What do you wear to a bankruptcy hearing? That had been my dilemma earlier in the day. Do you dress professionally to show respect, or do you throw on the oldest clothes you can find so they think you really are poor? I decided on low key professional.
Flashback to a couple of months earlier.
The day I started making phone calls, I found out that debt settlement was not going to be an option for me. Bankruptcy was it. But bankruptcy cost money. Almost $3000.00. If I had $3000.00, why was I filing for bankruptcy?
I have always believed that things happen for a reason. When I had my fire, I had a miserable job, but two people who worked there had been through house disasters. Had I not been working there, my experience with my fire would have turned out very differently.
At the time I finally decided to do something about my financial mess, I was also working a very stressful job. A very stressful job that had pre-paid legal services.
My bankruptcy cost me all of $250.00 in filing fees.
My lawyer was low key. His office was not fancy. He was experienced with the situation and took me through all the steps. I left his office not feeling ashamed, but feeling the start of relief. My only real concern had been the houses I owned. Even though they were all upside down (I would have sold if it would have gotten me out of debt), I still wanted to hang on to them. With everything else gone, they were my only hope of mot being 80 years old and living in a storage crate.
My lawyer told me he doubted the houses would come up. His only advice was be honest with any questions the judge asked me.
After my little walk around the financial district I went in for the hearing. I watched as several people in front of me had lawyers that were no shows and that made me feel a little sick to my stomach. You pay a lawyer good money and they don’t even show up when you need them? My lawyer was there in plenty of time and again, told me I had nothing to worry about.
I listened to several cases that seemed pretty simple. I was starting to be a little less stressed and then the case right before mine got denied. The judge went through a list of the guy’s many possessions (cars, houses, jet skis, a boat) and told him he need to think about doing liquidation of his assets before filing for bankruptcy.
I was next up.
It’s not like television where you stand in front of the judge on a big platform. The judge sat in the middle of a table. My lawyer sat at one end and I sat on the other.
The judge looked at my paperwork. Asked me to verify a few things. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “What are you going to do with the houses?”
My lawyer looked slightly taken aback. What was I going to do with the houses? I wanted to keep them, but wasn’t sure I would be able to. I couldn’t sell them at the time because they were all upside down. I was having a hard time making the payments even with the rental income.
I looked the judge in the eye and did what I had been told to do not just by my lawyer, but my parents from almost the day I was born. I told the truth.
“I really don’t know.”
He paused for a moment, gave me a little nod and then said, “Bankruptcy granted.”
And it was done. $80,000 in credit card debt disappeared. I had fantasized about paying it off with lottery wins or some other wave of good fortune. I had struggled and juggled, lost sleep and done everything in my power to try to make it go away and just like that, it was gone.
But so was my credit score. And all my precious credit cards.
I realized I was going to have to live, for the first time in my adult life, on real money.
And I was scared to death.