Welcome to Debtor’s Prison

I can’t afford to file bankruptcy.  That’s one rather frightening realisation I came to during my Wednesday morning meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer.  Mind you, I’m pressing on through this lovely little process.  For those of you (the many, many of you) who are considering this journey, let me take you along mine for a bit.

A few years ago, I was quite successful.  I was in school full time, working almost full time, and paying my bills with money left over.  At the beginning of this year, I was fighting my way through debt.  In April, I gave up entirely and stopped paying certain bills.  Last week, the lovely folks at Discover card let me know they’d be taking legal action at the end of this month.  This week, I went to see a lawyer.

I can’t quite claim to understand the American governmental system, even though I’ve lived her quite some time now. I do know, though, that the losing party in a legal case pays all court costs.  I did *not* know that that included paying the fees for lawyers arguing the other side.  Lovely.  If credit card companies take people who can’t pay the balance to court, do they really think those people will be able to pay court costs?  I don’t quite understand how that process works.  I do understand, however, that it makes my head hurt.

Bankruptcy, for someone with the sort of debt I have, is relatively simply.  I haven’t any assets or anything else, really, of great value.  I have got a loan on my car and a few student loans, but the whole process affects neither of those (in my case, at least).

The packet of paperwork is daunting.  Page after page of list this and sign that.  I feel like a child who has been bad and needs her wrist slapped.  The lawyer told me I’d go through something similar to that.  I’m guessing that will come with the $100 dollar financial counselling process that comes before and after filing.  My favourite part of the process, though, is the $1500 dollar fee that comes along with it.  $1399 is needed up front.  That’s understandable– a bankruptcy lawyer won’t quite expect their clients to pay them unless they collect the money up front.  It’s still a bit of a stiff price for someone filing bankruptcy to start.  Argh.  As I told my best friend, I’m saving up to buy myself my very own bankruptcy lawyer.

In the meantime, I’m gathering up all the information needed and speaking to the most wonderful creditors one has ever spoken with before.  Here’s a note to collections agencies *and* credit card companies:  most of us who are in debt are not people who have neglected their finances.  We’re people who lost jobs and decided basic essentials were more important.  I rather enjoy having soap, you know.  Electricity is nice, too.  It’s winter.  Things get cold without heat.  In truth, I guess I should apologise to the lovely people who answer phones at these organisations.  I didn’t realise I was stealing money directly from their pockets.  I must be, though, considering how many of them have told me about people like me making this country morally and financially bankrupt.  I didn’t realise I was so important.

I’ve read quite alot of 18th-Century literature and, being a Brit by birth, I understand well history of the class system, including the start of the proletariat .  Communism is starting to make sense.

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3 thoughts on “Welcome to Debtor’s Prison

  1. Been there, done that. It was hilarious to me, at the time, to find out that I had to save up for bankruptcy. Though they let me do payments, but I had to have it paid before they would do the court filing. There were days I could not eat. Not so hilarious. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

    • Thanks, Kate. Bloody annoying, isn’t it? I think I was able to find more work as a child. Grr… Glad thinks worked out for you in the end.

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