February 2012 Archives

BAPCPA Drove Up Bankruptcy Cost For No Benefit?

February 28, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

400_F_8149068_G6FqNK8Lrs9X6TLq75mNJ0ALMLfmwyD3.jpgThe changes made to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 significantly increased the cost of filing for bankruptcy for consumer debtors without producing a statistically significant increase in creditor recoveries, according to a recently completed study funded by the American Bankruptcy Institute H.N. Schnelling Endowment Fund and the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education.

The study looked at what it cost a consumer to file for bankruptcy before and after the changes took effect. The study showed that the hardest hit were debtors who filed no asset Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Cases, with an increased cost of approximately 51 percent.

In Chapter 13 cases, the TDAC increased by 24 percent dismissed cases and by 27 percent in cases where the debtor received a discharge.

"It takes more skill and experienced to responsibly and professionally represent consumer debtors--especially in this economic climate--than it used to. "Moreover, the system is less tolerant of mistakes and yet there are so many more opportunities presented by BAPCPA for even seasoned attorneys to make errors. Without a detailed understanding of how to make the system work, the temptation is there for lawyers to 'cut corners' in order to minimize time spent on a client's case, or conversely, to spend so much time on a case that the legal fee exceeds what an insolvent client can reasonable afford.

Efficiency coupled with a high level of skill, while important to every area of law practice, is crucial to the success of a consumer bankruptcy practice. Best practices' for consumer bankruptcy lawyers requires finding a balance between comprehensively addressing a financially distressed client's interests, and doing so in a time sensitive and efficient manner", the report stated.

The Law Offices of James V. Sansone assists individuals file for bankruptcy protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.

Regular Monitored Visits Are Insufficient To Establish The Parent-Child Relationship Exception For Adoption

February 21, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

images.jpgIn a previous blog post I wrote about the process of terminating a parent's Parental Rights.

To summarize, A proceeding under Family Code Section 7800 et seq. may be brought if the child has been left in any of following circumstances:

1) Without provision for identification by his or her parent or parents; or

2) By both parents or by his or her sole parent in the care and custody of another person without any provision for support or without communication from the parent or parents for six months; or

3) By one parent in the care and custody of the other parent without any provision for support or without communication from the absent parent for a period of one year.

A common defense to termination is that the parent whose rights are to be terminated has a sufficient bond with the child which would make termination not in the best interest of the child or children. However, now it appears that regular monitored visits are insufficient to establish a parent-child relationship.

Continue reading "Regular Monitored Visits Are Insufficient To Establish The Parent-Child Relationship Exception For Adoption" »

The Student Loan Debt Bomb: America's Next Mortgage Economic Crisis

February 14, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

student-loan-consolidation.jpgThe National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) prepared a report regarding the dischargeability of student loans in the bankruptcy court. I have summarized the report below, but click here to review the entire report .

According to the NACBA, Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards. The amount of student borrowing crossed the $100 billion threshold for the first time in 2010 and total outstanding loans and exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year. The reason: Students and workers seeking retraining are borrowing extraordinary amounts of money through federal and private loan programs to help cover the rising cost of college and training. In many cases, parents responsible for the student loans are in or near retirement years and facing repayment demands.

How big is the danger to the U.S. economy? "Evidence is mounting that student loans could be the next trouble spot for lenders," said Dr. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at FICO and head of FICO Labs.

With rising debt comes increased risk, both to borrowers and to the economy in general. Even in the best of economic times when jobs are plentiful, young people with considerable debt burdens end up delaying life-cycle events such as buying a car, purchasing a home, getting married and having children. Piling up student loans in middle age is even more troublesome. Aside from the simple truth that there is less time to earn back the money, it also means facing retirement years still deeply in debt. And, parents who take out loans for children or co-sign loans will find those loans more difficult to pay as they stop working and their incomes decline.

Continue reading "The Student Loan Debt Bomb: America's Next Mortgage Economic Crisis" »

Update on NACBA's Principal Paydown Plan

February 7, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

underwater.jpgAccording to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), the proposed principal paydown plan has hit a road block.

According to an e-mail update issued by the NACBA, NACBA's Principal Paydown Plan to help underwater homeowners in chapter 13 bankruptcy avoid foreclosure, has been endorsed by a substantial number of Members of Congress who in turn have pushed for action by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to implement the plan. In a series of private meetings and in letters to FHFA, Senators and Members of Congress have asked the FHFA to use its authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to require them to agree to the Principal Paydown Plan when proposed by a homeowner trying to save a home in chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Despite FHFA Director DeMarco's initial positive comments about the Principal Paydown Plan, which he said struck him as "being responsible," and a "credible way to address the crisis while recognizing various interests mortgaged properties," he recently wrote to Congress informing them that the agency would not be implementing the Principal Paydown Plan. FHFA concluded that few GSE borrowers have filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy and are underwater and therefore the proposal would not be all that helpful. They did, however, commit to doing what they can to help eligible borrowers in bankruptcy get the HAMP modifications they qualify for.

While the FHFA response is disappointing and inadequate, and we believe wrong, we are gratified that the many Members of Congress who have pushed for this solution continue to be engaged and are looking for ways to get the Principal Paydown Plan implemented despite the FHFA's position. These Members of Congress recognize, as so many of us do, that the foreclosure crisis is not going away anytime soon and so long as it continues, the nation will not enjoy the kind of recovery that is needed to stabilize the economy and get people back to work.

Post-Separation Disability Benefits Are Not Community Property

February 2, 2012, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

divide-property-california-divorce-150x150.jpgIn the United States there are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Puerto Rico allows property to be owned as community property also as do several Indian jurisdictions. Alaska is an opt-in community property state; property is separate property unless both parties agree to make it community property through a community property agreement or a community property trust.

The state of California considers any property acquired during a valid marriage by a husband or wife community property. Sections 760 and 771 of the California Family Code outline the state law pertaining to community property.

IRMO Walker, Ralph and Elena married in 1993. They separated in January 2008, and, in March 2008, Elena filed a petition for legal separation. Ralph was 47 years old at the time of their separation. He had worked as a public school teacher until January 2008, when he left his employment due to a disability. Ralph has been a member of CalSTRS since 1986, and he had just under 20 years of CalSTRS service credit when he left his employment.

Ralph had applied for a CalSTRS disability allowance after the couple separated, and CalSTRS granted his application retroactive to December 2008.

In August 2009, the court entered a "STIPULATION AND ORDER" under which the parties agreed to "enter into a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) regarding Respondent's right to receive disability benefits from CalSTRS.

After several legal challenges to the characterization of this asset, the court found that his CalSTRS disability benefits were not his separate property.

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