Thursday, August 30, 2012

What effect does bankruptcy have on your credit score?

First of all, you should know that bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to ten years. Other bad debts are removed after seven, but not bankruptcy. The impact that a bankruptcy filing has on your credit really depends on your credit report and score before filing. Many times people considering bankruptcy already have negative collections or bad debts on their report. So, they may already have a low credit score. Bankruptcy may not affect their credit scores as negatively as someone with a higher score. If you have a fairly high score and little bad debt listed, your score will probably take a quite a hit after filing your case.

How quickly your score improves after filing depends on you. After filing you will probably start to see lots of credit offers in the mail. Many financial advisors and bankruptcy attorneys suggest obtaining a low limit, secured credit card after filing. Use it on small purchases (like gasoline) and pay it off each month. And be sure to make all of your payments on time. This will slowly start to rebuild your credit. You can also look into obtaining a small line of credit from your bank or credit union. For some, the thought of obtaining new debt after filing for bankruptcy may be a scary thing. But, it’s a surefire way to slowly start rebuilding your credit.

You also want to ensure that your credit report is accurate after filing for bankruptcy. You can pull your credit report for free once a year at Pull your credit report and check that all of the debt that was included in your filing is reflected that way on your report. If something is incorrect, contact each of the three credit bureaus and get it corrected right away. You will need to send each of the bureaus copies of your notice of case filing, discharge notice, and schedules from your filed petition showing the debts that were included.

Rebuilding your credit after filing for bankruptcy can be a long process. But you just have to keep in mind that it is achievable. You didn’t get into financial trouble over night, so you can’t expect to dig out of it that quickly. It will take some time, patience, and hard work on your part. The bankruptcy gave you the fresh start that you needed. Now you just have to be willing to put in the work to get you back in a good financial position.

Blog Contributed By: Kelly Snyder

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Child Orders of Protection: A Brief Overview

Orders of protection are available to children as well as adults. In Missouri, child orders of protection are governed by the Missouri Revised Statutes §§ 455.500 - 455.538. These statutory sections are known as the Child Protection Orders Act.

When is a child order of protection available?
An order of protection may be sought on behalf of a child in situations where the child has been a victim of domestic violence by a former or current household member or any person stalking the child. Domestic violence itself is broadly defined by statute as abuse or stalking. Abuse generally encompasses, but is not limited to, assault, battery, coercion, harassment, sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment. Child discipline, such as spanking, does not constitute abuse as long as it is performed in a reasonable manner. Stalking occurs when a person intentionally engages in a pattern of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose, causes fear of physical harm, and is repeated over time.

Who can file?
A verified petition for a child order of protection may be filed by a parent or guardian of the child, the juvenile officer, or guardian ad litem or court-appointed special advocate that has been appointed for the child.

The petition may be filed in the county where the child resides, where the respondent may be served, or where the alleged abuse took place. Orders of protection are designed for immediate access and are generally pro se friendly. Court clerks are available to explain the filing procedures and provide the necessary forms to petitioners who are not represented by counsel. There are no filing fees for child orders of protection.

What happens next?
Once a verified petition has been filed, a guardian ad litem or court-appointed special advocate will be appointed for the child. A hearing will be set for no later than fifteen days after the filing of the petition. To provide relief for the time that elapses prior to the hearing, the court may issue an ex parte order.

Ex Parte Orders
Ex parte orders essentially provide temporary relief. Upon the filing of a verified petition, an ex parte will only be issued upon a finding that there are no prior or pending orders of custody, and that the respondent is not younger than seventeen years old. If the petition shows good cause, the court can immediately issue an ex parte order of protection. Good cause may be shown by an immediate and present danger of abuse to the child. A respondent does not need to receive notice or have an opportunity to be heard for an ex parte order to be issued.

Intended to protect the child victim, ex parte orders can include terms that the court deems necessary to ensure the child’s safety. An order can restrain the respondent from disturbing the peace of the child, communicating with the child, and abusing or threatening the child. An order can also exclude the respondent the family home or household if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the children remaining in the home, that there is a substantial risk of domestic violence unless the respondent is excluded, and that a remaining adult household member is able to care for the children in the respondent’s absence. An ex parte order can also include a temporary custody order.

An ex parte order remains in effect until the time of the hearing. At the hearing, the court may grant a full order or protection.

Full Orders of Protection
Unlike ex parte orders, full orders of protection are issued after the respondent has received notice of the hearing and had an opportunity to be heard. Personal service upon the respondent is required at least three days before the hearing for the issuance of a full order of protection.

At the hearing, a full order may be granted by the court if the petitioner proves the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. Full orders of protection can temporarily enjoin the respondent from engaging in same actions and manners as ex parte orders. Upon issuing a full order of protection, the court can also award custody, visitation, child support, and maintenance, all subject to certain conditions. In addition, the court can order the respondent to participate in counseling, pay the cost of any treatment, make rent or mortgage payments, or pay fees for housing and other services that are provided to the child by a shelter for domestic violence victims.

Full orders of protection remain in effect for at least 180 days, but not for longer than one year. The order may be renewed upon another hearing. A finding of a subsequent or new act of abuse toward the child is not necessary for the renewal of a protection order.

For more information on this matter, contact the Kansas City Attorneys of Heartland Law.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Paternity Suits

A paternity suit is a lawsuit, usually by the mother of a child, to establish the legal relationship between a child and his/her biological father under Missouri’s version of the Uniform Parentage Act.

There are three parts to a paternity action:
  1. A judicial declaration of paternity and ordering father’s name to be added to the birth certificate, 
  2. A child support order, 
  3. A plan for custody and visitation referred to as a parenting plan. 

Evidence of paternity can be from various sources including
  1. A DNA test, 
  2. A signed Affidavit of Paternity at the hospital at the time of the birth, 
  3. aEvidence that the child was presented as ones’ child, including bringing the child home to raise. 

The parenting plan for the child addresses whether custody will be sole custody or joint custody and provides a schedule for visits. The Missouri legislature has expressed a preference for joint custody and takes the position that a continuing relationship with both parents is the ideal for a child’s healthy development. The parenting plan will provide for decision making as to the child’s education, medical care and religious upbringing. Child support is determined based on a calculation that takes the parents’ income and expenses into account. One of the parent’s addresses is designate the child’s permanent address for residential and educational purposes.

The parenting plan becomes a permanent part of the final judgment, providing the legal structure of the family of the child in the absence of a marriage, as well as protection in the event of interference with custody.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do You Need A Lawyer To File For Bankruptcy?

In this day and age, the internet has become a viable source for everything from buying groceries to purchasing a plane ticket. However, using the internet to research information about bankruptcy can be a slippery slope, filled with bad information or things that do not apply to each unique situation. It is possible to file a bankruptcy case yourself, however it is not recommended. When dealing with this type of case, you have to file correctly, have all required documents properly filled out, and list all property and debts, or your case could be dismissed. Another thing to keep in mind is individual cases are randomly audited. “The audit checks for accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness.” You must not lie, falsify records, or destroy or hide property (1).Filing for bankruptcy in Missouri, Kansas, or any other state is an extremely technical and complex process. A single error could negatively affect the results of your case or even result in your case being dismissed. In certain situations those errors can lead to the debtor losing the right to file another bankruptcy and/or lose certain protections in future cases.

The term “pro se” mean to advocate on one’s own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by an attorney. A pro se litigant is still expected to recognize the rules and procedures of the local and federal courts. One must also be familiar with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedures and the United States Bankruptcy Code. Even though you are not an attorney; you will still be held to the same rules and standards.

Some people choose to file bankruptcy pro se because they believe they cannot afford an attorney. Speaking with an attorney and discussing your options is your best option. Having an attorney is to your advantage and will likely save you time, money, and offer more protection for your assets. In the instance you have an aggressive creditor violating the collection laws, Heartland Law will prosecute any of your creditors that do not follow the rules once bankruptcy is filed. If you do not have an attorney you will have to handle harassment from creditors, lawsuits and illegal post-bankruptcy garnishments on your own.

There is more to filing for bankruptcy than simply filling out forms. Trying to save money by filing yourself can hurt you in the long run. Often one has to seek counsel to fix a mistake. In the end it will cost you more than if you had simply worked with an attorney in the first place.

Contact one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Heartland Law for a free initial consultation to evaluate your options.


(1) “Filing for Bankruptcy without an Attorney,” This site is maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary. tcyWithoutAttorney.aspx