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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Brenda's experience helpful.

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My marriage fell apart after 13-years, and when my estranged husband stopped paying any bills, untangling our finances became a scary necessity. The home we purchased went upside-down during the real estate bust in 2008 and I had to return my new car to the dealer, who wanted $12,000 to settle the loan. Credit card debt and two secured loans also haunted me as I settled in California after 14 years in Colorado.

Making the decision

For about a year, I considered my options, and bankruptcy seemed the best route. I had never changed my last name after marriage and I hoped that would make it easier. I also knew that bankruptcy laws had changed and the discharge of all debt might not apply to my situation. I had to decide:

• If I really wanted to file for bankruptcy or see if the creditors would work with me
• How to separate my debt from his, if possible
• How bankruptcy would affect my future
• If I had the courage to do this by myself

I made an appointment for a free consultation with a local bankruptcy attorney. I was told to bring all the collection notices and bills I had. Unfortunately, the circumstances of my leaving Colorado had made it impossible for me to bring anything but my daughter and my dog.

I took one collection notification that reflected the amount owed on my car and wrote down what I could remember in a notebook. The attorney explained the types of bankruptcy and the differences.

My situation fit the requirements for filing Chapter 12 bankruptcy.

The attorney handed me a list of all the information I needed to gather and steps to take before my next appointment. I left more confused than relieved.

Gathering information

I thought an attorney did all the work. Not so. I had to:

• Get my credit report
• Get my husband’s credit report
• Fill out all the court papers
• Take two credit-counseling classes and provide two certificates of completion
• List all my assets
• List all my monthly expenses

Finding free credit reports took a couple of days and a lot of reading. I finally found the website for my one free yearly credit report chose a credit reporting company. I found my husband’s Social Security number and printed his report too. For my husband’s report, I chose a different credit reporting company because my attorney said each company might show different information.

Finding all my debt

I found reading the credit reports quite difficult. They each had at least 20 pages, and deciphering the information gave me a headache. The reports listed:

• The company currently holding the debt
• The address and phone number for that company
• The date the account originated
• The last payment received
• The amount owed
• The person responsible for paying

Without both reports, I would have left several creditors out of the bankruptcy. The credit reports did not always list the original account holder.

For example, a $110 debt showed only the collection agency. I called the agency and after giving them the name and address of my attorney, they said I owed the money to a dentist who had filled my tooth five years earlier.

Finding all my debt became frustrating when several collection agencies refused to give information about who originally had the accounts. Notification of bankruptcy went to all the creditors I owed except for those original account holders that my attorney and I could not find.

My attorney gave me several sheets printed with bankruptcy notifications to mail to any creditor who contacted me after the 30-day dispute period ended. I never had to use any, and the dispute period passed without any calls.

The fees added up to $2,000, which I made in payments, and he filed the bankruptcy request after receiving the last payment.

After the bankruptcy

I went into my bankruptcy thinking the attorney would find all my creditors and fill out the court papers. Knowing now that attorneys do not do that, I would keep better records and have them all together when I need them quickly.

During my marriage, I would have kept a separate bank account, in my name, for emergencies. Everyone needs a separate emergency bank account, in my opinion.

I know now that many employers do a credit check before hiring and that the bankruptcy excludes me from certain jobs. I find it surprising that the bankruptcy gives the impression I am financially irresponsible and that employers use it as a tool for choosing job candidates.

I check my credit report each year and still find the foreclosure of our house in Colorado and the bankruptcy listed on top as potentially harmful information. After 10 years, the bankruptcy still has an adverse impact on my credit.

No other solution would have worked for my situation at the time, and not shouldering all that debt now feels wonderful.

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