Roanoke Legal Issues Blog

Personal loans on the rise, may spur Chapter 7 filings

Virginians often have to turn to financing to accomplish their goals in life. Whether it is buying a house or a car, going on vacation, or even paying other debt like medical expenses, many individuals have to take out one or more of a variety of loans to ensure they can make ends meet. Although personal loans have become easier to obtain, they can pose a financial threat to those who are on unsteady financial footing.

In fact, many economists are worried that Americans are turning to personal loans to frequently, with more than 20 million people currently carrying a balance. According to Equifax, the number of personal loans issued over the last year has increased by 10%. Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that the average personal loan balance currently stands at more than $16,000, which is on par with average credit card debt. Personal loans in excess of $30,000 have also increased significantly, a staggering 15% over the last five years. Many attribute the increase to easy access provided by a number of mobile apps, but economists are worried that more Americans are going into debt at a time when the economy continues to improve.

How is paternity established in Virginia?

Paternity is the act of identifying a child's father. Establishing paternity is important for many reasons, including establishing child support obligations and creating a legal relationship between a man and his child. Both circumstances can ensure that a child is emotionally and financially stable while being able to develop a strong bond with their father. Of course, sometimes paternity is merely a means to secure child support, however, regardless of the desired outcome, paternity can only be established in one of the ways identified by state law.

In Virginia, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if the child was born during the parents' marriage or shortly after their separation. While this presumption can be set aside, it can be a challenging issue to address. A much more common problem is establishing paternity for a child born out of wedlock.

Consider having a legal ally during child custody dispute

There are a number of factors that can play into a child custody determination. We recently discussed the impact domestic violence can have on children and the role it can play in child custody disputes, but there are other significant issues that can be determinative in these conflicts. Substance abuse, physical and emotional abuse, financial resources, existing relationships, and even proximity to school and other family members can all be instructive to a court trying to resolve a child custody disagreement.

With so many factors in play, a parent has a lot of options when developing their legal arguments. It's important to remember that child custody and visitation decisions are made in accordance with a child's best interest, so all legal strategies need to be sure to address those interests. So, a parent could present evidence that demonstrates how the other parent's drug use negatively affects the child's physical and emotional well-being, or they could put forth evidence that shows that the other parent doesn't have appropriate financial resources to meet the child's needs.

Take advantage of advanced technology as a non-custodial parent

Even if you were the one who took the initial step by filing a divorce petition in a Virginia court, it doesn't mean it was easy to leave your kids. Adapting to a new lifestyle as a non-custodial parent typically takes time, patience and a lot of effort. Especially if your relationship with your ex is less than amicable, you might have worried how living with their other parent might negatively influence your children's attitude toward you.

The good news is that there are many ways to stay closely connected to your kids after divorce. After all, no longer wanting to be married to a particular person in no way means you are abdicating your parental rights or responsibilities. Advanced technology provides basic tools that can help play an active role in your children's lives as a non-custodial parent. Building a strong support network from the start is another good idea.

How automatic stays in Chapter 13 can help

Anyone can fall on hard financial times. The sudden loss of a job, the onset of an unexpected medical condition, even caring for aging loved ones can strain an individual's finances. Typically, these individuals try to do everything they can to stay afloat, even at the expense of their own emotional and fiscal well-being. Sadly, though, far too often these efforts are for naught because individuals in debt often wind up stuck in a spiral that only drives them deeper and deeper into debt.

This doesn't have to be the case. Instead, those facing insurmountable debt can choose to seek out true debt relief in the form of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy offers a multitude of protections. One of the biggest is the automatic stay. Upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition, most creditors are prevented from attempting to collect outstanding debt from an individual. This can keep an individual's home out of foreclosure and their car away from repossession. This stay gives a Chapter 13 debtor the opportunity to come up with a realistic repayment plan that they can accomplish over a number of years.

Divorce, property division, and the marital home

During marital dissolution, the property division process can be amongst the most contentious. There's good reason for this conflict, too. After all, the outcome of property division sets the stage for each individual's post-divorce financial situation. Therefore, those who neglect to aggressively pursue an outcome that furthers their best interests may wind up being taken advantage of.

While property division certainly deals with bank accounts, retirement accounts, and items of personal property, another common asset that must be addressed is the marital home. For many individuals, this residence represents not only a significant financial resource, but also an asset with substantial sentimental value. However, before deciding on a course of action regarding the marital home, individuals need to ensure that they know their options.

More older Americans are seeking bankruptcy protection

Financial difficulties can befall individuals of any age or economic class. The sudden loss of a job, the onset of an unexpected medical condition, or other major life events can throw an individual into financial despair. These individuals may struggle to get by, sometimes going to extraordinary measures to avoid bankruptcy, even though bankruptcy may be able to provide them with the debt relief they need.

Many older Americans are turning to bankruptcy for help. In fact, the number of individuals age 65 and older who are filing for bankruptcy has tripled since 1991. Although some of these filings can be attributed to the fact that many Americans are living longer and simply running out of money, there are other, more prevalent factors at play. Perhaps the biggest factor is medical costs. Although most senior citizens can rely on Medicaid to a certain extent, medical care has become so expensive that even government assistance isn't enough to stay afloat.

The effect of domestic violence on a child's well-being

For many Virginians, there is nothing more important to them than their children. When divorce or other issues arise between parents, children can be adversely affected. Although Virginia's family law courts seek to determine what is in the children's best interests when issuing orders regarding child custody and visitation, those orders are granted based on the information provided by the child's parents. Therefore, parents seeking sole custody or who are trying to restrict the other parent's access to the child need to present compelling evidence to support their position.

For example, if domestic violence is common in one parent's household, then it behooves the other parent to present evidence to that effect and demonstrate how the child will be negatively impacted by that violence. To start, studies have shown that children who live in a home where domestic violence occurs are much more likely to be subjected to physical abuse.

July sees significant increase in bankruptcy filings

If you're struggling with debt, you're not alone. In fact, in July alone, more than 64,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy, which was a 5% increase from the number of filings in June. There have been more than 450,000 bankruptcies filed in the first seven months of this year. If those numbers seem shockingly high, they aren't. Bankruptcy filings recently reached a 10 year low. Although 2018 saw 770,000 bankruptcies, that number is less than half of the number seen in 2010, which came in at 1.6 million.

There are a number of driving forces behind bankruptcy filings. While some individuals find themselves struggling with overwhelming debt simply due to overspending, most people who pursue bankruptcy are trying to find a way to cope with unexpected medical expenses or the sudden loss of a job. Far too often these individuals are left living paycheck to paycheck as interest rates and debt collection fees force them into a deeper hole of debt.

Your spouse's Facebook may be evidence at your divorce

When people post on their social media sites, they may do so from the privacy of their homes. However, that does not mean their posts are private. In fact, those messages often reach well beyond the poster's friends list.

Like many, you and your spouse may use your Facebook or Twitter accounts as sounding boards when you're having a bad day or a source of inspiration when things are going well for you. What you post or share, however, can have repercussions you may never expect, especially if you are going through a divorce.

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