Ida Independent is a 48 year old stay-at-home Mom of two children who is now going through a divorce. Ida and her husband had decided early on in their marriage that it was in the best interest of the family if she did not work outside of the home so that you could spend her time concentrating on the children and the family. As a one income family, with no work experience outside of the home since her marriage, Ida was shocked to learn that their financial status had deteriorated to a level that now would require her to find a paying job as soon as possible. Ida had trusted her husband to protect the family financially, but their lack of communication about money played a major role in the derailment of their marriage.
AZ asks: You said that the day you returned from meeting with the Credit Counselor, the collection calls began. What happened?
They started out slowly and scattered at first and then the frequency begin to increase. After a couple of weeks, it seemed like I was getting calls at all hours of the day and night. My girls were starting to get extremely anxious. Every time the phone would ring you could see them literally jump. Although I don’t believe they knew exactly what the phone calls were about, they were smart enough to sense the stress and anxiety level associated with each and every one of these calls. At one point, my oldest one said, “Mommy, please just let it ring…don’t answer it.”
I knew we were in a very complicated financial situation, but I was sure we must still have some kind of rights regarding dealing with Debt Collectors. They couldn’t just harass us could they? I called my Credit Counselor to find out. She explained to me that there was a federal law called The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. She gave me a few examples such as…
- A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- They can’t call you while you’re at work if the collector has been informed that your employer doesn’t approve of calls.
- Collectors can’t harass you, lie or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt.
- They must supply, within five days after initial communication, a written notice containing the amount of the debt and the name of the creditor.
- They must honor a written request from you to stop further contact.
- They can’t call family, friends or neighbors telling them that you owe them money.
AZ asks: Did she tell you what your next step might be?
Yes, she suggested I start to communicate with the people we owed money to and not wait for the rest of our accounts to be turned over to a collection agency. She told me to begin contacting each and every one of them to let them know that we were having trouble making ends meet and why it was so difficult for us to pay right now. She told me to explain to them that we wanted to try and work out a payment plan that would reduce the payments to a more manageable level.
She said that at this point I had no choice but to retain a lawyer as soon as possible. Our house was already in the process of foreclosure and we now had quite a few of our accounts turned over to collection agencies. These accounts included most of our credit card debt, bills for medical care and signature loans.
She said if we had any other secured debts that were possibly tied to an asset like our cars, they could be repossessed. How would I get my children back and forth to school? Doctors? How would I find a job if I didn’t have a car to go for interviews?
She also explained to me that that once we had secured a lawyer and had notified the collection agencies, they could no longer contact me directly.
Finding a lawyer was a top priority!
To be continued…
Ida Independent is not affiliated with nor endorsed by LPL Financial.