Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is small claims court? In Maryland small claims court takes place in the district court and is heard by a district court judge. A case classifies as a small claims case if the monetary amount sought is $5000 or less.  The procedures are informal, making it more cost effective to litigate.
  2. Do I need an attorney for small claims court? It is always advisable to consult with an attorney. As previously mentioned, small claims court involves informal procedures, which makes it easier to proceed if you do not have an attorney. If you decide to proceed without an attorney there are self help guides on the Maryland District Court website.
  3. My bills are overwhelming me. Should I file for bankruptcy? Filing for bankruptcy is a tough decision and there is no simple yes or no answer. The real answer is "it depends." There are many considerations and options that should be considered when thinking about filing for bankruptcy. Perhaps if you cut your spending you will be able to pay your bills. Perhaps this is not the case. It is important to consult with an attorney to advise you on which type of bankruptcy would best suit your needs and the benefits and drawbacks of filing for bankruptcy.
  4. If I file for bankruptcy will the government take all of my possessions? No. In Maryland, there are a number of exemptions that shield your property from turnover to the bankruptcy estate. The federal government will not come into your house to take all of your belongings. When I was little I remember watching the following video and thinking this is what happened in bankruptcy (you can forward to 1:14): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukXd5DNVR94
  5. If I file for bankruptcy is there a way to stop the bill collectors from calling me? Yes. Once you file for bankruptcy a protective shield known as the "automatic stay" goes into effect, which prohibits all creditors from contacting you for collection purposes. As with most laws, there are exceptions of course. Some exceptions to which the automatic stay does not apply are continuation of criminal proceedings and collection of traffic tickets (this includes parking citations). Please note there are many other exceptions too numerous to be named.
  6. If I file for bankruptcy will it ruin my credit forever? Your credit will be impacted negatively but it will not be ruined forever. A bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years. Currently, most people are able to rebuild their credit within one to two years.
  7. Will filing for bankruptcy get rid of all of my debt? It depends. Bankruptcy can rid you of most unsecured debts, most commonly being credit cards . Other common examples of unsecured debts are doctor's bills, delinquent cell phone accounts, etc...Bankruptcy can also relieve you of your personal obligation to pay your mortgage. However, as most mortgages are secured by your residence, the bank will be able to foreclose on your home. One of the most common forms of debt that you cannot rid yourself of are student loans, unless you establish an "undue hardship" which is a very difficult standard to meet.
  8. I obtained a judgment against a person and that person still has not paid me. What can I do? When you obtain a judgment you have a number of ways to collect on your judgment. You can file a lien and/or garnish the wages or bank account of the person you obtained the judgment against.

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