost you. An experienced debt relief attorney will relieve stress by making the process simple, all while ensuring you get the best outcomes possible.

Will I Have to Pay a Bankruptcy Lawyer Up Front?

Depending on which chapter of bankruptcy you are filing for, you may not need to pay all of your attorney fees up front. While Chapter 7 typically requires you to pay your fees in full before filing, Chapter 13 often allows you to pay in installments as a part of your repayment plan.

Don’t let fees hold you back from getting the help you need. At OlsenDaines, we offer free legal consultations where we can examine your situation and discuss payment options before charging you anything. Our firm has also made a commitment to value-based pricing so we can remain as affordable as possible; in most cases, we can be retained for as little as just $200.

How Can I Pay for a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

Many people wonder how they are supposed to afford a bankruptcy lawyer if they are already struggling to pay creditors. If you’re struggling to come up with the money for attorney fees, don’t panic – there may be some options available.

Since everybody’s situation is different, we strongly recommend starting with a free legal consultation. At OlsenDaines, one of our experienced attorneys will examine your case and discuss how we can help you afford our services.

Affordable Bankruptcy Attorneys in Oregon

The attorneys here at OlsenDaines decided to become bankruptcy lawyers for a very particular reason; we sincerely want to help our neighbors get back on track financially. It is gratifying to help our community thrive, which is why we strive to keep our services as affordable as possible by offering free consultations and value-based pricing. If you are looking for experienced and affordable bankruptcy attorneys, we have you covered. Just contact us today to schedule your free initial case evaluation.

Do You Still Owe Taxes if You File for Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy petition in Oregon - OlsenDaines Debt Relief Lawyers

Filing for bankruptcy is one of the most effective ways to eliminate debt, save your home, and rebuild your financial security. It can also help you sleep easier at night knowing that you won’t have to worry about repossession or mounting bills. However, if you’re considering bankruptcy, it’s important to know what it does and does not cover – and that includes taxes.

How Do Taxes Work After Bankruptcy?

Many people overlook their tax situation when filing for bankruptcy, but it’s crucial to know what to expect before moving forward with your case. Your tax requirements will look different depending on which type of bankruptcy you are filing for. Here is a brief overview of how taxes work after filing for the two most common types of bankruptcy:

Chapter 7

This chapter of bankruptcy is meant to help those with lower income and fewer assets, and individuals must pass a “means test” in order to qualify. If granted chapter 7 bankruptcy, individuals will be assigned a trustee that will be responsible for reviewing your petition and seizing any nonexempt assets that can be sold to benefit your creditors.

Taxes are still a requirement even if you are granted chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are unable to pay your taxes and accrue new debt, it can have a negative impact on your case and may even result in your case being dismissed. However, if you are expecting a tax refund but are granted chapter 7 bankruptcy, then you may need to turn the funds over to your trustee who will use them to pay your creditors.

Chapter 13

This chapter of bankruptcy is meant to help those with higher income and more assets, and it is often considered a “reorganization” of debt. Individuals who are granted chapter 13 bankruptcy will need to establish a monthly payment plan with their creditors to repay a portion of their debts.

Taxes are also still required if you are granted chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you owe more than you can pay, you may be able to set up a payment plan with the IRS lasting between three and five years. Meanwhile, if you receive tax refunds while in Chapter 13 you’ll usually be able to keep these refunds for your own benefit.

Can Bankruptcy Discharge Tax Debt?

Tax debt is considered “unsecured debt”, which means that it generally cannot be discharged even if you are granted bankruptcy. That said, if your tax debt meets a few specific criteria, you may be able to discharge it when filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Your debt may be considered for discharge if it meets these requirements:

  • The tax return filing was due three or more years ago.
  • The tax return filing was two or more years ago.
  • The tax assessment is at least 240 days old.
  • The tax return was not fraudulent.
  • The taxpayer did not attempt tax evasion.

Your Local Bankruptcy Attorneys

Filing for bankruptcy can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate it all alone. The experienced bankruptcy attorneys at OlsenDaines are prepared to help get you through the process as quickly and easily as possible while answering all of your questions. We have proudly served Oregon and Washington residents for over 40 years, and we are ready to use our expertise to help you relieve your debt. To get started, schedule your free and no-obligation legal consultation with one of our attorneys today!

Bankruptcy and HOA: What You Need to Know

What you need to know about filing for bankruptcy with an HOA - OlsenDaines bankruptcy attorneys in Oregon

If you live on a property with a homeowner’s association and are overwhelmed with late dues or fees, then you may be wondering if bankruptcy is a viable way to eliminate these debts. While this may seem like a straightforward question, there are several factors that can impact whether or not your HOA debts can be discharged through bankruptcy. To help give you an idea of what your situation might look like, the experts at OlsenDaines have put together a guide on what you need to know about bankruptcy and HOA.

Can I Discharge My HOA Debt Through Bankruptcy?

Your specific circumstances will impact whether or not you can dismiss HOA debt by filing for bankruptcy. To determine if your HOA fees can be discharged, begin by asking yourself these questions:

Which chapter of bankruptcy are you filing for? The two most common chapters of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. While Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for lower-income individuals with fewer assets, Chapter 13 is geared toward those with more assets and disposable income. Knowing which chapter you qualify for will give you a better understanding of what your debt relief options are.

Do you plan to keep the property? With both chapters of bankruptcy, you should be able to wipe out past HOA dues by forfeiting the property. However, if you plan to keep your condo or home, you will still be responsible for paying your HOA debts.

With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should treat the HOA like a bank holding a mortgage and plan to make payments both before and after you file. It’s important to know that the HOA could still foreclose on your home if they have a lien on your property, even if your debts are discharged.

Meanwhile, if you are filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and plan to keep the property, your repayment options may look a little different. Since this chapter allows you to reconfigure your debts into a payment plan, your past HOA fees should be included in your monthly installment.

Can an HOA Foreclose on My Property After Bankruptcy?

Even if you are granted bankruptcy, an HOA may be able to foreclose on your property depending on your specific situation. Here are some instances where an HOA can foreclose on your property after bankruptcy:

  • Your foreclosure has already taken place: Bankruptcy cannot undo a foreclosure that has already taken place. So, if the HOA has already foreclosed on your property and the home is no longer in your name, the outcome of your bankruptcy petition will not be able to reverse the process.
  • The HOA filed a lien against your property: Once an HOA files a lien against your property, they may begin the foreclosure process. Though you are granted an “automatic stay” while filing for bankruptcy – meaning that the HOA cannot move forward with the foreclosure process during your petition – they may be able to resume the process once you are granted bankruptcy. Bankruptcy cannot get rid of a lien filed against you even if your debts are discharged, so your property may still be foreclosed on.
  • You accrue more fees after bankruptcy: Bankruptcy will only discharge debts accrued prior to your petition, so you will be responsible for any fees due after you are granted bankruptcy. This is true even if you are forfeiting the property; you will have to pay any fees that accumulate between the time you are granted bankruptcy and the sale of your home. To avoid accruing more fees and debt, it is best to wait until the property is sold before filing for bankruptcy if you are planning to surrender the home.

Your Local Bankruptcy Experts

Here at OlsenDaines, we understand how stressful and complicated it can be to file for bankruptcy. That is why our experienced attorneys are always here to help. We strive to make the process as fast and easy as possible while ensuring that you are getting the most out of your petition. With over 40 years of experience serving people throughout Oregon, we are very familiar with local bankruptcy laws and are prepared to help you regain control over your finances so you can truly start fresh. If you are looking into bankruptcy and would like to speak with an expert, contact us today to set up a free legal consultation!

Does Debt Disappear After Bankruptcy?

Does debt disappear after filing for bankruptcy? Debt relief attorneys at OlsenDaines in Oregon State

If you’ve found yourself battling against a mountain of debt, you may be considering bankruptcy as a way to get back on your feet. After all, filing for bankruptcy can be an effective method for relieving debt and regaining control over your finances. But, should you file for bankruptcy, will all of your debt disappear?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. Though bankruptcy can help relieve many different kinds of debt, there are some kinds that will stick with you. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it’s important for you to know what kinds of debts are covered and which kinds are not.

What Debts Can Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy can help you regain financial stability by relieving a wide variety of debts. Your exact amount of relief, however, will largely depend on your specific situation and what kind of bankruptcy you qualify for. If you aren’t sure which path would be best for you, a bankruptcy attorney can help you find a solution that relieves as much debt as possible.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with a lower income and fewer nonessential assets. To qualify for this type, you have to pass a means test, which verifies your income. The types of debt that this chapter can cover include:

  • Medical bills
  • Overdue utility charges
  • Outstanding credit cards
  • Collection agency accounts
  • Lease agreement deficiencies
  • Checks written on insufficient funds

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is intended for individuals with more disposable income and more nonessential assets. This type of bankruptcy is considered “reorganization”, where you will create a payment plan to repay secured debts – such as alimony, child support, and mortgage delinquencies.

Depending on your specific situation, other types of debt may be reduced, but that is not always the case. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be tricky to navigate, so it is best to contact a skilled bankruptcy attorney to determine the best approach for debt relief.

What Debts Cannot Be Forgiven by Bankruptcy?

Though bankruptcy can absolve many kinds of debt, there are a few types that usually cannot be discharged. The types of debt that bankruptcy generally cannot cover are:

  • Student loans
  • Alimony and child support
  • Tax debts

While these debts are generally not forgiven through bankruptcy, each person’s situation is different. A knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorney can examine your unique circumstances to help you relieve as much debt as possible.

Experienced Debt Relief Attorneys

Bankruptcy can be difficult to navigate, and without the right guidance, you may miss
opportunities to relieve debt. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, contact the skilled bankruptcy attorneys at OlsenDaines in Washington and Oregon today. Our experienced lawyers understand the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, and they can help you get the best outcome possible for your situation. We can help you through any step of the process so you can regain financial security as easily and effectively as possible. Call us today to schedule your free legal consultation.

How to Move Forward After Bankruptcy

Going through a bankruptcy —– from decision to discharge— can be a long and stressful ordeal. Eventually, though, you get the breathing room you so desperately need. And after Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 comes the next chapter: putting your life and your credit back together.

How can you do that? A bankruptcy stays on your credit report forever, and you’ll never be able to get a mortgage or another credit card, right?

Wrong.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years; a Chapter 13 for 7. Maybe restoring your credit won’t be easy, and maybe it won’t be instant, but you can put your life and your credit back together after bankruptcy. We can help you figure out what strategies will work best for you. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. How quickly you recover from bankruptcy depends a lot on you and what you do after discharge. We can help you develop a sound approach to your fiscal recovery.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips to help you get started down the road to emotional and financial recovery.

Let it Go. Put it Behind You and Move on.

If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, you might be feeling like a failure. You might feel like you are all alone or are some kind of financial outcast. Think again. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings were down in 2017 but they still totaled a whopping 794,492.  You are definitely not alone. But you are the only one that you must forgive.

In order to rebuild your life and move forward, you need to be able to come to grips with the past. You need to take a look at what happened and why, so you can prevent it from happening again, if at all possible. You should look at the past, but you don’t have to live there. Think about what happened and how you can make sure things will be different from now on. Then forgive yourself, and move on. Make a plan to live a better, more responsible fiscal life, and start living that life!

Pay Your Bills on Time. Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card.

One of the best ways to get your financial life back on track is to make a plan and be diligent about paying your nondischargeable debts (taxes, child support, alimony etc.) on time. You can also consider getting a secured credit card. Unlike other credit cards, with a secured credit card, you deposit small amounts of money in your bank account and that becomes your credit line. However, not everyone qualifies for a secured credit card and they often come with high fees.

 Talk to a Lawyer!

Don’t know where to start? If you need help making a plan to rebuild your life after bankruptcy, or if you are considering filing bankruptcy, contact us. We can give you the help and guidance you need.

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

Ahh, the American dream. You start with nothing, get an education, work your assets off, and end up rich and successful. But is that really how it goes? Everyone knows that it is absolutely critical that you get a good education in order to get ahead. The average price of a college education can range anywhere from  $24,610 to $49,320! So what happens when you have little to no money yet need a college education or advanced degree to live the American dream? Many times, you take out student loans. And sometimes you end up living the American nightmare instead of the American dream. You find yourself drowning in student debt and despair.

Does that mean that you are you destined to drive a truck, work in the factory, be a farmworker, waitress, or work construction forever? Or that you have to always live near the poverty line in order to pay back your student loans?

We don’t think so. We believe that the poor should have access to good financial advice and be empowered with the financial information they need to not be taken advantage of when it comes to student loans or anything else.

Student Loan Debt.

We know that it is difficult to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy. Most debtors won’t be able to discharge student loan debt through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing. But that does not mean you don’t have any options or possibilities.

The Undue Hardship Test.

Most courts are reluctant to discharge student loan debt. However, if you can qualify for the “undue hardship” exception, you may get your student loans discharged in bankruptcy. To qualify for undue hardship in Oregon, you have to be able to prove to the court that:

  • You have no money left over each month to pay your student loans
  • Your money problems aren’t going to get any better in the future
  • Over the years, you made a good faith effort to repay your student loans.

If you can answer these and other questions honestly, you may be able to qualify to have your student loans discharged.

Defenses to Student Loan Debt.

Another possible source of relief from student loan debt lies in unfair and illegal treatment. If you have defenses, such as a breach of contract, unfair business practices or fraud against your loan companies, you may not have to pay the debt at all.

Learn Your Options.

When it comes to student loan debt, there is no magic wand you can waive to get rid of them. But that does not mean you do not have hope or options. We are Oregon and Washington bankruptcy attorneys. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.

Bankruptcy and Medical Bills

 

As the old saying goes, “nothing is more important than your health.” When you are injured or sick, you know how true that is. When you or a loved one is facing a serious or catastrophic illness, the cost of medical care can very quickly skyrocket. Before you know it, the costs of medical care can drive you into bankruptcy.

If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We can help. A significant number of people file bankruptcy every year due to crushing medical bills. At least one study has found that nearly 1 billion people filed bankruptcy due to medical costs.

In fact, filing bankruptcy may not only be a good choice for you if your medical bills have gotten out of control, but looked at correctly, it is the right thing to do.

How can that be?

Because overwhelming medical bills are exactly the type of debt that the bankruptcy code was designed to address. The whole point of bankruptcy is to give an honest debtor relief from overwhelming and insurmountable debt. When your mountain of bills was caused by an accident or serious illness, that’s not something you deliberately sought out. It’s not your fault. It very likely could not have been avoided or foreseen. After the illness or injury, you needed medical attention to recover. Now you need bankruptcy to recover from the insurmountable costs of health care.

How Medical Debt Is Classified in Bankruptcy.

So, will bankruptcy erase all of your medical bills? Yes. When you file for bankruptcy, your debts are separated into different categories. Some debts, like child support or alimony, are not dischargeable (in other words, can’t be wiped out). But other debts, like credit card debt and medical bills are considered unsecured debt and do get discharged in bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 and Medical Bills.

Chapter 7 (often called “liquidation bankruptcy”) is the most common type of bankruptcy filed by individuals. To qualify for a Chapter 7, you must pass a “means test.” That is to say, you must be at or below a certain disposable income level. If you are, then you can qualify for Chapter 7. If you qualify for Chapter 7, there is no limit to the amount of amount of medical debt that a Chapter 7 discharge can wipe out. Just like credit card debt, medical debt is considered unsecured debt that is dischargeable. And any medical bills that you paid with your credit card can also be discharged.

In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Unlike a Chapter 7 which is designed to liquidate your assets and pay off your debts wiping the slate clean, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to put a repayment plan in place (“Chapter 13 Plan” or “Plan”) that will allow you to pay off your creditors over time. In a Chapter 13, your medical bills are lumped in with all the other general unsecured debts in your Plan. The amount you have to pay to general unsecured creditors depends on your income, expenses and nonexempt assets.

In Chapter 13, each creditor receives a pro rata portion of the total amount going towards these debts in your plan which is typically only pennies on the dollar. However, keep in mind that you may not qualify for Chapter 13 if your medical bills and other debt exceed the Chapter 13 limits.

We Can Guide You To The Right Decision.

If you are facing insurmountable medical bills, we can help. We have offices in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and other cities in Oregon and we have offices in Washington. We offer free consultations and reasonable rates. Contact us by phone or email anytime to set up your free consultation.

What You Can Keep After Filing for Bankruptcy

 

Many people believe that they will lose everything they own if they file for bankruptcy. Not true. In fact, most people who file for bankruptcy do not lose anything they own at all.

How can that be?

Well, the secret lies in…

Exemptions.

Most consumers file for Chapter 7 (or “liquidation”) bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7, exemptions determine what property you get to keep. If your property is exempt, whether it is your home, your car, your pensions, furniture, your clothes, etc., you can keep it during and after the bankruptcy. Exemptions protect your property and put it beyond the reach of the bankruptcy trustee (“trustee”).

If the property is nonexempt, then the trustee is entitled to sell it to pay your unsecured creditors.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is the exemptions that determine how much you will have to pay to nonpriority, unsecured creditors.

If you are considering bankruptcy in Oregon or Washington, it’s important for you to understand how exemptions work and to know what property is exempt in those states. We can help. We have offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington.

A Little More About Exemptions.

Every state has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions and most states require that you use the state exemptions only. However, some states allow a debtor to choose whether to use state exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions. Like all states, Oregon has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions. But in Oregon, if you file for bankruptcy you can elect to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the Oregon state exemptions. In Washington, you can use either the federal exemptions or the state exemptions.

How Exemptions Work.

There is a lot to know about exemptions, but briefly, this is how it works: if you have property that is worth a certain dollar amount that is equal to or less than the exemption, you will be allowed to keep the property. If, on the other hand, the property’s value exceeds the exemption, it is highly likely that the trustee will sell that property and use it to pay your unsecured creditors. Why? Because the federal government assumes that honest debtors try to pay off their debts. So, if a debtor has excessive property, the federal government believes it should be sold to pay those debts. On the other hand, the bankruptcy laws are designed to give debtors a “fresh start” —– not to leave them destitute. As a result of these dual concepts, both state and federal bankruptcy laws provide debtors with property exemptions.  Generally, Chapter 7 exemptions are far lower, stricter and are less flexible than Chapter 13 exemptions.

 We Can Guide You Through It.

If you are considering bankruptcy and want to know what property exemptions you would be entitled to, contact us. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

 

 

Bankruptcy in the Context of Divorce

 

Statistics show that 55% of all marriages end in divorce. And 39% of all divorced couples say that conflict over finances was the reason the marriage fell apart. Fights over money ruin relationships. That’s why we so often see divorce occurring when there is a bankruptcy. It’s because of this that it is critical to understand the intersection of the bankruptcy laws and divorce laws.

 What Comes First – Divorce or Bankruptcy? No Simple Answer.

If you are facing divorce and a bankruptcy, the first thing you need to consider is timing. You must decide whether to file for divorce first or for bankruptcy first. (Filing the two together causes significantly more problems.) How you answer that question depends on a number of things: your income, your spouse’s income, what type of bankruptcy you are filing for or qualify for (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), what assets you have, the costs of divorce and bankruptcy, and more.

There is no easy answer to this question. You must take into account both the facts of your situation, the divorce laws, and the bankruptcy laws before you can come to a final decision. That’s why you should sit down with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your situation and what is best for you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington, and we offer free consultations.

Here are just two things you need to think about when facing bankruptcy and divorce:

Divorce and the Automatic Stay
Once a bankruptcy is filed, whether it is a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, the “automatic stay” immediately goes into effect. The automatic stay stops all attempts to collect on your debts and it freezes your assets and your property. The purpose of the stay is to allow the bankruptcy court time to sort through what debts you owe and what assets you have (if any) to pay them with. The automatic stay remains in place until your bankruptcy case is fully resolved (by discharge, dismissal or the case is closed).

Since dividing up a couple’s assets and property (in addition to other things) is what the divorce is all about, bankruptcy’s automatic stay means that the family court will be prevented from making any decisions or dividing up the marital property until the bankruptcy is completed. And that means that the divorce will take longer.

 What Type of Bankruptcy?

Another factor to consider is the type of bankruptcy that you should file for. A Chapter 7 (“liquidation”) bankruptcy requires that you meet the income requirements of the “means test.” If your income compared to certain expenses is too high, you will be required to file for Chapter 13 (“reorganization”) bankruptcy instead.

If there is a big difference between what you earn and what your spouse earns, it might make more sense to file for divorce before you file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, if you earn significantly less than your spouse and you file for bankruptcy individually after the divorce is final, you may have a better chance of qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Then there is the fact that if you both agree to file for bankruptcy jointly, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 as a couple, because the income amounts are based on household size, and the income maximum for two people is not twice that of one person.

The intersection of bankruptcy and divorce may be a common occurrence, but it is not a simple one to navigate. But the good news is that you do not need to try to figure all this out on your own. We are here to help.

 Let Us Help You Decide.

If you are facing filing a bankruptcy and either your spouse has filed for divorce, or you have both agreed to divorce, let us help you think through your options. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in a number of cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us here.

Core Proceedings and the Bankruptcy Court

Let’s say you’re having a really, really, bad week. You were injured in a car accident, the extension the contractor put on your house fell apart and now you’re suing him for breach of contract, your wife just found out about your (latest) girlfriend and has filed for divorce, and you can’t pay your creditors, so you just filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In the middle of reeling from all of this you think to yourself, when I get into bankruptcy court, is the judge going to decide the liability, breach of contract and divorce cases too?

Good question.

When you file for bankruptcy, it is important to understand what matters the court will decide and what matters it won’t decide. Knowing the extent of the court’s  jurisdictional authority is one reason why it is important that you hire competent bankruptcy counsel to represent you. We have offices throughout Oregon and in Washington State. Our attorneys are experienced bankruptcy attorneys and they know the law.

The Bankruptcy Court’s Jurisdiction. Core Proceedings.

Bankruptcy courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. That means that they do not hear and decide everything and anything. Congress granted bankruptcy judges jurisdiction over certain issues, which are called “core proceedings.” A bankruptcy judge’s decisional power is generally limited to bankruptcy matters.

Core proceedings are proceedings or issues that are entirely related to the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy judge has the power to hear and decide these matters and enter judgment on them. Some examples of core proceedings are: the bankruptcy trustee’s duties, matters concerning debtor exemptions, or proceedings to determine, decide or recover fraudulent transfers. There are many more, but this should give you some idea of what the bankruptcy court will hear and decide.

Non-core Proceedings.

Non-core proceedings are issues that arise in a bankruptcy case that are not technically bankruptcy matters. These are called “non-core proceedings.” Examples of non-core proceedings in our fact pattern above would be your divorce, the car accident and the breach of contract action against your contractor. These matters are not governed by bankruptcy law but by other state laws and they are not directly related to your bankruptcy.

However, that does not mean that the bankruptcy court cannot hear and decide issues that may be non-core proceedings yet are matters directly related to your bankruptcy. For example, in our fact pattern above, while the bankruptcy court will not decide your divorce (in other words, it won’t enter a dissolution of marriage), it may decide issues in the divorce case that are related to your bankruptcy— like division of the marital property.

If the bankruptcy judge makes a decision in a non-core proceeding, that decision cannot become a final judgment unless all parties consent. If the parties don’t consent, then the bankruptcy judge must submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Superior or Circuit court.

We Know the Law!

If you find any of this confusing, don’t worry. We are bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Tigard, Salem, Albany, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Bend, and several other cities in Oregon. We also have offices in Vancouver and Tri-Cities in Washington. We offer free consultations and we can help you. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568.