When creditors are knocking, it is time to reconsider your priorities. Slipping behind on your payments--occasionally--is not a cause for concern. You know you can stretch your bills a month or two and catch up paying only a few late fees. Chronic lateness however is a different matter.
If you lose ground every month, added late fees alone can destroy your financial health. You are on a slow-motion roller coaster heading down. If realize you are in this position, worrying will not help. You have options. Take charge of your future.
No one wants to file bankruptcy. Perhaps you intend to try a debt management plan or a debt settlement plan. These tactics are worthy of your consideration. The trick, if you use them, is not compromising your bankruptcy alternatives. You would not marry the first person who smiles. Take your time and keep your options open until you understand the ripple effect of your choices. Then decide what you must do.
Bankruptcy is a full strength solution that is available to almost everyone. Success claiming maximum benefits in one chapter or two chapters successively is more difficult. You must choose a far-reaching and complementary strategy to enhance your unique personal situation. Debt management and settlements are but two available tactics. Chapter 7 is an option to consider later if necessary. Chapter 13 provides the power to defeat even IRS super-priorities. You should know when to convert Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 and back. All tactics should work in harmony to serve your ultimate goal: your strategy for long-term financial security.
Before committing to any course of action, review your qualification and the availability of a wide range of choices. Consider your overall strategy and your options may complement each other. It is not difficult to keep your options open, profitably, and insure you receive the greatest benefits each step of the way. If filing bankruptcy becomes necessary, keep all assets you now own and discharge all debts quickly. You can plan your strategy yourself or with the assistance of an attorney. But, there is always a catch. You must be the first to act. In the meantime, do not waste another cent on needless payments once filing becomes imminent.
Dave Clark is a lawyer who enjoys writing about bankruptcy strategies for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you have questions about how to convert Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, contact him through his website.
Last week's column outlined what to do if your "ex" doesn't return your children at the time identified in your court order. In many cases, these delays are neither intentional nor malicious, but the product of poor time management. However, some ex-mates remain angry long after the divorce, venting their displeasure at every opportunity, and the weekly "hand-off" is an easy venue for making your life miserable.
As pointed out last week, you have a remedy if your "ex" willfully violates the schedule in your court order. Take your case to the police. It is a felony violation of Section 565.156 of the Missouri Revised Statues punishable by up to four years in the pokey.
Involving the police usually solves the problem, if the police will intervene on your behalf. Sometimes, though, they are reluctant to step into what they see as a squabble between private parties, not realizing that their reluctance emboldens the recalcitrant spouse to push the envelope further. Just recently, a mother asked me what she should do about her former spouse who hasn't returned her children since Christmas...almost four months earlier! She has gone to the police, but they refused to get involved, saying it was a "private matter".
"The police have a legal duty to investigate a crime", says Rob Livergood, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, but the police also "have the discretion to decide if a crime has been committed". If the first officer, after reviewing your court-ordered schedule, refuses to get involved, here is how to proceed:
1. Immediately ask for a supervisor and take your case up the chain of command, all the way to the chief if necessary. Make sure they know that there is good reason to believe that a crime (child abduction by a parent) has occurred because the abduction was intentional, it was without good cause, and it is in violation of a valid court order. Communicate these three elements and, then, it seems to me that you have reported a crime that the police "have a duty to investigate". If the police still won't respond, ask for a police report recording that you made the complaint, but be prepared that they may say "it's not ready yet."
2. Then, go to the Prosecuting Attorney in the county where the divorce was granted. Ask that they issue a felony warrant for your "ex" for child abduction by a parent. Bring your court-ordered schedule, and the police report of your complaint, assuming you received one. In all likelihood, the prosecutor will respond with a warrant directing that your "ex" be arrested. But, if not...
3. You will need to retain an attorney who should file a writ of "habeas corpus" (Latin for "produce the body") in the county where the divorce was granted. It will be served to your former spouse and direct him/her to deliver the children by a specific deadline. If that doesn't occur, take the writ to the police where your "ex" resides and they are required to enforce the writ and recover your children.
In addition, your lawyer should file a "contempt motion" with the Family Court for failure to comply with the court-ordered schedule. If your "ex" is found to be "in contempt", the penalty is jail time until the children are returned, plus paying your legal fees.
As prosecutor Livergood says, most problems are resolved with the first visit to the police, but it's nice to know you have options for dealing with an ex-mate that persistently brings your kids back late just to be difficult.
Cynthia M. Fox is a Missouri attorney and mediator located in Clayton, MO. Her web site is www.foxfamilylawyers.com She has pioneered a new approach to divorce called The ConstructiveDivorce