Today I received a call from a prospective client who was upset with their current bankruptcy attorney. They claimed that their current attorney was not giving them accurate advice, specifically, that the attorney had informed them that information pertaining to a non-filing spouse’s income and expenses was not needed to prepare a bankruptcy filing. That’s generally not the case, but in this instance, the parties had only been married for a short period. But when I started asking some other basic questions, what I got in return was whole a lot of bull.
The caller told me that the husband and wife resided together for about a year prior to the wedding. I told the caller that based on that, I would be required to consider the non-filing spouse’s income not only for the schedules (income and expenses), but also for the means test (actually, it’s the Bankruptcy Code that requires it). But as soon as the information was disclosed, the caller started back-peddling.
“No one can prove it.”
When I hear those words from a client at any time, a red flag goes up. I replied that I was just told that they resided together. The caller then began to get irate (or was back peddling faster and faster). The caller started reciting how their driver’s license had never been changed, and how the bills were still mailed to another address, and how no one could prove that they lived together …even though I had just been told.
But here’s the thing: at the risk repeating myself, I had just been told that they were living together for the year prior to the marriage. Now the caller wants me to move forward under a new assumption that they did not. I did not even get into the myriad of other questions I had because the caller was insisting that I take their new version of the facts.
Stuff like this gives bankruptcy a bad name. There are many honest people out there who are desperately trying to deal with their crushing debt. They are struggling with high house payments, rising gas and food prices, and stagnant incomes. They deserve the relief the code provides. But when it comes to changing bankruptcy laws, you can bet that Congress will remember more about the debtors who are not honest.
After hearing enough back peddling, I terminated the phone call. If a debtor cannot or will not be honest with me in the first communication, there is no incentive to provide legal counsel. The job of any good bankruptcy attorney is to take the facts – the truth – and work with them. If you are looking for a good bankruptcy attorney, and you’re trying to obtain the relief available under the US Bankruptcy Code, honesty is not going to kill you. As a matter of fact, honesty up front will mean that you’ll get the best advice about whether you should file bankruptcy….or not.
- Honesty and Bankruptcy, Part III: The Reality Check and the Boy Scout
- Honesty and Bankruptcy, Part I: Day of the Living Dishonest
- Honesty: Truly the best policy
- Honesty and Bankruptcy, Part II: Feeling Dishonest
- Hope Floats (or Sinks)