Celebrities who filed bankruptcy: Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling, the pitcher who helped the Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Curt Schilling was an average baseball player until he joined the Philadelphia Phillies in 1992. His career stats included 3,116 strikeouts, 83 complete games, and a World Series championship in 2004. He announced his retirement in 2009. At that time, he earned more than $90 million in earnings and bonuses, not including endorsements.

Schilling expected to have the same success off the diamond. He started a company, 38 Studios. The company intended to create a World of Warcraft rival competitor. Schilling did not have success with his company because although he had the passion for the game, he had no knowledge about running a company. The company, over its six year life, released one game – Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. It sold 1.2 million copies worldwide.

The costs of the game development forced 38 Studios into bankruptcy. There was also a lawsuit for breach of a taxpayer-funded loan agreement of $75 million. At the time of its filing, the company had $22 million in assets but $151 million in debt. Schilling lost $50 million of his own personal money. Schilling had to auction off some of his personal memorabilia, including the now famous bloody sock.

Curt Schilling was an amazing baseball player who enjoyed much success on the diamond. Sadly, he fell into an investment problem he could not solve. His lack of entrepreneurial skills made it nearly impossible for Schilling to create a business without reading, research, and knowledge of that particular industry. His post-bankruptcy woes continued as he originally had no back up plan and no safety net in the event 38 Studios was not successful. Schilling landed on his feet with ESPN as a color commentator and analyst. He was suspended and later fired by ESPN for offensive posts on Twitter.

The takeaway tip: If you have a passion that you want to be successful, read about it, study it, and learn everything you can about that field. And just to be safe, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

What can I do for you?

My name is Kristina Feher and I am the Managing Member of Feher Law. People often ask me, what do I do?  Simply put, I help clients resolve their family law and financial issues.  I do this by advocating for my clients, educating them on the law, and using alternative methods to achieve their goals. Some examples include:

  • I am a Collaborative Law Trained Professional. Collaborative Law is a process through which parties use mediation and negotiations to settle their divorce outside of the courtroom. Collaborative Law helps reduce tension regarding divorce and helps clients focus on resolving matters in a positive environment.
  • My practice is Mediation focused. In my experience, mediation is the best opportunity for clients to resolve their family law disputes themselves. Mediation is a process where the parties use a neutral third party (a mediator) to come to an agreement. The use of a strong mediator, familiar with family law issues, is an important piece of the puzzle. An attorney who serves as a mediator in a successful mediation can help the parties save thousands down the road.
  • Feher Law hosts a monthly bankruptcy clinic for low-income individuals. The BK in a Day Program provides a reduced fee bankruptcy. The program addresses concerns for low-income individuals, such as taking time off work and multiple trips to an attorney’s office, by helping clients complete their bankruptcy process all in a day.
  • Feher Law also provides services to small business clients. Small businesses are what make St. Petersburg unique. We help clients who have a vision bring their business entity and structure to life. We help clients who have a dispute with a vendor, supplier, or client resolve those matters. We help clients understand their options if the financial burden becomes too much. We support small businesses and we understand them.

If you want to know more about what Feher Law can do for you, please contact our office at 727-359-0367, or visit our website at www.FeherLaw.com.  We are here to work for you.

Seven steps to your Financial Game Plan

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Have you given any thought to what your financial game plan is? Have you identified what your financial goals are? Your financial game plan should include a review of your assets and debts, a discussion of your financial goals, and action steps to get you moving in the right direction.

Your financial goals will help you create your plan for the next five to ten years. You should decide whether you would like to own a house or whether you would prefer to rent. When you plan to own a house, you will need to plan for a down-payment, which should be approximately 20% of the purchase price of the home. This means for a $200,000 home, you should have $40,000 saved up. You will also need some cash or credit for home renovations and even cosmetic things, such as new paint, a new back-splash in the kitchen, or new faucets. If your financial goal is to rent a home, you should also determine if there will be a monthly association fee or any other associated costs with renting the home. These fees could include a maintenance fee, a pest control fee, or a parking fee.

Action steps are important to keep you moving in the right direction. You should also review these action steps every three or four months to make sure you are working on them and continuing to move forward. You should also review the steps and determine if anything needs to be adjusted due to a change in circumstance – new debt, a child, or any other circumstance. The following are some action steps you can take to move toward your financial goals:

  1. Review your list of assets and debts and decide how to pay down debt. If your minimum monthly payments are unreasonably high, you may need to consider bankruptcy as an option. If you can pay down your debt, you want to pay as much as you can to paying down your debt each and every month.
  2. Create a spending plan. Make sure your spending plan includes all of your expenses, whether they are monthly or not. Include your car insurance, pet supplies and veterinary care, summer camp expenses. Decide where you have to spend your money and decide would like to spend your money. The sooner you can pay down your debt, the sooner you can start putting more money aside for your dreams and other financial goals.
  3. Create a savings plan. A good rule of them is to put 10% of each paycheck into a savings account. If you receive bonuses, overtime pay, or a tax refund, try and store the money aside without touching it. This will help you create an emergency fund for expenses such as car repair, home repair, or a medical emergency. Life will always have an unexpected event. Plan accordingly.
  4. Keep your expenses low. If your goal is to pay off your mortgage in five years, you may not be able to get a new car every two years. Prioritize what is important and keep the rest of your expenses low. This does not mean that you cannot dine out three times a week, but maybe you can give up cable in order to keep your expenses low. I live in Florida and air conditioning is non-negotiable. For me, that means I might not dine at restaurants as often during the summer because my electric bill will be higher. Using the grill is an added bonus!
  5. Set yourself up for a great credit score. Great credit can help you with lower interest rates on mortgages and car loans. Great credit can help you open up a new credit card in case of an emergency expense. An attorney friend of mine had both his and his wife’s cars totaled during Hurricane Irma. Because of his great credit, he was able to finance two cars before the insurance checks arrived. When the insurance checks arrive and are used to pay down the newer car purchases, he will keep his phenomenal credit going.
  6. Include a significant other when the time is right. Only you can know when the right time to incorporate a significant other into your financial goals is. A good rule of thumb is that a conversation about financial goals should take place before a wedding. It should also take place before you open a joint account or pay bills together. Good communication and a joint plan will certainly help a relationship.
  7. Be open to changing up your plan. Life will change your direction more than once. Be open to the change. Review your financial game plan and decide what needs to change. Do you need to decrease saving to address a new expense? Can you increase the amount you pay towards your mortgage every month because of a promotion? Do you need to cut expenses because of a hospitalization? Adapting your financial game plan to your current needs is important.

Feher Law is happy to meet with you to discuss your financial game plan and determine if a pay down schedule or bankruptcy may be in your best interests. Feel free to call our office to learn more or to schedule your assessment.

Spice Girl, Mel B’s Domestic Violence Trial may not be closed to the public

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Although Mel B filed for (and was granted) a temporary restraining order, there is an upcoming trial for a permanent injunction. Victims in our criminal justice system must relive their abuse in an open courtroom.The Judge in the case cannot completely close the Los Angeles County courtroom during the trial. However, the courtroom may be closed during “sensitive moments”. The trial will consider evidence of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sex videos.  The full article by the Los Angeles Daily News discusses the legal arguments about courtroom privacy from both sides of the case. http://www.dailynews.com/2017/09/18/spice-girl-mel-bs-la-restraining-order-trial-may-be-open-to-public/

The worst type of divorce

There is no “good” divorce, even when you are the person who filed. Divorce is the legal step of ending a marriage – a life lived together, a home built together, a family made together. Writer Olivia Harvey, Cornell University, and Time Magazine all played a role in this article addressing the worst type of divorce. Harvey’s article discussed the worst type of divorce based on a study by Cornell University. “Comparative rejection” is when a spouse chooses someone else over you. It is one thing to get divorced, but comparative rejection is the worst. Comparative rejection can also happen at work, when a coworker is chosen for a promotion over you. As Time Magazine reported on the researchers’ findings, comparative rejections “lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging.” The researches also noted that in comparative rejections, you introduce a rival, which makes the situation worse.

The full article, by Olivia Harvey, discusses the research behind why this breakup hurts the most. http://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/family-relationships/research-shows-that-this-one-kind-of-breakup-hurts-the-most/ar-AArvOJD

Seven Things They Didn’t Teach You In Law School

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A few years ago, I had a Stetson intern work with me. I was very lucky to have her hard work, her dedication, her professionalism, and just her overall good attitude. As she graduated, I realized in our conversations that law school may not fully prepare law students for the real practice of law. Law schools do a great job teaching students how to research, how to prepare arguments, and how to present themselves professionally. There is, however, a missing link regarding real-world practice. I gave my intern a copy of Karen Thalacker’s The New Laywer’s Handbook – 101 Things They Don’t Teach You In Law School. I peeked through the book before gifting it and I wanted to share seven of the tips that I thought were extremely important.

 #1 – Have a Sincere Appreciation for Court Personnel. There are lawyers out there who believe the world revolves around them and that they know everything. There are lawyers who believe that nonlawyers should cater to them and help them, regardless of the lawyer’s demeanor or attitude toward these nonlawyers. But beware – many nonlawyers (especially those in the courthouse) know more about the workings of court practice and procedure. “Be friendly. Be nice. Do your best to remember the names of the people you meet…Do not be rude to the clerk. Do not be rude to the court attendant. Do not be rude to the janitor. Their job is just as important and just as stressful as yours.”

#2 – Find a Nice Judge you can talk to. As a young lawyer, judges can seem intimidating. I remember how nervous I was the first time I went to argue a motion before a judge. We view judges as the ultimate decision makers.  They have no-nonsense policies in effect in their courtroom.  But we seem to forget that judges were once lawyers, too. They were also young lawyers – just as nervous about going in front of judges as we are today. “Judges love to talk about their experiences and their former practice and also to hear about yours. They have families, children, interests, and hobbies.” Judges are open to conversations and willing to share their stories and their opinions. If you practice before a judge, once a matter is resolved – consider asking the judge for feedback on how you did. Be prepared for an honest answer: taking the critique and learning from the judge will make you a better attorney.

#3 – Learn how to get your client to tell you the truth. Many of us have heard the joke: “How do you know your client is lying? His/her mouth is moving.” It is one of the most difficult skills in the practice of actually getting the truth from your client when you need it. As lawyers, we do not just want the client’s truth – we want the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Most of our clients are not lawyers and they will not know what information is important and what is not. “Don’t just ask them about the facts of the case. Make sure you find out where they grew up, what their level of education is, how many kids they have. The more you let them talk and are interested in what they are saying, the more they will talk to you.” Make a point to encourage your clients to “tell me the truth and we will deal with it together.”

#4 – Not every attorney is for every client. With the pressure of running our own law firms or being an associate with a billable hour requirement, we sometimes feel the need to take every client that walks in the door. We must learn to resist that temptation because sometimes we just do not make that important connection with our client or vice versa. We also need to learn that that is okay. “The decision about who your clients are is a two-way street…they get to decide if they want to hire me and I get to decide if I want to take the case.” If you learned anything from your law school training, you should have learned to trust your gut. You must also be sincere and honest with your client as to whether you will take their case or not. Learn from the experience so you can be better prepared for the next client consultation.

#5 – Know how to operate office machines. I truly believe that the most complicated machine in a law firm is the postage meter. Even though we have higher education and fancy degrees, it is important to know how to work the copier, the fax machine, and the printer. If you know how to use a Bates stamp, that is also a plus. There are many situations in which you need to know how to use the machines without anyone’s help. “Maybe you are in the office at night preparing for a trial or hearing which is starting promptly at 9:00am. What if you need twenty copies (collated and stapled) and the copier jams? What if your computer crashes? What if the ink in the fax needs to be changed?” It is important to your firm that you are asset and a team player – not just in the practice of law, but all around. While it is nice to have an assistant to help you with these items, if she’s on vacation, you need to be resourceful enough to handle the office machines.

#6 – What to do when opposing counsel is a jerk. As a member of voluntary bar associations (clubs for lawyers), I network with really good people. The members volunteer in our community and we have leadership positions in these organizations. We do not encounter difficult people all that often. But it does happen. “These practitioners seem to revel in making your life miserable. They will send you disparaging letters. They will say bad things about you in front of their client. They will raise their voice and act as if you purchased your law license from the back of the National Enquirer.” As new practitioners, attorneys must learn to be professional, regardless of how others may behave. If your client is with you, they will see how you react. It is your duty and obligation to protect your client and preserve your professionalism by not stooping to opposing counsel’s level. Be the bigger (and better) lawyer.

#7 – Do not tolerate bad behavior. I have a neighbor who refuses to clean up after his dog.  I have a client who insists on using an email address I cannot even repeat. Everyone has a different level of tolerance when it comes to profanity, insensitive jokes, or just bad behavior. We sometimes forget that as lawyers, people in our firm, our clients and colleagues look up to us. I also believe that an attitude is contagious. “Never forget that you are a leader and that people will model their behavior after yours. If you expect the highest level of behavior from yourself and from the people around you, you just might get it.”

We don’t expect graduates to be perfect when they step into a law firm. It is also unfair of us as practitioners to expect graduates to perform at a standard which we do not hold ourselves to. Although Ms. Thalacker’s practice tips focus on new lawyers, the practice tips are a refreshing reminder to all of us that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

What is the best credit card for a college student?

credit card debt

There are so many credit cards to choose from. College students may feel overwhelmed as to which card is right for them. This article by Brian Acton, with MSN Personal Finance, helps college students understand the different types of cards available, the perks, the annual fees, and the drawbacks. It is important to understand what your annual percentage rate (APR) will be, so that you don’t end up in unmanageable debt. Take a look at a comparison of 5 credit cards designed for the college student here: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/credit/5-credit-cards-to-take-back-to-college/ar-AApePrE

Free Resources for your family law case

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Most people think “Family law” cases are divorces. The truth is that family law cases also include paternity, adoption, and domestic violence cases. There are many websites out there that provide information, but not all are helpful or accurate for your case. Here are some resources, from our firm and court websites, that can help you understand your family law case and decide whether you can represent yourself. Here is some information about the family law case process, links for you to review, and helpful definitions.

 

The process – This is a flowchart of what a typical family law case will look like.

Family Law Timeline

Links – These links provide helpful and accurate information about family law cases.

 

Definitions – This list will explain many of the terms people use when discussing family law cases.

  • Party: A party is a generic term for a person involved in a lawsuit. In your case, you are a party and the other person is also a party.
  • Summons: The document served on you along with a petition by a process server that lets you know a lawsuit has been filed.
  • Petition: This is the document filed that begins the family law case in the court system.  This document has numbered paragraphs that state allegations from the filing party’s perspective.
  • Answer: This is one type of response to the petition in the case.  In the answer the non-filing party admits, denies or states they are without knowledge as to the allegations in each numbered paragraph.
  • Motion: There are many types of motions, some examples include motions to dismiss, motion to enlarge time to file a response, etc.  A motion is a way of asking the judge to take some action in your case.  If a motion is filed, normally the judge is going to require a hearing.
  • Mediation: A meeting between you, your attorney, the other party, and their attorney.  The mediator tries to help the two parties settle the case with terms everyone agrees with.
  • Discovery: Discovery is the overall category of requests for information that take place between the parties. The different types of discovery include a Request for Production, a Request for Admissions, Interrogatories, and Depositions. Discovery is a way of getting more information from the other party. You may want to see additional bank statements or paystubs (Request for Production). You may have some additional questions for the other side (Interrogatories).  Discovery provides the responding side at least thirty (30) days to get the information to you. Discovery can sometimes take months to complete.

I have my first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney – what can I expect?

Help with your finances

This guide will help you understand what the process will be for your first meeting with a bankruptcy attorney.

  • Should I bring documents?

Even though this is an initial meeting, you should consider bringing some paperwork with you. The following is a list of documents that may help you or the attorney understand your situation better:

  1. The most recent 3 months of bank statements (for all accounts – checking, savings, money markets, etc.)
  2. The most recent credit card statement
  3. The most recent 6 months of your paystubs or other proof of income, such as social security award letter, annuity statement, or pension statement
  4. The most recent 6 months of your spouse’s paystubs or other proof (see above)
  5. The most recent 401 k statement or other similar retirement or pension account
  6. The most recent 2 years of tax returns
  7. A list of your household expenses, including cable bills, health insurance, daycare, gas, car payments
  8. A list of your assets/things you own and any supporting documents you may have (for example – deed to your home, title to the car, jewelry appraisals).
  9. Your driver’s license or other valid identification
  10. Any court papers regarding you or any lawsuit you are involved in

 

  • What are we going to talk about?

Every attorney is different, however, most attorneys will want to know some basic information about your situation. This information could include why you are deciding to file for bankruptcy, what kind of income you have, and what types of debt you have. Having the list of documents above will also help you become familiar with how much you spend on gas per month and where the electric bill payment comes from.

 

  • What does the bankruptcy process look like from start to finish?

During your first meeting, the attorney should also discuss the process of a bankruptcy. In Florida, the process may look something like this:

You meet with the attorney, the attorney provides you with a questionnaire to complete, and a list of documents to obtain. When you have completed the questionnaire and collected the documents, you will provide them all to the attorney. One the attorney has all the documents, they can begin working on drafting your paperwork. Once the paperwork is completed, you will review and sign them. Once they are signed, the attorney will file them with the court.

After your case is filed, you will be assigned a judge and a trustee who will review your case.

You will also be scheduled for a 341 Meeting of Creditors. This meeting gives the Trustee assigned to your case an opportunity to ask you questions about the documents you signed, your assets, and your debts. Once the 341 Meeting is completed, the Trustee will wait to see if there are any objections to the discharge of your debts and wait for all deadlines to pass. If there are no objections, you usually receive a discharge of all (dischargeable) debts.

 

  • What does a discharge of debtor mean?

This is what all people who file bankruptcy (called debtors) want. You want a court to tell you that you do not have to pay for those credit cards, medical bills, etc. A discharge of debtor is signed by a bankruptcy judge and is the court order you need to relieve you from the responsibility of having to pay those debts.

Remember though – not all debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy. If you owe money for student loans, to the IRS, or for child support or alimony, these debts (and others) are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

 

  • What are the fees associated with filing bankruptcy?

Most bankruptcy attorneys do not charge a fee for the initial consultation. In Tampa Bay, most bankruptcy practitioners charge anywhere from $1,200 to $1,900 per Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 cases will have attorneys’ fees range from $3,750 to $4,250. Those amounts can also increase each year per bankruptcy court guidelines or due to the complexity or challenge of your case.

There will also be a filing fee for your bankruptcy case. Currently, the filing fee for a Chapter 7 case is $335 and the filing fee for a Chapter 13 case is $310.

 

  • Can I file for bankruptcy without an attorney?

Yes. Although, I would suggest you meet with an attorney first. If you have an asset, such as a car, that has equity in it, filing for bankruptcy without an attorney could mean the car being liquidated by the Trustee and taken away from you. If you are trying to save a home from foreclosure, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you understand the process. Having an attorney handle your bankruptcy case means that lawyers get to do the lawyer stuff and you get to go to work, be a parent, etc. and not have to deal with court pleadings and papers.

The story I always tell is – hiring a lawyer for your case is like painting your home. You can do it yourself – you can go to the paint store and buy paint, the blue tape, rollers, tarp, and spend two or three weekends outside painting your house. In August, in Florida, that is not fun. But chances are, you could do a good job painting your own house. On the other hand, you could hire someone to paint your house – a professional would handle everything and they would show up at your house and paint, while you sat inside and drank lemonade in the air conditioning. Of course, that comes at a cost. But when the goal is to discharge thousands of dollars of debt, isn’t it worth it to spend the money on a professional?

 

Where can I find more information about the bankruptcy process?

Florida District Bankruptcy Courts provide information regarding bankruptcy basics, videos, and even resources for emotional support. If you are considering filing without an attorney, you should review the court’s resources. http://www.flmb.uscourts.gov/filing_without_attorney/

5 myths about divorce exposed

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Divorce is expensive

Not true. Fighting and litigation are expensive. Filing paperwork and getting the divorce finalized are not expensive. As long as you and your spouse are able to resolve situations on your own, costs can be manageable. For example, if you and your spouse can decide on a parenting plan/timesharing schedule for your children on your own or through the use of a mediator, you can keep your costs down. If attorneys have to bring that matter before a judge for a decision, you could see a bill for anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 for that one issue. The more issues that have to go before a judge for a decision, the more expensive the divorce becomes. Consider using a mediator to help you resolve matters and find attorneys who can help settle matters between the spouses instead of in front of a judge.

 

There is no such thing as a friendly divorce.

Not true! A friendly divorce in current times could mean an uncontested divorce or a collaborative divorce. An uncontested divorce is a divorce that is filed where the spouses agree on everything. Many times in an uncontested divorce, the parties use lawyers to help them draft and word their marital settlement agreement. A collaborative divorce is where the spouses decide to go through the divorce process in a friendly manner. The spouses work with their attorneys, a financial person (usually a CPA), and a counselor to resolve all issues in a series of meetings before filing of the case. Both uncontested and collaborative divorces are friendly, keep costs down, and allow spouses to move forward quickly and amicably with their own, now separate lives.

 

My spouse cheated. This will be a slam dunk for my divorce case.

Usually not. Courts view divorce as the dissolution of an economic unit, and in many states, bad conduct during the marriage, such as cheating, is not used to calculate the equitable distribution of your assets and debts. Florida is a no-fault state. If the other spouse is not contesting (or fighting) the divorce, the court will not consider the issue at all. In Florida, judges may consider adultery when determining the amount of alimony, but judges are not required to consider adultery. Some spouses may be tempted to use adultery as proof of bad behavior from the other spouse, but most lawyers advise against it because in the end it may not do much good.

 

I get half of everything in equitable distribution.

Not exactly. Equitable Distribution is the term that the Court uses to split up your assets and your liabilities. While there is this idea that everything should be split 50/50, that is not always the case. Many factors play into exactly how everything gets split up. The financial situation of each spouse will play a factor. The careers and work history of each spouse will also play a factor. You should consider meeting with a lawyer to understand how your situation and the factors may affect what you receive in the divorce.

 

I have to get divorced in the state where I got married.

No. Most states require you to be a resident in order to get divorced. That means that the state of Nevada cannot grant you a divorce for your quickie marriage in Las Vegas. In the state of Florida, you must be a resident for at least six (6) months prior to the date of filing for divorce in order to be divorced in Florida. Check the laws of your state for any residency requirements for getting divorced.