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What are my client rights after my bankruptcy has been discharged & closed by my attorney? The firm refuses to take my calls.

Appleton, WI |

In 2009, I filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Wisconsin. Upon filing, my husband chose to be a non-filing spouse. All debts, including his non secured debts, were included in the paperwork. In November of 2009, a complete discharge was granted and closed.

Last week, my husband was served papers from a credit card company for the balanced owed.

I contacted my attorney's office informing them of the law suit and was informed that my attorney had left the firm and that they were no longer representing me. I called back to speak to an actual attorney and was told "We have spent much time speaking w/ you and are no longer taking your calls".

What are my rights as a client in this matter? How can the firm refuse my calls when I feel they could have prevented this suit from happening?

Attorney Answers 4


Since you only filed for bankruptcy your husband's debt was not discharged even if you listed it. Therefore, he can be sued since YOU were the filer and not him. The discharge order only applies to your debt. I am sorry to hear about your experience with the law firm you chose to hire. Clients should NEVER be disrespected by their attorneys. However, they did not represent your husband in the bankruptcy and therefore he is not their client and they do not have to answer any question regarding his debt.

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With all due respect, if there is to be blame it isn't on the law firm--they did what they were hired to do, they represented you, filed the bankruptcy for you, and obtained the bankruptcy discharge. Their obligation to communicate with you about your case ended when the discharge was entered and your bankruptcy case was closed. You are no longer a client of the firm. They do not have an on-going obligation to continue to communicate with you about a closed matter.

Your husband chose not to file bankruptcy. The law firm could not force him to file, and therefore the law firm could not have prevented this recent law suit.

The law suit against your husband is not related to your bankruptcy filing--it is a new matter, and the law firm is within its rights not to provide legal advise about a new matter for which it has not been retained.

I hope you found this response to be of assistance.

This response shall not be considered the rendering of legal advise but instead a general response to a general question. While Avvvo is a wonderful resource, nothing can be a substitute for an in-depth consultation with an attorney in the jurisdiction in which the law is to be applied. This response shall not be deemed to create an attorney-client relationship, nor shall it create an obligation on the part of the attorney to respond to further inquiry from the questioner.

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First, your former law firm is probably not obligated to represent you or even discuss this matter with you because apparently they were only retained to represent you in the bankruptcy.

Second, because of Wisconsin's Marital Property laws, and what is called the "phantom discharge" which generally protects the non-filing spouses marital property, the credit card company may not be able to sue your husband. You should retain an experienced bankruptcy attorney who is familiar with the "phantom discharge."

Disclaimer: This answer is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issue. It is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, It is not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely upon this answer. You understand that questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege.

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It is quite normal for legal representation to end with completion of the project for which the lawyers were first hired. If you need new work now that your old lawfirm has closed your file, you need to make new fee arrangements, either with your old lawfirm or with a new one. Also, from what you seem to be saying, the creditor sued your former husband (whom the lawfirm apparently did not represent) and not you. If they never represented your ex husband, they have no obligation to deal with his problems in any event. Finally, your ex husband is in dire need of legal representation and should therefore consult with a lawyer before this problem becomes a wage garnishment or other collection enforcement action. Nonfiling spouses do have certain protections due to filing spouse's bankruptcy in WI, but the divorce may sometimes call these protections into doubt. A lawyer needs to thoroughly investigate this situation to see if any defense of this sort might still be available to your ex husband. My comments here are not legal advice, nor do they create an attorney client relationship between us. However, you always more than welcome to contact my office in Racine to discuss any additional questions which you may have or to set up a free consultation.

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