Legal Question in Bankruptcy in Georgia

Scenario:

I moved to a different state a year ago after house was foreclosure on. Per the new occupants of my former residence, a process server came by several weeks ago. He/she was told by the new occupants that I had moved to another state.

I wrote the law firm representing the bank upon learning of this with a payment offer and notification of my new address. I never received a response. When I called the court house to inquire about the law suit, they told me I would have to wait to be served. When I called the court again two weeks later after still not being contacted, the clerk stated the service notice had been returned to the court as "not serviced" due to residence moving to another state.

Today my employer notified me that they had received a certified letter from the law firm asking for several documents such as past W2 and pay stubs. It was a letter not a court order (I was faxed a copy). The letter specifically states the purpose of the demand for documents is to very my residence.

Question:

1) If I provided the law firm with my address, why don't they just file in the state where I now live?

2) Can a law firm WITHOUT a judgement or court order issue a letter to an employer asking for personal information such as W2's and Pay Stubs?

3) Please answer the above question before answering my final question.... Obviously, I need an attorney. Should I hire an attorney in GA or my current state?

Asked on 5/15/13, 8:39 pm

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Answers:

(1) The law firm may not be licensed to practice law in your new state of residence. Lawyers can only file suit where they are licensed to practice. If the complaint came back as "unserved" then the law firm would have to return this account to their client, which I assume is a bank lender, and the bank would have to farm it out to a new law firm in your new state of residence if they wished to collect. Or the law firm can try to sue at your new address and get a judgment that way. Even though you do not live in Georgia, lots of employers who are out of state will honor the Georgia judgment and garnish your wages even if there is no wage garnishment in your state of residence (I have clients who live in NC where there is no wage garnishment but who judgements entered in another state that does and the employers can honor it and enforce the garnishment). Yes, it sucks.

(2) Not to my knowledge unless a judgment was obtained an execution/garnishment issued. And asking for paystubs is unusual. Where there are garnishment orders in response to a Georgia judgment, the maximum that can be sought is 25% of your disposable pay. If you make less than a certain amount per week there can be no garnishment but there is no reason why your employer, absent a lawful court order or process should turn over this information. Of course, nothing stops a lawyer from asking voluntarily. However, in cases where I have seen that occur, it is usually because a judgment has been entered and the law firm for the creditor sends the request to the debtor, not the employer. Your employer could simply advise the law firm of your current address or tell them its none of their business.

(3) In answer to your question - it depends. it depends on your situation, what you have been sued for and your circumstances. It depends on what assets/income you have.

This law firm can still sue you in Georgia. People who reside in another state can be sued in Georgia. The fact that you owned a home in Georgia and got a loan on it is enough. Since you relate the house was foreclosed on, I am guessing that you had a second loan on the home. The foreclosure on the primary would preclude foreclosure on the second loan but what second mortgage holders have been doing is suing on the note. And yes, they can do that. The question is, how much do you owe? There are a couple of ways to go:

(a) If you have the funds, how much do you owe? Do you think they would settle for somewhere between 25% and 30%? Would you be able to come up with that much?

(b) If the answer is no, have you considered filing bankruptcy? Have you been in your new state for at least 6 months? Bankruptcy has residency requirements - you would have to live in the new state for 6 months before you could file bankruptcy there; otherwise, you would file in your old state. I don't know where you live or how long you have lived there, but if bankruptcy appeals to you, I would talk with a bankruptcy attorney in your new state. If you have lived there less than 6 months, I would also consult a GA bankruptcy lawyer and see which of the two states are more advantageous in terms of bankruptcy exemptions and then decide to either file now in GA or in your new state once you meet the residency requirements. Bankruptcy can be filed at any time even after judgment but if its something you are going to do, do it before judgment. It can be after a lawsuit is filed but it should be before judgment.

(c) if you don't want to file bankruptcy and don't quite have the funds, time is your friend. Use it wisely. Start saving the funds now. Its the law firm's job to serve you properly. You do not have to do anything to help them sue or serve you. Milk it for all its worth. The bank can do nothing until they get a judgment for you and the judgment has been final for 30 days. That could be 6 months down the road ... or more or less ... depending on where suit was filed and who the law firm is. It even may make sense to hire a lawyer who can drag this out longer by answering the complaint and engaging in discovery. Litigation though can be expensive. If all else fails, you may be able to work out a payment arrangement and avoid garnishment or levy on your bank account or other assets owned free and clear.

As to your real question as to whether to hire a GA lawyer or not, the answer is yes for litigation. You may also find a GA lawyer helpful if you trying to settle the debt or work out a payment plan. If you are filing bankruptcy in your new state of residence, then hire a lawyer there. If you are trying to settle the debt, you could hire a lawyer in either your current state or in GA.

If you are interested in resolving the debt outside of bankruptcy or litigation, then please email me at rachelforjustice@hotmail.com. Even though I live in NC, I am licensed in GA and have clients there for whom I help settle debts.

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5/15/13, 10:41 pm

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