We got a question from one of our readers:
Any advice to the fact that I have been recently placed on disability and now possibly facing divorce and how to get the credit card companies to work with me on my fixed income and possible loss of husband’s income? I don’t want to file bankruptsy, but it is looking as if I might. I owe approximately 10,000. I live in Miami, Florida.
One thing people don’t realize is that even in a divorce or separation, debt collectors can careless (to some extent). All they really care about is getting their money and not hearing about personal problems. However, there is hope.
The first thing is to maintain at least the minimum balance until you can figure out how you’re going to pay things off. While avoiding bankruptcy is good, it’s not all that entire life-changing either. It actually gives you a fresh start, and by the looks of things, you could file a Chapter 7 and be on your way in six months with a fresh start to life.
If, however, you have good credit that you don’t want to lose, I would pay the minimum, find out what the card companies can do to help you by calling them directly, and go from there. Also, make sure you find out how their methods to help you will affect your credit report if indeed it would. Then, like any other payment, set aside a certain amount each month (little more than the minimum) and have an end in sight. Ask them to help you calculate based on your interest rate how long would it take me to pay this cc off based on $xx.xx a month.
One thing to keep in mind is that even though you are divorcing, credit can still be ruined until your name is completely off your spouse’s debt. Thus, even if you hate him/her, you’re still responsible for their debt (as them as well) until all joint accounts are made separately. I would start there.
If your sole income is a disability, creditors cannot touch that. It’s protected income. Work out a budget where you cover your four walls first (housing, food, utilities), then divide whatever’s left and send it to the credit card companies. It may be $5 a month. Send them a written notification that you are divorcing and that your income will be disability only. Then, tell them how much you can send each month. (send the letter certified so you can prove that they received it) Yes, they’ll complain and threaten and not want to play nice, but they can’t do much else.
Bankruptcy isn’t as horrible as it’s made out to be. My hubby and I had to file back in 1999 (chapter 7). Since then, we’ve been able to buy four cars and a house. If you think that may be your only option, find a bankruptcy attorney who does the first visit free and go talk to them. Also, consider taking out a payday loan – it may help you with urgent cash needs. In Florida, we recommend this company (SolidCashHelp) – they are new and already have a lot of great reviews.
The disability is a guaranteed monthly payment that they can garnish up to 35 %( like unemployment) of as I understand it which means they will be relentless in pursuit of this money. You are protected up to a certain amount of your income and assets no matter where it comes from or what you have then anything beyond that is subject to seizure or garnishment. That’s just how it was explained to me when we filed BK but I don’t know the exact science of it all… I was told it was 75% or something that was protected as long as you fall under the ‘median income’ guidelines etc. I don’t remember it all. BUT I have been told by others that if you have a guaranteed gov. check coming in monthly like disability or unemployment that they are aggressive because you are going to get that check and they can seize a percentage of it no matter what your situation. Again I don’t know and maybe someone here does but I would be careful.
It’s the same for all states:
Social security benefits can ONLY be garnished for student loans, back taxes, or child support issues. Credit cards are out of luck.
This is where people get confused. Disability is protected income but if you put it in a bank account for example and a creditor receives a judgment against you they can freeze that account and they often do this without warning. In some states, those with these types of income are encouraged to separate accounts for wages that are protected and also garnishment laws are different state by state in terms of the amounts and what can be garnished, etc.
I think one of these articles mentions that in Florida the head of household’s wages-including earned wages are protected entirely. In the state of New York, I think it said they can only garnish 10% of your earnings for example. Here where I live they can garnish up to 35% unless that amounts to be more than the federal law allows. Here are 3 links to three different articles that explain a lot of things about garnishment in detail. Some of you might find them helpful.
(updated on May 19th, 2021)