Mediation Instead of Trial

Sometimes you just want to settle a conflict.  Even if it costs you more money, sometimes it may be worth it to you personally, professionally, emotionally, or with the right set of circumstances to have a matter settled.  A Mediation rather than a Trial may be able to bring you that. In Mediation, you control the crash.  In Mediation, you do not get as much of a winner and a loser, but you do get to settle the matter.  Depending on your circumstances and your goals, Mediation may be the right thing for you. A trial is going to result in a winner and a loser, and a judge is going to decide which is which.  In Mediation, however, you have the opportunity to sit down with the other side and hammer out a deal.  Then once the deal is made, it is made, and you have settled the issue.  It gives both sides more control over the outcome. There are a number of civil law matters where Mediation can be used, such as divorce and consumer debt defense.  Seek competent legal counsel to determine if Mediation is an option in your case, and if it would be beneficial to […] Read More

New Lease on Life – Legal Aid

What do you do if you are disabled, elderly, living on a fixed income, and your landlord locks you out of your apartment?  Contact Legal Aid. St. Johns County Legal Aid “Provides a wealth of justice for those who have neither.”  It is a lot of administrative law, poverty law—a lot of law that most people are unaware of—that makes a huge difference in individual’s lives.  It can give a new lease on life, whether in a landlord-tenant case or other civil law matter (such as consumer debt, foreclosure, housing, elder law, and family law). If you are seeking an attorney but think you cannot afford one, contact your local legal aid office.  Even if you do not qualify for service, the offices have many helpful pamphlets or they can refer you to attorneys willing to take cases at reduced rates.  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every business day. In St. Johns County, visit http://jaxlegalaid.org/v2/pamphlets/St.%20Johns%20County%20Legal%20Aid%20Information.pdf, and in Jacksonville, visit http://www.jaxlegalaid.org/v2/. Read More

Payback is Heck with Consumer Debt

Being in debt is bad.  Having up to 25% of your wages garnished, or having your bank account swept clean without advance notice can be a life-affirming experience…not in a good way. In Florida, debt collectors can take up to 25% of your net pay for things like old credit card debt, medical bills, and/or student loans.  Or they can sweep your bank account for the amount that you owe without prior notice—you wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, you also get a form to file for exemption.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption, like head-of-household at a certain level, pension income, Social Security benefits, or disability. The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions […] Read More

Debt-Buyer Business Model

Buying delinquent consumer accounts has bloomed into an industry unto itself with its own business model, which thrives on certain practices, such as the following: * Purchase thousands of delinquent accounts for pennies on the dollar.  This gives debt-buyers a spreadsheet of data, which they do not verify; they purchase without representations or warranties as to the accuracy of the information.  They do not know if the balance stated is correct, or if anything is owed at all. * Contact the consumer.  Contact the consumer a lot!  While there are regulations on fair debt collection practices, not all debt collectors are interested in fair debt collection.  The debt-buyer calls and writes to settle the account…and if that does not work: * File a Small Claims lawsuit.  A Small Claims Court notice can get lost in the paperwork shuffle, and the consumer does not show up for court (or does not defend) and the debt-buyer wins by default. * If the consumer does take time off work to launch a defense, ask for a continuance.  Repeat delay tactics until the consumer stops coming to court. * Have a judgment entered against the consumer.  That judgment is good for 20 years, so […] Read More

Dr. Wolf’s Phantom Bill

Once upon a time a debt collector telephoned Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother about a medical bill.  “But I paid that bill two years ago,” Grandma Riding Hood told the caller.  Still, the caller insisted there was an outstanding balance and started asking for personal information, saying, “I have to be sure I am talking to the right person, so could you give me your date of birth, address, Social Security number, and account number you used to pay the bill?” Little Red Riding Hood happened to be visiting her grandmother that day and overhearing the conversation.  “Grandma, ask for something in writing,” she told her. “But I do not want to be rude,” said the Grandmother.  “After all, this was for Dr. Wolf who made that house call when I was sick.” “He locked you in the closet!” Little Red exclaimed. “He said it was good for my rheumatism,” Grandma Riding Hood replied. “He was going to eat me!” Little Red protested further. “Well, he was on a special diet, dear.” “Grandma, these debt collectors are required to send you something within 5 days in writing, and then you have 30 days to dispute the debt.  That will give […] Read More

The Way Garnishment Works

The way garnishment works is first they take your money, THEN they tell you they have taken it.  You wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, they also send you a form to file for exemption. If you are head of household supplying more than one-half the income to support a minor child, that income is eligible for exemption. If your income comes entirely from Social Security or a pension fund, that income is eligible for exemption. People have options.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption.  You do not have to promise your Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.)  St. Johns Legal Aid is located at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine and they are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 […] Read More