The joy of bankruptcy
My ex was always secretive, but I had no idea how bad our financial situation was until after we separated. It turns out, he (meaning “we” in Wisconsin where marital debt is considered joint no matter whose name is on the credit cards) was in very deep debt. He had spent lavishly on solo scuba diving trips and, I later learned, on ladies other than his daughters and myself.
Wolves at the door
Before the dust from the divorce had even settled, collections agencies were closing in. I had two immediate financial goals: keep my house and my car. I asked a lawyer friend for a recommendation on a bankruptcy attorney. He suggested Joe Squallido,* with the caveat that he was highly in demand and might be difficult to retain. Fortunately, I was able to set up a meeting with Joe right away.
The person for the job
After being married to a lawyer for over 20 years, I thought I knew what to expect. However, Joe embodied the stereotype of a sleazy lawyer more so than other attorney I’d ever met. He didn’t need my business – I needed him and he knew it. His office reeked of cigarette smoke and his demeanor was anything but smooth and slick. On the contrary, he was almost refreshingly abrupt and to the point.
I had lots of questions, and he had the answers that I desperately wanted to hear.
“Will I lose my house if I file bankruptcy?”
“Will the bank take my car?”
It seemed to good to be true. I didn’t even have to go to court; Joe would take care of everything. I could hardly believe it.
I asked Joe, “So the debt just goes away? The creditors will leave me alone?”
Incredulous, I wondered, “Why doesn’t everyone do this? It seems like a no-brainer.”
His response, “Most people have pride.”
Oh, yeah. I forgot.
Goodbye, good credit
I said goodbye to my beautiful, nearly perfect credit score and began filling out the piles of paperwork necessary to discharge the debt.
The process was less painful than I expected. Joe told me exactly what to expect so I had no surprises. My credit cards were rejected almost the instant we filed. I relied on on my debit card for everything and waited for the court date.
After the discharge, I immediately began applying for credit cards. I was beyond excited when I got my first shiny new card with a whopping $250 limit. Following Joe’s advice, I kept applying for and using new credit cards and paying them off religiously each month.
Pride doesn’t pay the bills
Three years later, my credit score hovers between fair and good. According to Joe, after seven years, it’ll be like the bankruptcy never happened. When he first told me that, it sounded like an eternity. Now that I’m almost halfway there, it’s really not so bad. Bankruptcy helped me to sever the last legal ties to my ex – and that feeling of liberation outweighs any feelings of shame.
Is bankruptcy for you?
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bankruptcy to anyone; however, if you do find yourself backed into that financial corner, I promise it’s not the end of the world. Like my dear friend Liz said, “A year of clean living can do wonders for your credit score.” Instead of feeling embarrassed by bankruptcy, look at it like a clean slate and yet another opportunity to rebuild your life after divorce.