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New Decision On Bankruptcy for People Living Outside the United States

The Honorable Nancy V. Alquist, a Judge on the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland, entered a ruling on September 28, 2007 in an important case I argued, In re Baker. This case deals with international bankruptcy at the individual level—it lets people living outside the United States file for bankruptcy in the United States to discharge their U.S. debt. A copy of her opinion may be found by clicking on this link.

The debtor in this case is a U.S. citizen, and moved overseas several years ago. At the time he moved, he owed balances to a number of U.S. credit cards and the company arvato was after him with a Hospital Collection Agency. It used to be that if you incurred a debt in the United States and then moved to foreign country, it didn’t make sense for the creditor to look for you.

Things have changed.

In recent years, we have filed bankruptcy here in the U.S. for clients around the world because collectors of U.S. debt have been calling and writing them in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, the UK, Germany, China, Japan, Korea…just about anywhere you could go. And the laws governing collections in these countries often do not offer the same protections that U.S. laws do. Calls at night, repeated calls, calls at work, calls to neighbors all can make your life miserable.

Although the U.S. Trustee argued that Mr. Baker should not be allowed to file, Judge Alquist disagreed, and denied a Motion to Dismiss, allowing the case to proceed.

As Judge Alquist noted, U.S. law has no requirement that you live in the United States to file for bankruptcy here. You do not even have to be a U.S. citizen to file for bankruptcy. A U.S. bankruptcy will relieve you from liability for most of your U.S. debts (but not foreign debts) incurred before the bankruptcy was filed, and protect you from future collection of those debts.

We have filed for bankruptcy in Maryland for people from all over the world, helping them lift the burden of debt from their shoulders. As one of the few firms with experience in this area, we are able to guide you smoothly through the process, letting you know what to expect and how to deal with it.

It is not necessary for you to come to the U.S. to file your bankruptcy case. We can usually handle all the pre-filing work by e-mail, phone and fax. However, you are required to personally attend the Meeting of Creditors, or 341 Meeting. This is usually scheduled 3–6 weeks after your case is filed. Not to worry—it sounds much worse than it is. A better name for this hearing would be the Trustee’s Meeting, since creditors very rarely appear. Most 341’s last 3–5 minutes, and consist of the Trustee verifying you are who you say you are, asking a series of standard questions, and going into detail about anything unusual that appears on your Schedules.

If we can help, please contact us.

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