FAQs

Peabody Square, c. 1890s
Collection of the Peabody Historical Society & Museum

Bankruptcy FAQs

How does bankruptcy work?

If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, a trustee sells your assets to pay your creditors. As soon as you file for bankruptcy, collection activity immediately stops. If your petition for bankruptcy fails, the collection calls may start again.

Will I lose everything?

No. You can exempt certain assets from the bankruptcy process. This may include your home, car, retirement accounts, health aids, furniture and most of your wages. If you exempt an asset, you keep it, and a trustee cannot sell it during bankruptcy. In Massachusetts, you can follow either state or federal law to determine exemptions.

Will I exit bankruptcy debt-free?

Most debts can be discharged through bankruptcy, but not all. You may still be responsible for taxes, student loans, alimony, child support and legal settlements.

Can I file for bankruptcy more than once?

You cannot receive a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge if you received a Chapter 7 or 11 discharge within the last eight years or a Chapter 12 or 13 discharge within the past six years. If your first petition for bankruptcy fails, you may have difficulty refiling without legal assistance.

What is the means test?

To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you normally have to show your household income is below the median for a household of your size in the state of Massachusetts. If your household income is above the median, you may still qualify under certain circumstances.

Can I file for bankruptcy without my spouse?

Yes. However the court still requires your spouse’s financial information in order to assess the income of your household. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to file individually for bankruptcy, as a joint petition with your spouse, or as two separate petitions.

What are my responsibilities before filing for bankruptcy?

You must complete a debtor education course from an approved credit counselling agency within six months before filing. The certificate of completion must be filed with the court.

Will my wages be garnished?

In Massachusetts, you may exempt 85 percent of your gross wages or 50 times minimum wage, whichever is greater, from bankruptcy proceedings. In general, you may also exempt 100 percent of unemployment benefits.

Is bankruptcy a matter of public record?

Bankruptcy is a matter of public record and files are available for viewing. However, you can request certain privacy protections from the court. For example, if you have a restraining order against a former spouse, the court can remove your street address from public documents for your protection upon presentation of the order.

Do I need an attorney?

Given the serious legal consequences of filing for bankruptcy, legal advice is essential. In addition to helping you decide if bankruptcy is the right option for you, a lawyer can help protect your interests throughout the process. To learn more, contact Konstantilakis Law P.C.

Family Law FAQs

Do My Spouse and I Have to Agree on Everything to Qualify for a No-Fault Divorce?

No. Most people obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds. This means neither spouse is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. However, a no-fault divorce may be contested or uncontested. If contested, you and your spouse have not yet agreed on issues such as asset division, child custody, support, parenting time and alimony.

What Is the Difference Between Physical Custody and Legal Custody?

Physical custody defines where children live most of the time. Legal custody refers to important decisions made about the child. For example, you may have physical custody of your child, meaning she lives in your house. But you may share legal custody with your ex-spouse and make major decisions, such as those regarding medical treatment, jointly.

Do I Have to Go to Court?

Papers must be filed with the court to finalize a divorce. However, you do not need to have a trial if you and your spouse can resolve your issues without one. Before a trial, you may participate in a pretrial hearing to present evidence and identify potential witnesses.

What Do I Have to File With the Court?

To avoid trial, you and your spouse must sign and have notarized a separation agreement, financial statements and parent education certificate if required.

How Can I Resolve Issues With My Spouse Outside of Court?

You can discuss your issues in one of many forums outside of court, including mediation or a settlement conference. Often an attorney is essential in this part of the process. Limited assistance representation is one option for individuals who don’t want to pay a full retainer but need legal help to negotiate and conclude a family law agreement.

Where Will My Child Live During Separation?

When parents are married, they automatically share physical and legal custody of children until a court orders otherwise. No parent automatically gets physical custody of a child even after the divorce process has begun.

How Is Custody Decided?

When parents cannot agree on physical and legal custody, they may ask a court to intervene. The court is bound to make those decisions based on the best interests of the child and not the parents. The judge will look at the child’s relationship with family members and his well-being in the community, among other factors.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

Child support guidelines are based on parental income. They are designed to minimize the impact of the divorce on the child, among other factors.

How Can I Change a Custody Order?

A court will change a custody order if it is in the best interests of the child. The parent asking for the modification must show a significant change in circumstances since the order was issued.

Can I Get Alimony?

There are four different types of alimony in Massachusetts. You may get alimony if you were financially dependent on your spouse or you supported your spouse for a specific endeavor, such as getting an education, during the marriage.

Regardless of the circumstances that led to your divorce, an attorney can help guide you through the legal aspects of this difficult time. To learn more, contact Konstantilakis Law P.C.

Workers’ Compensation FAQs

How long must my injury last to qualify?

Your injury must keep you away from your job for five days before you are entitled to workers’ compensation. If your injury lasts more than 21 days, you are then entitled to compensation for the first five days, but not before.

How much is the maximum wage benefit?

The maximum and minimum benefits change annually. As of October 1, 2016, the maximum weekly benefit is $1,291.74, and the minimum is $258.35. You will receive a portion of your previous wages that is within these amounts.

This does not include benefits you may receive for medical care, such as prescription drugs and travel to and from appointments. You may also receive an additional benefit if you suffer scarring, disfigurement or permanent loss of bodily functions.

What if I have a part-time job?

If you are able to keep working at your second job, you must report the wages to your insurer. How that income will affect your benefits depends on whether or not you are also covered by Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation at your second job.

What about my on-the-job benefits?

The status of your health plan and other employment benefits is uncertain while you are receiving workers’ compensation. Your benefits may continue, but you may be required to pay a larger premium. An attorney can help you resolve these issues with your employer.

Can I see my own doctor?

Yes. However, the insurer may ask you to see a different doctor for an examination. You must comply with this request or risk losing your benefits.

What if my claim is denied?

You have the right to an appeal. The insurer will send you Form 104 (Insurer’s Notification of Denial) that states the reasons for denying your claim. The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents strongly recommends obtaining legal counsel if you decide to challenge the insurer’s decision.

What if my payments don't arrive?

Payments should come within 14 days of reaching an agreement with your insurer. If your checks are late, retain an attorney.

What if I return to work but have to leave again?

Your benefits stop if you return to work. But, if you have to leave again because of the same injury within 28 days, your benefits will restart. You must notify your insurer in writing within 21 days that you not working.

What if I want to go back to work but there's no job available?

Your benefits cease if your treating doctor says you are able to go back to work and there is a suitable job for you at your old workplace. Both must be the case for your benefits to stop, and the job you are going back to must be approved by your doctor.

Can I be fired while on Workers' Compensation?

Under state law, yes, although your union contract may prevent this. Employers in Massachusetts are obliged to prioritize rehiring injured workers when they are ready to get back on the job, regardless of unionization.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, an attorney is your best source of information about workers’ compensation benefits. When you are in need of an advocate for your interests, contact Konstantilakis Law P.C.