Bankruptcy and Divorce

Thank you Maxine, my friend and colleague for many years, for allowing me to post on your blog.  My name is Valerie Long and I have been practicing law in Columbus since 1994.  I have always wanted to be a lawyer; I even took Latin in high school—who does that?  When I was in law school, I took a class in consumer bankruptcy and I loved it.  Since I passed the bar exam, I have filed thousands of cases for my clients and I still love practicing bankruptcy law. 

I find enormous satisfaction in helping people find relief from the terrible burden of oppressive debt.  Sometimes my clients will tell me that they feel embarrassed about filing bankruptcy or they fear they have let their families down.  I understand these concerns, but I know that sometimes life is just unmanageable and you need help to figure out how to get things back on track.  That is why I practice this particular brand of law: when people have to choose between buying groceries for their families or paying a money lender, I know that I can help them.  I can stop the bill collectors from calling day and night so that my clients can find the peace they need to restore their lives.

Most of my clients will file either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

CHAPTER 7:  This is what’s known as straight bankruptcy.  You can keep and pay the bills you want, such as a home or cars, and there are some bills you are required to keep, such as child support and certain taxes.  After that, the goal is to discharge or wipe out all credit card debts, loans, medical bills and other unsecured debts.

CHAPTER 13:  This is known as debt restructure.  Chapter 13 allows us to catch up past due house payments and, sometimes, we can reduce your car payment.  Depending on your financial circumstances, we can discharge or wipe out all of your unsecured debts as well, similar to a Chapter 7.

The stress of being burdened with debt affects your work life, your family life, and your spiritual life.  If you feel overwhelmed because of the bills piling up and the constant calls from bill collectors, please give my office a call at (706) 940-0597.  There’s no fee for the initial consultation and we would love to show you the options available.

Valerie G. Long, Attorney at Law
3006 University Avenue
Columbus, Georgia 31907
Phone (706) 940-0597
Cell/Text (706) 366-6322

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

My mother believes that fresh air and exercise can solve about 90% of life’s problems.  I’m not sure about solving 90% of my problems, but I know that a good hike generally improves my outlook on most things.  In Georgia, we are lucky that we have so many parks and trails to hike.  A short drive to the south and we can be navigating the sandy bottom of Providence Canyon, and a short drive to the north and we can be climbing over the rocky paths of Pine Mountain. 

Lately, my hiking hobby has been temporarily side-railed while my hiking partner (a/k/a my husband) nurses his strained ankle.  He is a life-long exerciser, so he gets frustrated when circumstances outside his control force him off his feet for a time.  But, of course, we both know that the only way for him to improve his situation and regain control of his exercise agenda is to follow doctor’s orders and give his body the time it needs to heal.

Like my Mom, I believe that exercise and a good attitude can help us deal with the stress we suffer when we feel that we are being robbed of control of our lives.  Dealing with litigation in your life is a lot like dealing with a physical injury: you go to your professional person for diagnosis and information; you ask questions and make a plan for dealing with your injury; you try to follow instructions (as long as they make sense to you), and then you generally have to wait for the healing to happen.  And the waiting is always the hardest part.

In the litigation process, the waiting can be discouraging, but what may seem like pointless delays are, in fact, usually the inevitable result of moving a case through all the different stages of the process.  For instance, once your divorce complaint has been filed and served on the opposing party, the opposing party has thirty days to respond to the complaint.  After that 30 day period has expired, the litigation will enter a six-month “discovery” period, in which both parties have the opportunity to obtain the information they need to make their case if they go to trial.  After the discovery period has expired, a case typically will appear on the Judge’s next trial docket.  The Superior Court judges in the Chattahoochee Circuit publish an annual schedule which shows when each judge is hearing trials.  Each judge generally has two to four weeks per year scheduled for trials in domestic cases and each judge typically has dozens of domestic cases on his or her docket. Often, when a case first appears on a judge’s trial docket, the case will be so far down the list that it cannot be heard during that week and that case gets continued to the next trial docket, later in the year (or, perhaps, later in the next year).

I understand that these long periods of waiting can make people feel like they are victims of the process.  That is why I want to do more than just walk you through the legal process.  I want to help you define your objectives and consider all the options available to you.  I will always be honest with you about the likelihood of your being able to obtain your objectives.  I know that there are some occasions where you have to fight for what you need, even when the battle is uphill the entire way, and I am fully prepared to fight vigorously for you.  But I think it is important for you to know, at the very beginning, what the process will entail and what your odds of prevailing are, because that is what a professional does: she looks out for the best interests of her clients, even when that means telling them things that may be difficult for them to hear.

So this is my commitment to my clients:  I will listen, I will give advice, and I will fight hard for you.  And I will also tell you when it’s time for you to take a deep breath, go for a walk, and look for a moment of peace to enjoy. 

Help Your Lawyer, Help Your Self

Happy New Year!

In this office, we have been practicing family law for a long time.  I have been in practice for over 25 years.  I know, from my own personal experience with my divorce and from my experience with the hundreds of divorcing clients I have represented over the years, that family members who are involved in litigation are going through some of the toughest times in their lives.

As is often the case, I had this thought in mind recently when I was reading Hope Jahren’s new book, Lab Girl.  The book is an interesting story of a scientist’s life, but, more significantly, it is a deeply moving account of her view of the world she has spent her life studying.  As I read the book, it occurred to me that anyone who is experiencing one of life’s stressful events might find some perspective–and maybe some relief—in reading this book.

I also found what could be interpreted as a little practical advice in the last paragraph of the second chapter, when Ms. Jahren writes, “Time has also changed me . . . Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.  It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more.”

We lawyers often advise our clients to keep a written account of the events in their lives as they prepare for and endure the litigation process.   Many of my own clients already have a practice of journal-writing before they ever even think of hiring a family lawyer.  For most of us, writing things down really is the only defense we have against forgetting what is important.  But there is one vital point that every potential litigant needs to keep in mind—it is possible that you could be required to turn over your diaries, journals, ledgers and calendars to the opposing attorney if you become involved in a contested legal action.  For that reason, if you are keeping a written account of events, keep it between yourself and your lawyer.  Communications between a lawyer and her client are confidential and are not usually turned over to the opposing attorney.  But if you show your confidential communications to a third person, you will probably destroy the confidential nature of the communication and you may find yourself in a position where you have to produce your private written accounts to the opposing party.

As always, all of us at Maxine Wallace, P.C., are committed to helping our clients navigate difficult, stressful, complicated family law issues, while maintaining some level of peace of mind.  We will all keep these goals in mind as we move forward into the new year.