Lawyers in Albuquerque
New Mexico Financial & Family Law has been practicing family law, estate planning law, probate law, and bankruptcy law for nearly two decades. Our lead attorneys have over 25 years of legal experience representing clients in the Albuquerque area. We pride ourselves on our attention to the finer case details, our deep knowledge of our respective practice areas, and our ability to build lasting relationships with our clients. When those who live in Albuquerque have questions about their finances or the future of their family, they come to us.
Albuquerque Bankruptcy Lawyer
Most people don’t imagine that they will ever file for bankruptcy, but sometimes circumstances beyond your control can leave you in a position where it seems the only viable option. If you’ve fallen behind on your bills to the point where you feel unable to catch up, we recommend speaking to a bankruptcy attorney immediately. This does not necessarily mean that you have to file for bankruptcy. In some cases, your attorney may be able to work out a deal with your creditors to eliminate some of your debt and set up a payment plan for the rest, avoiding bankruptcy. (The earlier you seek legal advice about your debt, the better the odds of avoiding bankruptcy.)
If there is too much debt and bankruptcy is the best option, there are two different types available for your personal finances, with different options for business bankruptcy. Your Albuquerque bankruptcy lawyer can explain the solutions applicable to your case and answer any specific questions you have about your situation. For now, here is a brief overview of the two types of personal bankruptcy:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 is a relatively fast and inexpensive avenue for discharging your debts. On the plus side, most of your debt (with some exceptions) is wiped out, and in many cases, you don’t have to pay your creditors anything. The downside is that if you have any significant assets, some these will probably be sold to provide some compensation to your creditors. If you are behind on home or car payments, you might face repossession and find yourself without a home or car, if you cannot catch up after discharging your unsecured debt. Additionally, if you own any luxury or expensive items, like jewelry, antiquities, or a vacation home, and they have equity, you will probably lose those. However, Chapter 7 can be a good option if you don’t own any valuable possessions, other than a vehicle, reasonable equity in a home, and ordinary household items.
There are some exemptions for a certain amount of equity in vehicles, property, and personal possessions. For example, under New Mexico’s vehicle exemption, if your car is paid for and has a blue book value of $4,000 or less, your creditors will not be able to seize it in bankruptcy. If you have questions about whether specific pieces of property would be exempt, your lawyer can answer them.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be able to keep most of your assets, and in many cases, you can even prevent a foreclosure on your home or repossession of a vehicle. But you will need to pay back some of your debt using a three-year to five-year repayment plan. As part of the debt restructuring process, the judge may wipe out some debts, but you will still be expected to repay some of them, especially for any assets you want to keep.
On the surface, Chapter 13 may seem like a better option for anyone with significant assets, like a home, car, or luxury items. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you may have a large monthly payment, even with your payment plan spread over three or five years. Some people simply can’t afford the monthly payment, and if you fail to keep up with it, your valuables could be surrendered.
If you think you might be able to handle the monthly payment, but it will be tight, we encourage you to look at your situation in realistic terms. Consider your monthly expenses and whether there are any areas where you can cut back. What will happen if you have an unexpected expense, like a car repair or a large medical bill? You may also want to think about liquidating some assets to help reduce your debt and allow you to concentrate on paying for one or two large assets (like your home and car). If you have questions or concerns, ask your attorney for clarification.
What Debts Will Be Cleared with a Bankruptcy Filing?
For some people, bankruptcy will wipe out all their debts. For others, some debts will remain but a large amount of debt will be cleared, allowing them to focus on a smaller repayment plan. Typically, the following debts will be discharged:
- Credit card debt
- Past-due utility bills
- Medical debt
- Personal loans
Car notes and mortgages are not always forgiven but can be if you are willing to give up the car or home. Child or spousal support and recent tax bills are usually not dischargeable, and your attorney can help you make a plan to continue paying them or to repay what you already owe over time. Student loan debt is also not dischargeable in most situations.
What Are the Alternatives to Bankruptcy?
If you want to avoid bankruptcy, please see a New Mexico bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible. Depending on your specific situation, there may be other options, such as:
- Debt consolidation
- A credit counseling plan
- Negotiating with creditors
An experienced attorney can assist you with these options, which are challenging to attempt on your own. Creditors often feel they have the upper hand when talking to someone with debt, and they may not be willing to give you more in negotiations. However, once a lawyer gets involved, they understand that intimidation will not work.
Additionally, your attorney may be able to point out to at least some of your creditors that they will get little or nothing if you complete a bankruptcy filing, particularly if the debt is dischargeable and unsecured. For example, if you owe $5,000 on a credit card and you successfully go through the bankruptcy process, the credit card company will get nothing. On the other hand, if they lower your interest rates, forgive some of your debt, or allow you to pay all of it off over a longer period, they will recoup some or all of the $5,000 owed.
Debt consolidation can be helpful for some people, as it allows them to roll all of their debt into one payment and receive a lower interest rate. However, not all debt consolidation plans are the same. It is very important to understand the fine print, which can be complicated and confusing for anyone who isn’t an expert on contracts and legal language. Your lawyer can help by making sure you understand the terms and advising you on the risks of any plans with unfavorable clauses.
Albuquerque Family Lawyer
Family lawyers assist clients with various concerns, from preparing a prenuptial agreement to filing for divorce to deciding on custody or financial support for minor children. Many of these situations can be stressful for everyone involved, and our goal is to help you resolve the matter as peacefully as possible and with your best interests in mind.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Some people dislike signing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. They may see it as “planning for divorce” or indicative of a lack of faith in their marriage. But the reality is that these financial agreements can help to reduce arguments during marriage and allow both spouses to ensure they’re on the same page before the wedding.
Early disagreements about money in a relationship are a strong predictor of divorce, according to one study of 4,500 couples. Yet some people have few or no discussions or how finances will be handled before getting married. Once they combine finances, both parties may realize that they have very different attitudes toward spending, saving, investing, and other financial decisions, which leads to conflict in the marriage.
A prenuptial agreement can help by ensuring that both parties discuss their financial situation and plans before they marry. It can also be used to lay out guidelines for how money will be handled during the marriage, and make plans for what will happen if one partner dies or the couple divorces. In many cases, this agreement prevents future arguments and allows the couple to focus on their marriage and lives with the peace of mind that they don’t have to argue about money.
Divorce and Child Custody
The end of a marriage is often an emotionally draining experience, even more so if there are children involved. Even in “simple” divorces with no children and limited property to divide, couples can find themselves in conflict over the terms. Your lawyer will discuss your goals for the divorce – the property you’d like to keep, your thoughts on custody, etc. – and work to help you achieve the desired results with a minimum of contention.
Division of Property in a Divorce
New Mexico is a no-fault, community property divorce state, and neither party’s actions are considered in the division of property. The court will divide out any separate assets – such as property one of you owned before the marriage, gifts or inheritances for one spouse, or any property the spouses agreed to keep separate – and these will remain with the spouse who owns them. Assets considered community property – anything not designated as a separate asset – will be divided evenly based on value. For example, if one party gets the house, the other might receive other assets and money roughly equal in value to the house. Debts taken on during the marriage are usually treated the same way, with each partner being expected to pay for half the debt.
One of the most common reasons people sometimes stay in unhappy marriages is that they don’t want to put their children through a divorce and custody battle. It’s true that divorce, and especially a heated dispute over custody, can be stressful for kids. However, living with parents who are unhappily married is not necessarily beneficial to the child. There is some evidence that living in a high-conflict household with parents who remain married can also have negative effects on children. If you and your partner have made an effort to work things out in counseling but still find you have irreconcilable differences, then you may want to focus on co-parenting separately and reducing conflict in your divorce proceedings.
Like most states, New Mexico’s stance on child custody is that it should be decided based on the child’s best interests. To this end, the court will investigate the following:
- The parents’ requests about custody.
- The child’s wishes about custody (assuming the child is old enough to express an opinion).
- The current relationship between the child, parents, and sometimes other relatives, like grandparents.
- How custody will affect other areas of the child’s life, such as school, friendships, and community. For example, if one parent plans to move away after the divorce, the judge will consider the effect of changing schools or traveling back and forth in deciding how much time the child should spend with each parent.
- The mental and physical health of all parties. In most cases, having a mental or physical health problem should not prevent a parent from sharing custody of their child. However, if one parent is very ill to the point of being unable to care for the child, it may be in the child’s best interest to spend more time with the other parent.
In most cases, the judge will try to work out an arrangement where both parents contribute to decisions about the child, such as where they will go to school, medical care, etc. Equal custody time is a possibility, but in some cases where it is impractical, the judge may decide that one parent will have more time with the child.
Albuquerque Probate Lawyer
The probate process refers to the distribution of assets from a deceased person’s estate, either in accordance with that person’s will or in the absence of a will. If you have been named the executor of a loved one’s estate, you may need the assistance of an Albuquerque probate attorney to help with court proceedings, resolving any debt, and distributing the remaining assets.
A probate lawyer can also help if you are in the process of planning your estate. Many people seek guidance about estate planning issues like setting up a trust, moving assets into a trust, writing a will, and understanding the complex issues surrounding inheritance taxes. Your probate lawyer will answer your questions and draft any documents needed to make certain that your wishes will be carried out.
Get Help with Your Legal Questions and Concerns from an Albuquerque Lawyer
If you need assistance with a financial issue, a family law matter, or a probate concern, please contact New Mexico Financial & Family Law for a consultation to learn how we can help. Our experienced attorneys will help you devise a winning legal outcome for your situation. Contact us today.