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How Many Times Can I File for Bankruptcy?

November 21st, 2017

If you have filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 before, can you do the same again? Can a debtor in Arizona file for bankruptcy multiple times? It’s not uncommon for Arizonians to fall into hard times and become severely indebted once or twice. Technically, it is possible to file for bankruptcy more than once under Arizona law and the applicable federal laws. However, the law specifies certain circumstances under which a debtor can actually do that.

BAPCPA and Multiple Bankruptcy Filings

In 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) went into to effect. The law made it less easy for debtors to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The idea is to prevent unwarranted practices by higher income individuals who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to take advantage of its debt discharge clauses. BAPCPA aimed to force rich debtors to file for Chapter 13 instead and to pay back what they owe under a court-mandated payment plan.

As a result of BAPCPA, there are now several significant limitations for multiple Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings in Arizona.

What are the Limits on Multiple Bankruptcy Filings?

Here is a list of the most significant limitations to multiple bankruptcies that debtors should be aware of:

  • Debtors must wait for at least 8 years before filing for another Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The days are counted from the day the debtor filed the first Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. From then on, the debtor must wait exactly 8 years before filing for bankruptcy under the same chapter once again.
  • Debt discharges during the second bankruptcy could be more impaired based on discharges offered during the earlier bankruptcy filings. For example, if you are filing for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you cannot obtain a debt discharge if you were granted an earlier Chapter 13 debt discharge in the previous two years. If you have obtained a debt discharge under Chapter 7 in the previous 4 years, then you can’t get a Chapter 13 discharge for a new case. However, this doesn’t prevent you from being able to file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  • You can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy regardless of how many bankruptcies you have filed before. There are certain circumstances, such as owning too much mortgage debt, that allow debtors to do this. Chapter 13 filings are accepted even for issues like needing a payment plan to pay off taxes owed.
  • Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, regardless of precious bankruptcy history, enables automatic stay on a current debt between three to five years. However, the court must be specifically requested to enforce the automatic stay if you have had a bankruptcy dismissed by the court during the previous 12 months.

The above limitations are not too restrictive when it comes to filing for another bankruptcy. If your case is complicated, you must consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Scottsdale. Keep in mind that you may not be able to keep filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in rapid succession as per the recently amended rules and regulations.

Covenant Marriages and Divorces in Arizona

November 14th, 2017

Arizona offers two types of marriages for residents. There’s the standard marriage that a good majority of residents get into. The state offers another form of marriage called covenant marriages. These covenant marriages are different in their legal nature. Unlike with the regular marriages, spouses also need to meet different requirements to later get a divorce. This article will briefly explain what covenant marriages in Arizona are, and how to get a divorce under the laws governing this type of marriage.

What is a Covenant Marriage in Arizona?

A covenant marriage is defined as a marriage between a man and a woman in Arizona. This category is available as an option for those who wish to get married and is not a replacement option for the standard type of marriage offered in the state. However in covenant marriages, the two parties enter into the marriage only after signing a written legal declaration stating the intention to enter into a covenant marriage and that they have satisfied certain requirements through premarital counseling provided by a member of the clergy or a licensed marriage counselor.

The legal statement is binding on both parties and strict rules govern how the spouses in a covenant marriage can later get a divorce. Unlike with regular marriages, where separating spouses are not required to cite the reasons for wanting a divorce, separating spouses in a covenant marriage do. Those entering covenant marriages should expect to stay highly committed because legal separation or divorce can be difficult to later achieve.

Dissolution of a Covenant Marriage

The specific reasons under which a court may grant a divorce for a covenant marriage are listed in Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 25-901 to 25-906. There are actually only eight scenarios that legally satisfies valid grounds for an Arizona divorce in a covenant marriage:

  • Cheating or infidelity;
  • One spouse abuses drugs, alcohol or another addictive substance;
  • The other spouse has committed a serious crime that could result in a life sentence or the death penalty;
  • One spouse has abandoned the family and has not been home for at least a year;
  • One of the spouses have committed a sex crime, mainly sexual assault, against a related person;
  • The spouses have been living separately for at least two years and do not intend to live together again;
  • The spouses are legally separated (different from divorce) and have been for at least a year;
  • Both spouses strongly want a divorce.

The courts do not grant divorces in covenant marriages unless the parties specifically qualify for relief under any of the above listed statutory mandates.

Getting a Divorce in a Covenant Marriage and Child Custody

Because divorces under covenant marriages are granted under very specific qualifying specifications, separating spouses must get Family Law help in Scottsdale. The proceedings can be complicated if the spousal dispute includes the custody of children and if there are complex debt or property issues involved. Furthermore, prenuptial or postnuptial contract agreements could further complicate things.

If you are in a covenant marriage, it is not impossible to get a divorce. Consult with a qualified lawyer who specializes in covenant marriages

Do I Become Ineligible for a Home Loan After Filing for Bankruptcy?

November 7th, 2017

Filing for bankruptcy could affect your life in both positive and negative ways. The main negative in declaring bankruptcy is that the debtor’s credit score will take a major hit. While it’s very much possible to restore a bad credit score, many consumers do wonder what it means for immediate financial assistance requirements. For example, if you don’t own a home and have filed for bankruptcy, does that mean you are ineligible for a mortgage now and for how long?

The question is not easy to answer. Personal circumstances and specific situations can matter. It’s best to first get advice from a qualified bankruptcy lawyer in Scottsdale. However, consumers can also get a general idea of obtaining a home loan following bankruptcy by reading this article.

Qualifying for a Home Loan Following Bankruptcy

There are no legal barriers to qualifying for a home loan following a bankruptcy declaration. A lender cannot deny you a mortgage based solely on the fact that you have filed for bankruptcy once. Lenders will use other underwriting factors to determine your eligibility.

A consumer’s ability to get a home loan following bankruptcy is determined largely by the credit score, monthly income, down payment levels and the remaining savings. Keep in mind that mortgage lenders require a down payment on the loan. If you have no trouble paying for the down payment, then you can quite often also qualify for the loan. If not, you should at least be able to pay 20 percent of the down payment right away. The higher the down-payment one can offer a lender, the higher the chance that your mortgage loan will close and fund on the date of purchase.

How Bankruptcy Affects Credit Scores and Eligibility for Home Loans

You should expect your credit to plummet by at least 120 points if you file for bankruptcy. All of the credit monitoring companies scan the bankruptcy dockets every day to watch consumers.  After you are discharged from your bankruptcy case, you will need to soon start rebuilding credit to prevent going into the negatives. If you start repaying remaining debts that survived your bankruptcy, your credit score will rise without a problem. Rehabilitating credit in this manner is the best option you have for being qualified for a subsequent home loan. Even if your credit score is low, if you can show the lenders that it has been improving, then your mortgage application may receive more favorable treatment during the loan application process.

How to Improve Your Chances of Obtaining a Home Loan Following Bankruptcy

First of all, you should take steps to get your credit score back up. If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, sticking to the monthly court-approved payment plan should do it. Otherwise, you can get a credit card and make timely payments without missing a single payment due.  Pay on time, each and every month.

Start saving. You should certainly expect to spend some time-saving money before you can apply for a mortgage. Let your savings accumulate so you have enough to at least partially cover a down payment. The more savings you have, the better your application will look.   You can get friends or family to help you accumulate down payment funds as well, so long as they are willing to sign off and release those funds to you in writing.

Don’t forget to repay existing loans such as student loans, taxes owned, or child support. Always continue to timely pay your regular bills on time as well.

What matters is that you maintain a good financial profile by not falling back into the previous circumstances that caused you to file for bankruptcy.  Time is your friend.  After a bankruptcy, the longer you have come through and demonstrated a strong credit history and ability to pay—the mortgage lenders will start to consider you again for home mortgage loan qualifications.

Can Social Media Affect Your Divorce?

October 30th, 2017

Social media is now increasingly finding itself in dispute lawsuits. Social media posts have led to harassment and defamation cases, and it’s becoming a major factor in divorce cases as well. Surprisingly enough, one in seven divorces is caused by social media posts, according to data from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Facebook is a major culprit. It turns out, one in every 20 divorces are somehow related to Facebook. Even more shockingly, about 30 percent of users on Tinder, the dating app, are in fact married. That perhaps explains that one in three modern divorces result from online affairs.

Facebook Vs. The Modern Marriage

Don’t underestimate the power of social media to affect your marriage, and later, your divorce. If a spouse has been chatting up an ex on Facebook or has a Tinder profile, then your divorce lawyer in Scottsdale can legitimately use that evidence in your favor in an Arizona courtroom. It’s not at all uncommon for divorce attorneys to use emails and texts in divorce proceedings as evidence. Now, social media posts are increasingly being used, even more so than emails.

So, if you plan on separating from your spouse, expect social media to play a role in it somehow. If you have been chatting with an ex on Facebook or Whatsapping a former flame, your spouse may be able to use that evidence against you. Of course, simply retweeting what an ex posted on Twitter doesn’t instantly make your divorce case turn in your soon-to-be ex’s favor. How your attorney defends and uses social media evidence does play a role.  While Arizona is a “no fault” jurisdiction, clever lawyers often seek to burnish the reputation of litigants as a divorce winds its way through the court system.

When Can Social Media be Used as Evidence?

There are several ways divorce attorneys can use social media posts and content as evidence in proceedings. Social media serves as prime examples of communication. For example, if you are accusing your spouse of drinking too much or using drugs, you can use social media posts between your spouse and others they have used substances with to demonstrate the drinking or drug using parents’ unfitness to be the primary custodial parents.

Social media posts are also used to show specific time and places of events, such as “checking in” to a place. Attorneys also use social media posts to prove a spouse’s state of mind and as proof of actions.

Keep in mind that the same evidence can be used against you as well. Particularly, if you bash an ex on social media and try to harass the ex with embarrassing photos and such, it could serve as evidence against you in a divorce court, or even in post-decree proceedings.

Social Media Prenups

Couples who have been getting married in recent years have even gone as far as to sign social media prenup agreements to avoid having Facebook posts dragged into divorce proceedings. Remember that if your private social media conversations end up admissible in court, they become a matter of public record.

If you want to fully understand how social media could impact your divorce, for better or worse, you should discuss the specific matters with your divorce attorney. Don’t underestimate or think of social media posts as irrelevant in your divorce in any case.   Finally keep in mind that once either spouse commences a divorce action, you should presume that all of your digital footprints are being monitored and watched by the other spouse and their lawyers.  Put another way, if and when a divorce starts in your life, put the phones and computers down and start focusing on a brighter future with full custody of your children and a new chapter in your life beginning.

The Role of Parenting Coordinators in Arizona Child Custody Cases

October 18th, 2017

Arizona Rules of Family Law, under Rule 74, allows judges to appoint a parenting coordinator in divorce and child custody cases. So what exactly is a parenting coordinator? How will having one affect the case? Are parenting coordinators good for children? This article will touch on these questions and briefly explain how parenting coordinators could benefit (or not) from a family law dispute.

What are Parenting Coordinators in Arizona?

Recently, many states have begun to appoint parenting coordinators in child custody cases. Arizona has had a parenting coordinator rule since 2011, and it was amended in 2016. A parenting coordinator, in simple terms, is a third party appointed by a judge to resolve or alleviate disputes between parents fighting for child custody. Many types of professionals can be appointed as a parenting coordinator. Usually, a child psychologist, a therapist or even a family law attorney is appointed a parenting coordinator.

In Arizona, parenting coordinators have what’s called “quasi-judicial” authority. This authority is limited under the law. Parenting coordinators cannot actually change how legal decisions are made in the child custody case. However, parenting coordinators have the authority to step in and resolve some disputes arising from conflicts not specified in the court-approved parenting plan.  Both parents must agree to use a PC for each one year term assigned by the judge.  If at any time the other parent does not want the PC term to renew, the PC concludes their term and is no longer involved.   

What do Parenting Coordinators Do?

It’s important to understand that parenting coordinators cannot change any clauses in the parenting plan. But other things that parents disagree with, which are not explicitly stated in the plan, can be resolved with intervention from the parenting coordinator.   Think of a PC as a referee—hired by the court—to keep the case out of court ideally.  

Parenting coordinators, for example, can step in and help when parents disagree about pick up and drop off locations of kids when sharing joint custody. Parenting coordinators can also resolve other problems with regards to holiday scheduling, meeting dates and times, and after-school activities. The law allows parenting coordinators to resolve disputes related to personal care, health, school choice, discipline and managing problem behavior in children.

Parenting coordinators, however, are not judges and their authority to solve issues are limited by law. Therefore, it’s still highly recommended to get Family Law help in Scottsdale if you and your ex cannot civilly agree on how the kids are taken care of. It’s best to have a parenting coordinator and a lawyer present during the case. If you want to change the parenting plan, it will require the assistance of a family lawyer and go to court by formal motion to the judge.  

Why Have a Parenting Coordinator?

Divorcing parents can disagree on many things from serious issues like children’s health to minor problems like how to cut a child’s hair or ear piercings (it happens). Parenting coordinators can step in and restore sanity to a situation when parents are unable to negotiate peacefully.

The alternative to having a parenting coordinator is time-consuming litigation. When parents are fighting over an issue related to custody or the parenting plan, finding a court resolution to the issue involves modifying existing court orders. Doing so means that both parents have to undergo costly litigation that could take months or years.  Therefore, having a parenting coordinator is more cost and time effective—so long as both parties agree to the formal one-year appointment of a PC.