About Neuner & Ventura

New Jersey bankruptcy lawyers, Neuner and Ventura LLP, has had a presence in Southern New Jersey since 1983. Its practice is currently focused in the areas of Bankruptcy and Creditor’s Rights, Commercial Litigation, Business Law, Asset Protection Planning, Estate Management and Planning, Family Law and Real Estate.

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Good Reasons Not to Handle Your Own Bankruptcy Filing

Good Reasons Not to Handle Your Own Bankruptcy Filing

When you are facing financial challenges and have concluded that your best option moving forward is a bankruptcy filing, you may be tempted to handle the bankruptcy on your own, particularly if you are seeking protection under Chapter 7. It’s almost always a bad idea to do that—here are some of the reasons why.

  • Bankruptcy is complex—you might choose the wrong chapter and end up losing money or property. You might be disqualified if you  miss a step, like completing the two courses required. Or you might mess up the Means Test, which is complex. Even experienced attorneys such as us use specialized software and tools to get it right.
  • The forms and procedures are complex and ever changing. Filing the wrong forms could jeopardize your bankruptcy.
  • You may fail to file important documents, or miss critical deadlines
  • You may not get the relief you wanted, needed or expected—Some debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. For example, if you file bankruptcy primarily to rid yourself of child support or student loan payments, you won’t succeed, as those types of debts typically cannot be discharged.
  • You may not get all the benefits to which you are entitled—there are both state and and federal exemptions. Some property is excluded. But you won’t know what to do if you’re not trained as a bankruptcy lawyer or assistant.
  • You do not know the judges and the trustees, or the accepted procedures where you are filing.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

We understand the stress, anxiety and confusion that can be associated with a potential bankruptcy filing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



Understanding Bankruptcy Mediation

Image of a pen, calculator and reading glasses on financial documents.

Bankruptcy cases can and often do spawn litigation or major disputes with creditors. If you are in this situation, either as a debtor, a creditor, or as a plaintiff or defendant, you should know and will soon learn that litigation even in bankruptcy court is expensive and the outcome not always certain. In these situations, mediation should be seriously considered.

Indeed, in New Jersey, the Bankruptcy Court requires mediation in all suits (“adversary proceedings”) with a few exceptions.

In mediation, the parties to a dispute use a neutral third party to facilitate the resolution of the problem. The mediator is not a judge and cannot rule upon or force a particular outcome. Instead he/she is tasked with helping the parties work cooperatively to identify and implement a solution that is mutually beneficial. The mediator may brainstorm with either or both parties to determine what each party needs and what may be conceded.

In addition, the mediator doesn’t take testimony from witnesses or make determinations about what is or is not admissible. The mediator is not allowed to act as legal counsel to either of the parties, and should not have served in that capacity in the past.

A major advantage of mediation is that the parties can speak privately and in confidence to the mediator about their situation and concerns. The mediator can use this on both sides to try to get the parties to a “win-win” (as opposed to a “win-lose”) outcome.

One of the principal advantages of mediation is that it empowers the parties to resolve the dispute. As a participant in mediation, you always have the right to reject any proposed resolution, and you can always make a counter-proposal. Unlike litigation, you don’t have to wait and hope that the court found your arguments persuasive. If the other party to mediation agrees to the proposed settlement, a “mediation settlement agreement” is signed and becomes legally binding.

Mediation generally moves faster than litigation and with significantly less expense.
Most importantly, it helps the parties and their attorneys to see their situation through the eyes of an experienced neutral third party. This can often open their eyes to the risks to them (including the future cost in time, money, and emotional drain) of not reaching a settlement.
It has been said that “a case settled is a case well-tried”. Mediation is a good way to achieve that.

In New Jersey, the court has a panel of mediators, but the parties can choose anyone else in whom they have confidence as a mediator. Both Steven Neuner and Joanne Ventura are trained mediators with experience in civil, bankruptcy and divorce litigation.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we know that the bankruptcy process can be intimidating and confusing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call our office at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!



Do You Qualify for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Protection?

There’s a common misconception that, if you fail to meet the means test to file for protection under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy laws, you can always file for debtor’s reorganization under Chapter 13, obtaining the benefit of the automatic stay and setting up new payment arrangements with your creditors. To the contrary, there are certain minimum requirements you must meet to be eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection.

You Must Be an Individual

Chapter 13 is not available to businesses of any kind. Even if you were running your business as a sole proprietor, you cannot seek protection under Chapter 13. All business reorganizations under the bankruptcy laws are under Chapter 11 (with extremely limited exceptions). If you own a business, but are not seeking to protect the business, you can qualify for Chapter 13 with respect to any business debts for which you are personally liable.

You Must Have Enough Income

This is essentially the flipside of the means test under Chapter 7. A Chapter 13 is a reorganization plan, where you make new agreements to repay your creditors. The bankruptcy trustee and the bankruptcy court won’t approve your plan if you can’t show that you’ll be able to make the proposed payments.

Your Debts Must Be Manageable, Based on Your Disposable Income

There’s a ceiling on the amount of debt that can be restructured through a Chapter 13 petition. Currently, you won’t qualify if your secured debt exceeds $1,184,200 or your unsecured debt is more than $394,725.

You Must Be Current on All Income Tax Filings

To qualify, you must verify that you have filed all state and federal tax returns for the last four years.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up a meeting, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



Defending Collections Lawsuits on Credit Cards

Worried couple reading credit card bill sitting on a couch

It can happen to just about anyone. Things are going well, you’ve got a great job, so you feel confident putting a few extra items on a credit card. Before you know it, you have a hefty balance, but it’s okay, you’ll just pay it off over a few months. Then disaster strikes…you get laid off or sick and suddenly, you’re being hounded by credit card companies. Maybe you’ve even been served with a complaint. What’s your best course of action when you have to defend a collections lawsuit on a credit card debt?

The first thing you need to do is retain legal counsel. Don’t try to defend a lawsuit by yourself. It may seem like you are saving money, but it can cost you a lot more in the long run.

Next, collect all records you have related to the debt—any receipts, any records of payment. Your attorney will want as much accurate information as possible. In addition, request that the collection agency or its legal counsel produce all records they have. There’s a good chance that they have little to nothing, as most credit card collections are conducted by companies or people who have purchased the debts at a fraction of their face value. They may have little or no documentation other than the alleged amount of the debt.

If you haven’t hired an attorney yet and you’ve been served with a complaint, make certain you file a response to the complaint. The technical term for this is an “answer” to the complaint.

Send it to the court by certified mail and send a copy to the law firm and/or the collection agency that had you served. If you have been served with a complaint, though, it’s probably time to step back and look at the broad picture—is this a single problem or do you have far-reaching financial problems? Often, it’s better to attempt to negotiate a payment plan than to litigate. You may actually end up paying less through a negotiated settlement and you won’t have legal or court costs.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

We understand the stress, anxiety and confusion that can be associated with a potential bankruptcy filing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Important Bankruptcy Case

Gavel on bankruptcy Law books

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on a case that experts say could have far-reaching implications.

In the case of Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corporation, the court will determine how much power bankruptcy courts have to deviate from the priority rules established in the federal bankruptcy laws. Jevic Transportation Company was a New Jersey trucking firm that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008. Employees of the company, including 1,785 drivers, say the bankruptcy was the direct result of fraud that was perpetrated as part of a leveraged buyout of the company in 2006. The employees sued for back wages under a federal law that mandates a 60 day notice when a company engages in mass layoffs.

The drivers and other creditors also filed a lawsuit alleging fraud, which the defendants settled, but only with the other creditors, leaving the drivers with nothing. As a part of the settlement, the bankruptcy action was dropped.

Under the bankruptcy code, creditors have the following priority:

  • Lenders with secured debt have top priority
  • Lawyers and other professionals who work on the bankruptcy are next
  • So-called junior creditors come next, starting with employees who are owed wages
  • All other creditors have less priority than employees to whom wages are owed

Advocates for the drivers say that, if the Supreme Court allows the settlement to stand, it could lead to situations where more powerful creditors in a bankruptcy collude to exclude other creditors, such as workers. Opponents argue, though, that it has long been the practice of the bankruptcy courts to permit these types of payments during the course of a bankruptcy proceeding and that forcing the courts to follow the priority rules would eliminate the flexibility often needed to resolve a bankruptcy without substantial loss of assets.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we know that the bankruptcy process can be intimidating and confusing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call our office at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



How the Bankruptcy Trustee Investigates Fraud Allegations

The federal bankruptcy laws are designed to give you a second chance. They’re not a sign of failure—some pretty famous and successful people have filed for bankruptcy—some more than once. But the laws are taken seriously. If the bankruptcy trustee has any suspicion that your claim is fraudulent or that you have misrepresented your true financial condition, there are specific steps the trustee can take to determine if there’s any merit to those concerns.

A Bankruptcy Rule 2004 Examination

Often, the first step the trustee will take is to request that a debtor submit to a Rule 2004 examination. Under this provision, a debtor may be required to testify and to produce documents.

In addition, the trustee may solicit testimony and documents from other parties to discern whether there has been fraud. Specifically, the rule allows a trustee to investigate:

  • Any matter that may affect the administration of a bankruptcy estate
  • Any matter related to or affecting a debtor’s right to discharge a debt
  • Any acts, conduct, property, liabilities or financial condition of a debtor

Adversary Proceedings

An adversary proceeding is essentially a lawsuit filed in the bankruptcy court. Typically, the adversary proceeding is brought against a debtor, but the trustee has the authority to bring such an action against anyone.

Temporary Injunctions

If the trustee obtains evidence that assets are being wrongfully depleted or other fraud is being perpetrated, the trustee may ask the court for an injunction. The injunction is an order of the court prohibiting a person from engaging in specific actions, such as the transfer of property.

Criminal Proceedings

Fraud is both a civil and a criminal offense. If there’s evidence that you have engaged in bankruptcy fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office can prosecute you for violation of federal law.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up a meeting, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



Recording calls with debt collectors to document or deter abuse-watch out for these and other traps!

We have all heard the recordings telling us that our call “may be recorded for customer service”… Many of our clients in financial distress are dealing with debt collectors. Although there are well-established rules about what collectors can or cannot do, we hear all the time about abuses, such as threats of criminal action, repeated calls at late or early hours, calls of employers or relatives.

We suspect that these abusers think that most people will put up with the abuse and if they do pursue legal remedies, it will be a “swearing contest” in court. While debt collection is legal and proper, we have recommended that our clients document each call and consider recording such calls, but only if certain procedures are carefully followed.

In many states, including California and Pennsylvania, it is illegal to record a call or other interaction without the consent of all parties. So if the call originates in one of those states, a violation could trigger criminal action, or civil penalties. See Tape-recording laws at a glance

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So here is our recommendation: Start the interaction and your recording with a statement something like “I am recording this call, and will record any further calls from you. If you do not want to be recorded hang up and do not call again. If you continue or call again, I will assume you and your company consent”. If the person says they do not consent then hang up.

If a collector leaves a message on your answering service, save the recording. They knew they were being recorded and cannot complain.

Watch out for debt collection scams. Whenever dealing with a collector, be sure to get the name or extension number of who is calling, the name and address of the collection agency, the name of the creditor, the account number, and a telephone number to call back “in case we get disconnected”. Never give any information over the phone, such as Social Security or credit card numbers, dates of birth where you work etc. They are calling you. If they do not have this information that is their problem. Do not fall for the “we need this for verification” scam. Your goal is to get information from them. If they want further information, tell them to put it in writing and send it to the address they have so you can review it with an attorney.

Finally, most old debts have been sold off to debt buyers. While this is legitimate, sometimes companies or collectors who do not really own the debt may try to defraud the true owner by trying to collect on someone else’s debt. Or phony debt collectors. Be wary.

More importantly, if you are having trouble with debt collectors, get legal advice about your rights and options. And please note, every state and situation is different. This post is intended only to alert you in a general way to the potential issues and problems. It is no substitute for qualified and individual legal advice.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

We understand the stress, anxiety and confusion that can be associated with a potential bankruptcy filing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call Neuner & Ventura at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Exemption in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

When you seek protection in bankruptcy under Chapter 7, the law allows you to permanently discharge certain debts in exchange for the sale of non-exempt assets. As a general rule, you can’t discharge student loan, tax and family law arrearages. In addition, you can choose either the New Jersey state exemption or the federal exemption, and you’ll be able to keep certain property.

Choosing the Right Exemption for Your Motor Vehicle

The state exemption in New Jersey allows you to keep some up to $1,000 of equity in your car, van, truck or motorcycle. If your equity in the vehicle is less than $1,000, the trustee cannot take your car and sell it. However, if you have more than $1,000 in equity, the trustee will likely choose to take your car, sell it and give you the $1,000 exemption, and use any additional proceeds to repay creditors. In New Jersey, if you file a joint personal bankruptcy protection, you can double that exemption to $2,000.

If, instead, you opt to use the federal exemption amount, you can protect up to $3,775 of the equity in your motor vehicle.

Determining the Equity in Your Vehicle

The equity in your vehicle is essentially that amount you would personally receive and keep if you sold the vehicle and satisfied any debts related to the vehicle. If you have paid off the loan on the vehicle or there’s no debt, the equity in the vehicle will be its fair market value (usually calculated using the blue book value). If there’s any amount remaining on your motor vehicle loan, the equity will typically be the fair market value minus any amount still owed.

It’s important to understand that it’s the equity in your vehicle that counts, not the fair market value. Accordingly, you could be driving an expensive vehicle, but if the amount you owe is more than you could sell it for, you have no equity and the bankruptcy trustee won’t be interested in it.

Contact Neuner & Ventura, LLP

At Neuner & Ventura, LLP, we know that the bankruptcy process can be intimidating and confusing. We offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment, call our office at 856-596-2828 or send us an e-mail. We do, however, reserve the right to charge a fee to review any work done by another attorney. Evening and weekend appointments are available upon request.

Representing Clients across South Jersey



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