Roanoke Legal Issues Blog

Medical debt continues to spur personal bankruptcy

Health care has been a focus of the political world for decades. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, many were hopeful that more Americans would be able to obtain the medical care they needed at a fair price. Sadly, though, a recently released study conducted by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project found that two-thirds of bankruptcy filings were spurred by unaffordable medical expenses and lost income caused by a medical condition. This number is in-line with bankruptcy statistics that pre-date the Affordable Care Act.

The tragic reality is that many Americans are facing financial devastation at the hands of medical bills. The study found that approximately 530,000 Americans are finding their financial resources completely depleted due to medical expenses. While many Americans have health insurance through their employer, many of these plans are riddled with loopholes and exceptions that leave individuals under-insured. In short, most of us are one serious medical condition away from financial ruin.

Can student loan debt be discharged through bankruptcy?

A vast portion of the population is struggling to find a way to cope with student loan payments. Some of these individuals feel cheated, since they felt that higher education was necessary to achieve a better financial outlook, only to be saddled with burdensome debt for years to come. This is especially true for those who find themselves on hard economic times, whether due to an unexpected medical condition, a lost job or wages that don't live up to expectations.

This leads many to consider bankruptcy. However, those considering personal bankruptcy should be aware that it is extremely difficult to discharge student loan debt through the bankruptcy process. In order to succeed, an individual must show that the student loan repayment plan poses an undue hardship. This can be challenging, especially given the various income-based repayment plans available to borrowers. However, successfully discharging this debt is not impossible.

How best interest of the child is determined in custody cases

To determine custody decision, the courts top priority in all considerations is the "best interest" of the child.

 But, what exactly are these best interests and how do the courts determine which interests are most important?

Prenuptial agreements to avoid troublesome property division

Divorce can be an emotionally and financially taxing process. It can leave individuals angry and fearful for their future. This can force people to aggressively pursue the things that are important to them, whether that be child support, child custody or certain assets during the property division process. As contentious as these matters can be, a number of them can be avoided even before the issues arise.

This is frequently accomplished through prenuptial agreements. These agreements are essentially contracts between soon-to-be spouses that dictate how certain divorce legal issues will be settled in the event of divorce. A prenuptial agreement can specify how assets will be divided and determine which property will be considered separate and which will be considered marital, which can have tremendous ramifications for the property division process. A prenuptial agreement can also spell out how debts will be divided, which can help protect an individual from unexpected financial obligations post-divorce.

Roanoke firm stands ready to assist with child custody issues

Our last post on the blog discussed substance abuse and the profound impact it can have on children. Since it can have a tremendous effect on children, substance abuse issues should be aggressively litigated when brought up in the context of a child custody dispute. After all, the presence of substance abuse, if presented to the court effectively, can result in reduced or even eliminated contact with one's child. Therefore, when confronting this issue, there is often a lot at stake.

But substance abuse is not the only factor that can play a role in a child custody or visitation determination. Issues such as domestic violence, the child's relationship with the parent, the child's ability to retain close connections to other family members and a parent's financial ability to care for the child can all be crucial in the outcomes of these disputes. Parents who are unable to present their position in an aggressive and persuasive way may find themselves in danger of losing their relationship with their child.

How substance abuse affects child custody and visitation

Child custody and visitation disputes are always resolved with the child's best interest in mind. This is true regardless of whether the matter is settled between parents or decided by a court of law. Because there are many factors that can contribute to a child's best interest, these issues are usually ripe for legal argument.

As the opioid epidemic continues to wrap its icy grip around the country, many families are struggling to figure out how substance abuse affects child custody and visitation issues. The simple answer is that substance abuse can have a tremendous impact on a child's well-being and therefore the legal issues that affect them. Children who are exposed to parents who struggle with substance abuse issues are more likely to have low self-esteem, poor school performance and an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Chapter 7, the meeting of creditors, and the automatic stay

If you are facing serious financial challenges, then you're likely open to all debt relief options. One of the most effective ways to wipe out debt is to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, before doing so you should do your best to fully understand the process, its benefits and its disadvantages. This week we hope to give you a little clearer sense of part of the process and one of its biggest advantages.

Let's start with one important part of the process: the meeting of creditors. About a month after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is filed, the trustee in the case will bring all of the petitioner's creditors together. The purpose of this meeting is two-fold. First, it seeks to give creditors a clearer sense of the petitioner's financial situation. Second, it serves as an opportunity for the petitioner to be put on the record affirming that he or she knows what the bankruptcy entails. For these reasons, it is important that petitioner's attend these meetings. If they don't, then they may not be successful in seeking bankruptcy.

Debt consolidation may not always be as good as it sounds

When your debt seems insurmountable, the never-ending stream of debt consolidation offers can seem not only ideal, but life-changing. Offers boast promising statements like lowering your interest rates, decreasing your monthly payments and keeping creditors from continually pestering you.

Unfortunately, these promises are sometimes too good to be true. In some cases, debt consolidation is simply not the answer you may have hoped it was.

Child custody, visitation and bird nesting

Dealing with child custody and visitation issues during and after divorce are perhaps the most challenging things a parent can face. Yet, many American parents face this tough reality. Sometimes, though, they are able to work out custody and visitation agreements amicably. Many parents are able to utilize these agreements to ensure that they maintain their bond and relationship with their child. However, in some instances this simply is not the case.Regardless of a parent's situation, creative thinking is often necessary to reach adequate child custody and visitation arrangements. One way to do this is to engage in what is often referred to as "bird nesting." This is a process by which parents keep a familial home so that children can maintain a sense of stability while the parents rotate in and out of the home according to a pre-arranged schedule. Of course, this can be challenging for parents, as they oftentimes will share a separate residence such as an apartment so that they can stay there when it is not their time to stay with the children in the familial home.This kind of arrangement can be beneficial to children because it allows them to stay in the same school, keep their same friends, see their parents regularly and be comfortable in the home that they have grown accustomed to. However, some experts warn that long term nesting can be detrimental to parents' relationships and their relationships with their children. This can be especially true when one parent begins a relationship with another individual. After all, one parent may be hurt and find it problematic when it is their turn to reside in the familial home with the children and they see signs of a boyfriend or girlfriend having spent significant time there with the children. Additionally, long-term nesting can leave children unsure of what the future holds with regard to their parents living arrangements, their living arrangements and their parents' relationship. Therefore, many experts recommend utilizing the nesting technique for only three months to six months.Child custody and visitation issues can be enormously complex depending on the facts at hand. By utilizing creative thinking and addressing issues head-on, an individual can ensure that he or she reaches an agreement that furthers the children's best interest. When these types of arrangements cannot be negotiated with the other parent, then the parents will likely have to take the matter to court and litigate the issue in front of a judge. Whether an individual is able to negotiate a resolution or must litigate it, the assistance of a skilled family law attorney often proves beneficial.

How does Chapter 13 bankruptcy compare to Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Whether it is due to a job loss, medical debt, credit card bills or a mortgage, there are many reasons why people in Roanoke may be in serious financial trouble. These problems are only exacerbated when debt collectors start calling, their utilities are turned off or they are facing foreclosure. Fortunately, there is a way to address these problems and obtain a fresh financial start: filing for bankruptcy.

Generally, there are two types of bankruptcy a person can choose from. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a person can keep certain exempt assets. Their remaining assets are liquidated, and the proceeds used to pay their creditors. When the process is complete, many types of debts will be discharged. It is a short process, taking only three to six months to complete.

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Wilson C. Pasley, PLC
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Roanoke, VA 24011

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