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Advice on handling an attorney

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  • Advice on handling an attorney

    I first contacted my bk attorney in late June, when it became obvious a bankruptcy would be unavoidable. At that time, I didn't realize that I didn't have to file RIGHT NOW, and that I could stop payment on my credit card bills a little while and take steps to file a more strategic bankruptcy (thank you, forum!)

    In the intervening months, I've kept the attorney's office updated with changes in my situation, which include:
    • The realization that while unmarried, the fact that I have a domestic partner means we are a two-person household (as per a West Michigan legal decision I located)
    • I started covering my partner on my employer's health care plan as a domestic partner, which increases my monthly expenses but also adds something called "imputed income" - does that count toward gross wages or not?
    • Bought a new car
    • Had a surgery
    • etc

    I talked to my attorney's assistant today, and she's preparing paperwork for filing. But I get the sense that the attorney hasn't really given these changes the attention they deserve. For example, she told me I would be filing as an unmarried, one-person household. I don't believe that's to my advantage, as my partner has been virtually unemployed outside of a seasonal retail job before Christmas and I am supporting her with next to no income contributed to the household on her part.

    I argued my case on the phone, but she kept saying, no, the attorney said to do this...

    Obviously, I need to present my concerns. I've downloaded a copy of the means test and filled in the values that I *believe* are correct, and show me qualifying for a Chapter 7. When we first met, my attorney and I both thought I couldn't qualify for that filing as a one-person household.

    So, the question is - what advice do you have when it comes to handling a law office that seem to want to adhere the path plotted out during the initial meeting?

    I don't the guy is out to railroad me or anything. I just *obsess* over things, and want to do whatever I need to do to give me the best possible outcome.


  • #2
    Stop dealing with the paralegal on the phone and set up another face to face meeting with the lawyer. Only then can you ask your questions to the attorney and receive his/her responses. Good luck.
    Filed Chapter 13 02/2006 - Confirmed 05/2006 - Discharged 09/2011
    I'm not an attorney. My replies are merely suggestions or observations, not legal advice. As always, consult with an attorney before making any decisions.


    • #3
      Yes, stop talking to the paralegal. When you talk to the attorney, tell them, "we previously discussed doing x and now you are doing y. Why do you now believe we can't do x?" If you don't understand the answer, keep asking questions. Don't back down until you understand the attorney's advice.
      LadyInTheRed is in the black!
      Filed Chap 13 April 2010. Discharged May 2015.
      $143,000 in debt discharged for $36,500, including attorneys fees. Money well spent!


      • #4
        My attorney's office got confused by this, too. I am also not married, but paid my other half's health insurance premiums last year. My job, per their finance department for tax purposes, had to report their contribution to it as imputed income on my pay stub, but then took the imputed amount out post tax, so one cancelled the other. They understood at that point and did not include it as my gross income, but did include the health insurance expense. If that's what's being done on your paystub, then you should point that out to your attorney.
        Chapter 7 filed 10/8/10...341 Meeting 12/6/10....Discharged 2/16/2011....Case Closed! 3/1/2011


        • #5
          Thanks, Broke. It's strange because the amount added as imputed income doesn't equal the increase in tax taken out of the paycheck. But you can definitely see how that "imputed income" isn't cash in hand that I can use to buy groceries or pay bills. It's like Monopoly money that I have to use real money to pay taxes on.


          • #6
            The DP health insurance premium deduction, and the imputed income both were post tax deductions. My attorney "got it" after I explained it was a tax thing that my company does and it is not actual case in hand. My company did a 50/50 contribution. I paid 50% of the DP health insurance premium, but they put 100% of it as imputed income and I have to check the math, but I'm pretty sure they took that 100% out post tax. And my suggestion is to explain this directly to your attorney. My attorney's paralegal isn't the sharpest tack in the drawer, either, if you're not happy with the paperwork, don't sign it.
            Chapter 7 filed 10/8/10...341 Meeting 12/6/10....Discharged 2/16/2011....Case Closed! 3/1/2011


            • #7
              Oops...type-o. Case actually was Cash....sorry
              Chapter 7 filed 10/8/10...341 Meeting 12/6/10....Discharged 2/16/2011....Case Closed! 3/1/2011


              • #8
                So, I'm going to meet with my attorney today, and I'm going loaded up with local case law, cases out of state referring to our local case law, and my own estimation of how the means test should be filled out in my case. Wish me luck.

                If I'm doing all this work that he should be doing, shouldn't I get a discount?


                • #9
                  That's funny, Lorelei.....right.....
                  Chapter 7 filed 10/8/10...341 Meeting 12/6/10....Discharged 2/16/2011....Case Closed! 3/1/2011


                  • #10
                    A side effect of being a control freak is never knowing when to trust that someone is telling you a truth you don't want to hear. I don't know if that's the case here, or if the attorney is really pushing me toward a Chapter 13 when by being aggressive I could qualify for a 7.

                    Getting some second opinions. The fun just never ends.


                    • #11
                      If you don't get a good vibe off the attorney, then shop around. Keep in mind that some lawyers will push you to a 13 because they get more fees out of the deal. My attorney is an associate for his a-hole boss, who owns the firm. He clerked with a BK judge, and knew he could get me through a 7. I was on the cusp, too. The a-hole boss wanted me to go 13, and made her paralegal fill out the paperwork as such. I made them redo it while I sat there. My attorney's great, and I told him to get away from his a-hole boss, because she just wants the cash, he actually cared and wanted the best for me. I'm anal, control freak, and I'll have to ask my other half what else, but if I'm handing you cash to C.M.A., it better be done to my best interest. Good luck, and keep us posted!
                      Chapter 7 filed 10/8/10...341 Meeting 12/6/10....Discharged 2/16/2011....Case Closed! 3/1/2011


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