Category Archives:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Two Attorneys Join Cleaveland & Cleaveland Team

We are excited to introduce Julia McLaughlin, Esquire, and Hillary Mesa, Esquire, who have recently joined the team at Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L.

Julia McLaughlin, Esquire, graduated from Princeton University in 1984, and from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1987. She became a member of the Wisconsin Bar in 1987, and the Pennsylvania Bar in 1987 and handled a variety of family law matters including divorce, parenting issues, child support, and prenuptial agreements. In 1998, Ms. McLaughlin joined the faculty of Villanova Law School, where she taught legal research and writing, and in 1999, joined the faculty of Widener University Law School, where she also taught legal writing. In 2004, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and joined the Florida Coastal School of Law faculty where she taught a wide variety of courses including Family Law, Children and the Law, Dependency Law, Juvenile Justice Administration, Domestic Violence, and Property Law. In 2015, she became a member of the Florida Bar.

Ms. McLaughlin has published widely in the area of family law and children’s rights. Some of her publications include: Taking Religion out of Divorce, 65 RUTGERS L. REV. 395 (2013); Exploring the First Amendment Rights of Teens in Relationship to Sexting and Censorship, 45 U. MICH. J. L. REFORM 315 (2012); Crime and Punishment: Teen Sexting in Context, 115 PENN. ST. L. REV. 135 (2010); The Fundamental Truth about Best Interests, 54 ST. LOUIS U.L.J. 113 (2009); 5) DOMA and the Constitutional Coming-out of Same-sex Marriage, 24 WIS. J.L GEN. & SOC’Y 145 (2009); Premarital Agreements & Choice of Law: “One, Two, Three, Baby You and Me,” 72  MO. L. REV. 793 (2007); Litigation Funding: Charting a Legal and Ethical Course, 31 VT. L. REV. 615 (2007); and Should Marital Property Rights Be Inalienable?  Preserving the Marriage Ante, 82 NEB. L. REV. 460 (2003).

Julia joined Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. in 2018, where she brings over 30 years of legal and teaching experience to the practice, and will handle family matters such as divorce (including parental responsibility, equitable distribution, alimony, child support, and related issues), paternity (including parental responsibility, child support, and related issues), prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, and family law appeals; and estate planning (including wills, trusts, advance directives, and power of attorney designations) and probate matters.

Hillary Mesa, Esquire, graduated with honors from the University of Florida, where she was a Dean’s List recipient, and received her law degree with honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she was a Dean’s List recipient, a student ambassador, and received book awards in Legal Research and Child, Parent, and State.

Ms. Mesa worked as a judicial extern for The Honorable Thomas M. Jaworski and as a legal extern in the felony division of the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit of the State Attorney’s Office.

She is a member of the Florida Bar, and is licensed to practice in the State of Florida, and the Middle District of Florida.

Hillary joined Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L. in 2018, and will handle consumer matters such as bankruptcy, debt defense, and foreclosure defense.

Posted in Alimony, Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt, Divorce, Estate Planning, Family Law, Foreclosure Defense, Injunction, Paternity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Bankruptcy v. Debt Negotiation Company or Debt Consolidation Company

I regularly have clients that consult with me for bankruptcy after they have hired a debt negotiation company or debt consolidation company.  They are usually consulting with me because they are unhappy with the company they hired, and are many times, being sued by their creditors, even though they thought their debts were being handled.  Most of the regret I see from my clients relating to bankruptcy is them wishing that they chose the bankruptcy option first rather than wasting their time, money, and sanity dealing with a debt negation company or debt consolidation company.

I, Michael Cleaveland, worked as an attorney for a firm for 10 years representing creditors.  I have first hand knowledge of how creditors view these companies.  I now only represent consumers, but I took with me a wealth of knowledge from working for the creditors. Below are some important things that any person should know before choosing to hire a debt negotiation company or debt consolidation company:

  • You don’t have a “right” to settle your debts for pennies on the dollar (as I have seen advertised on TV). The creditor may choose to accept less than what you owe, but it is completely at their discretion.
  • You may be subject to a 1099(c) if you settle your debts. This basically means the portion that was forgiven may count as income to you and you may have to pay taxes on it.  There are no 1099(c) tax consequences such as this by filing bankruptcy.
  • If you hire a debt negotiation company or debt consolidation company, you are not legally protected. If the debts are delinquent, they can still bring lawsuit against you. Your creditors can simply ignore any offers made from these companies. If you file bankruptcy, you will be legally protected from your creditors.
  • Debt negotiation companies or debt consolidation companies typically have you pay a monthly amount to them, in which they save in an account. After they take their fees, they try to negotiate settlements.  However, since it usually will take many months, if not years, to save enough money to settle your debts, many consumers find themselves facing lawsuits, judgments, or even garnishment, before they are able to settle.
  • Bankruptcy is typically a cheaper option. Many of these companies charge consumers thousands of dollars in fees and do not resolve all of their debt issues.  Bankruptcy is usually much less expensive and will legally give you a fresh start.
  • Bankruptcy may be better for your credit score than negotiating your debts. In a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you get a discharge of your debts about 3-4 months after you file your case.  If my clients use credit responsibly after their discharge, they typically have over a 700 credit score within 2 years after their discharge.

There are many other advantages that bankruptcy offers that debt negotiation or debt consolidation does not.  I strongly recommend that prior to making any decision, you speak to a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney to discuss all the pros and cons based on your individual situation.  Cleaveland & Cleaveland, P.L., a law firm located in Jacksonville, Florida, offers a free consultation to discuss your options relating to bankruptcy.

Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt |

Can creditors still contact me after I have filed a bankruptcy?

The constant reminder of your financial difficulties is not only annoying, but can cause severe stress and anxiety. One of the many benefits of bankruptcy, whether filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy or a chapter 13 bankruptcy, is that something called an automatic stay goes into effect. This stay automatically prohibits most efforts to collect on any debts that were obtained prior to filing the bankruptcy, which include lawsuit proceedings, wage garnishments, and harassing letters or telephone calls. If you are attempting to save your home from foreclosure, this stay can even stop or postpone sale dates on properties.

How long you have protection through this automatic stay depends on which type of bankruptcy you decide to file. When you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the automatic stay typically remains in effect from the day that you file the bankruptcy case to about 45 days after the first 341 Meeting of Creditors. When you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, this stay typically remains in effect until the bankruptcy case has been dismissed, the bankruptcy case has been closed, the creditor asks the court permission to lift the stay, or the debtor has been granted a discharge.

If creditors contact you in attempt to collect on a debt that you incurred before you filed bankruptcy, they may be in violation of the automatic stay. Under 11 U.S.C. Section 362(k), it allows the imposition of sanctions where a debtor suffers from a creditor’s willful violation of the automatic stay. A willful violation of the automatic stay occurs when the creditor knew that there would be a violation of the automatic stay if they contacted the debtor, but continued to do so anyway. An award of actual damages, including attorney fees and costs, may be awarded by the Court.

Bankruptcy was created to provide people with relief. The automatic stay is only one of the many benefits of filing bankruptcy. Not only does filing a bankruptcy stop the constant harassment, wage garnishments, and lawsuits, but it also gives you the opportunity to have a fresh financial start and rebuild your credit once you receive your bankruptcy discharge.

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Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt | Tagged , , , , |

722 Redemption: A Valuable Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Tool

Bankruptcy Library on TableMany times consumers are overwhelmed with car loans in which they owe more than the actual value of the car.  One benefit of a chapter 7 bankruptcy is Section 722 of the United States Bankruptcy Code which offers consumers an appealing option to handle this type of situation.  Consumers can redeem the vehicle by paying the lender the value of the vehicle rather than the amount of the loan and allowing the chapter 7 bankruptcy to discharge the original loan.  The problem many consumers have with this option is that the payment to the original lender must be made in one lump sum.

The lump sum payment requirement can be burdensome for an individual filing a bankruptcy.  Many individuals have difficulty finding a creditor that is willing to lend them the necessary funds to pay the original lender while they are in the middle of a chapter 7 bankruptcy case.  722 Redemption provides a distinct alternative to alleviate this dilemma.  722 Redemption is an organization that offers loans for the purpose of refinancing vehicles specifically for people who are involved in the bankruptcy process.  This company will verify the value of the vehicle and determine if the debtor is qualified for a loan.  In the event that the debtor does indeed qualify for a loan, 722 Redemption will refinance the automobile for the determined value and pay the original lender the lump sum payment requirement.

Once the redemption process has been approved by the bankruptcy court, the original lender does not have the ability to deny the payoff.  This program is especially beneficial with credit unions.  Credit unions often cross-collateralize debt on any assets that a consumer has with the credit union.  Credit unions very commonly refuse to release the title to an automobile once it is paid off if the consumer has any other type of debt with the credit union discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.  This can include but is not limited to credit cards, lines of credit, and vehicle deficiencies, leaving the consumer in a complicated position.  With 722 Redemption, this dilemma is resolved because there is a court order which prevents the original creditor from having any future interest in the automobile.

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Posted in Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt | Tagged , , , , , |