In order to determine if you should be granted the use and privilege of a credit card, mortgage, car loan or other source of funding, most creditors rely heavily on your credit report.  These credit reports are generated by information provided by your current creditors, that is those who you owe money for goods and services.  The score itself is derived by looking at several factors including you new debt, the type of credit used, the total amounts owed, your payment history and how long you have owed a certain debt.   

It’s estimated that 3 out of 4 credit reports contain some sort of inaccurate information.  If one of your creditors reports something negative, such as a missed payment, or an improper amount of debt owed, your credit score can decline.  So what do you do if someone has misrepresented a fact to the major credit boroughs?

The first step that you must take is become informed.  More specifically, you must know that there is a misrepresentation on your credit report and in order to do that, you need to get a copy of your credit report and review it.  The Federal Trade Commission, (“FTC”) is the government agency that regulates and monitors credit scoring, credit collections and all debt issues.  Several years ago, the FTC and other political figures pushed for a law that allows consumers to get a free credit report annually without needing to pay.  In order to obtain a free credit report you can go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. 

            Once you have confirmed that your credit report contains inaccurate information, The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides a means for correcting these mistakes by allowing you to challenge any information you believe to be incorrect. If you challenge something and the information isn’t verified within a certain period of time, the Act even requires that it be automatically removed. You can complete this process of challenging the information on your own or you can hire a professional to assist you; it is a very time consuming process oftentimes, so you must decide how much time you are able and willing to devote to the process when deciding whether or not to seek out help.

As you move forward in an effort to repair your credit, it is also helpful to be aware that there are protections available to you from debt collectors as outlined in the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Protection Act) that protects you from excessive and inappropriate collection methods. You can set what times collection calls can come and where, especially if you do so in writing. Generally they’re allowed to call any number they have between 8AM and 9PM. However, if you make them aware of a certain time or place that calls would be inappropriate; they are not allowed to call.

How bankruptcy can affect children

March 2nd, 2010, 2:53 pm

The affects of bankruptcy can have a lasting impact on a person. Once a child is involved the affects can last for a long time. The topic of dealing with the affects of bankruptcy on children is not a topic that has received much attention over the years, but this topic is one that should be addressed.In many cases, parents try to minimize the affect of a bankruptcy on the family. Children in most situations may not even know anything has transpired. Moreover, it may be far less traumatic even if the children know their parents are facing financial distress, then to know your home has been taken away by the bank.

Once a bankruptcy claim is filed the courts will decide which debts require payment. As such, the court can determine that certain expenses are allowed while others are not. Once such expenses is 529 plans or other savings accounts for college. During times like this consulting with an attorney can be beneficial in order to get a good understanding of how your child may be affected once you file for bankruptcy.  In addition, there are many other situations that can comingle a parents debt with the financial interest of their kids.  To read more about these situations, check out Jonathan Ginsberg an Atlanta bankrutpcy attorney’s blog. 

There is no doubt that the stress of bankruptcy can take a toll on a child. A study conducted by the Iowa State University Institute for Social and Behavioral Research states that children who experience socioeconomic adversity at an early age are at an increased risk of experiencing mental health challenges during their teen years. A child may begin to wonder whether or not their family will have a place to live or what will happen to them in the future. A family’s financial status can affect a child because of society’s emphasis on being financial stable and achieving a certain level of success. Once a child realizes the lack of financial resources available for their family that child may be embarrassed and could be subjected to negative treatment amongst his or her peers.

Despite all the negative emotions associated with bankruptcy it is important to keep your children involved in the financial matters of your family. If a parent is laid off from their job of made the decision to file for bankruptcy the financial make up of that family changes. The next step is to explain the financial situation of your family with your children so they are aware of the situation. Parents must remember that children are learning from how their parents are dealing with bankruptcy and other financial matters.

The issue of bankruptcy is not an issue topic to discuss. For parents the issue of bankruptcy can become even harder to explain because their financial outlook can be affected as well. Despite this obstacle, it is important to minimize as much stress as possible and make the right decisions that will benefit your children in the future.

When you work with an attorney on a bankruptcy filing, there’s a long list of documents you’ll be asked to gather and give to your attorney. Some of the most critical documents you’ll gather are your last three years’ worth of tax filings, both state and federal. Why are these so important?First, and most important, tax returns contain a great deal of the financial information that your attorney will use when preparing your bankruptcy petition. Your attorney will review your returns to get a good foundational grasp of your financial situation—what real estate you own and whether it’s investment property; what bank accounts or investments you may hold; whether you are self-employed and how the business has been doing over time, and so on.

Similarly, your attorney uses your tax returns as a kind of financial checklist when preparing your bankruptcy petition. Most of the information that you’ve already reported on your tax returns is information that your attorney must include in your petition.

Importantly, bankruptcy is information-based. In other areas of law, when you go to court, you may be asked to testify and tell your side of the story. At your bankruptcy hearing, your bankruptcy petition—the specialized financial report that your attorney has presented to the court for approval—tells your story for you. The bankruptcy trustee who examines your petition may ask some questions, but the more accurate and detailed your attorney’s information, the easier it is for the bankruptcy trustee to review and approve your petition.

So don’t flinch when your attorney asks for copies of your tax returns. You can share them confidently, knowing that your attorney is helping you toward bankruptcy’s “fresh financial start.”

The forgoing post was drafted by Attorneys Marsha Graham and Liz Weishaar who work in an of counsel relationship with the Law Office of Goldstein and Clegg, as well as for Weishaar and Graham.