Well, it depends on what question you are asking. Chapter 7 is designed to give a person a new start. It is designed for people who have consumer debts, credit cards and medical debt. However you must attend credit counseling before you are able to file to see if there is any other kind of debt consolidation program that may help. You are also requried to go to Debt Education Counseling after the bankruptcy is discharged to make sure you don’t get yourself back into the same predicament.

Bankruptcy Chapter 7 can be the answer, if you qualify. You have to pass a test. Not like a test at school, but the “means” test. The “means” test has two parts. First, it looks at your annual income to see if it is below the state median income. If you are below, you pass the first part of the test. The second part of the test looks at your regular monthly expenses versus your income to see if you have any disposable income at the end of the month to give to the creditors to pay them back. If at the end of the month, you have money left over, then you may be a candidate for a Chapter 13 repayment plan. If you have very little at the end of the month left over, you can qualify for a Chapter 7 discharge.

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Chapter 7 is the answer if you are trying to protect assets with low value. Can I protect my home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy? This depends on the amount of equity in the home and whether you can keep current with your payments. When you file a bankruptcy, the trustee has the right to sell items to pay off the creditors. However you are also given some exemptions which is some property that you can keep. If the house has very little equity you would probably be able to reaffirm the mortgage debt and keep the home. If you have significant equity in the home it becomes harder to keep it. Deciding what exemptions apply whether Federal or State becomes very difficult and an attorney can be very helpful in trying to protect as much as you have while still discharging the debts you cannot pay.

Bottomline you need to have very little income left over at the end of the month and assets with very little value in order to obtain a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you would like to know if you are a good candidate, make an appointment to talk to one of our attorneys.

Many parties inquire as to whether they can terminate the other parent’s rights on the basis of abandonment. The answer is not a simple yes or no. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Two of the grounds are as follows: (1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.

(2) The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well‑being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.

The party seeking termination must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s actions meet at least one of the grounds for termination as listed in the statute. After inquiry into the parents, the court shall also consider if there is an emotional bond between the parent and child and potential consequence of severing that bond. Keep in mind that termination of a biological parent’s rights and adoption often go hand in hand. A party cannot adopt without termination of the biological parent’s rights. A biological parent cannot voluntarily terminate their rights or sign a child away without another party stepping in to adopt. Similarly, a biological parent cannot have the other parent’s rights involuntarily terminated without another party stepping in to adopt.

It may be possible to remain in touch with your child subsequent to the termination of your parental rights and their adoption. Act 101, which became law in 2010, allows post-adoption contact by agreement of all the parties. Specifically, a birth relative by blood, marriage or adoption can contract with the new adoptive parents in terms of continued contact with the adoptee. In each adoption case, all parties are required to be notified of the possibility of entering a contract for continued contact. The parties should sign to acknowledge they received notice of the options available under Act 101 and their signed acknowledgment would then be filed with the court. If the parties do not sign an acknowledgement, then proof that they were served with the notice should be filed to the court. A sample of the Act 101 notice is included below.

NOTICE REQUIRED BY ACT 101 of 2010 – 23 Pa. C.S. §2731-2742

This is to inform you of an important option that may be available to you under Pennsylvania law. Act 101 of 2010 allows for an enforceable voluntary agreement for continuing contact or communication following an adoption between an adoptive parent, a child, a birth parent and/or birth relative of the child, if all parties agree and voluntary agreement is approved by the Court. The agreement must be signed and approved by the Court to be legally binding.

A birth relative is defined only as a parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle or aunt for the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption.

This voluntary agreement may allow you to have continuing contact or communication, including, but not limited to:

Letters and/or emails

Photos and/or videos

Telephone calls and/or text messages; or

Supervised or unsupervised visits.

If you are interested in learning more about this option for a voluntary agreement, you contact your attorney.