It is not uncommon to envision a penniless pauper when
you mention the term bankruptcy. Some might even envision someone who is disheveled and whose
nails are a complete disaster. The truth is folks who file bankruptcy are
ordinary folks whose expenses exceed their income. With that said there is
still a perception of a certain
lifestyle that accompanies those who file bankruptcy. “The principal purpose
of the Bankruptcy Code is to grant a ‘fresh start’ to the ‘honest but
unfortunate debtor’.” Marrama v. Citizens Bank of
Massachusetts, 127 S.Ct. 1105 (2007) So as a bankruptcy
attorney I must guide my debtor’s budget to show that they deserve a fresh start
because they honestly cannot afford their debts as a result of unfortunate
circumstances. Sometimes this is tougher than one might think. Let’s circle
back to the French manicure.
I ’m not a big nail person but thought I would explore the world of the French manicure. I dove
in by obtaining a French mani and pedi. Manicure and pedicure for those not
in the know, which was me until I had one. The price tag for this adventure?
$60 for both the manicure and pedicure which were a gel base. My hands and feet
looked exquisite as the excitement of this new adventure washed over me. It was
like wearing new shoes or a watch; I could not stop looking my nails because
there were fabulous. This feeling was only a set up to a letdown.
Did you know your nails constantly grow? Who knew? Apparently nails grow one-tenth of
inch per month. So the result of this phenomenon is that within
two to three weeks your nails have grown out while destroying your look of
perfection. I will say the gel based polish worked perfectly as my nails did not
chip during that period. However by the end of the third week I broke down and
removed the gel polish from my nails. That part of the adventure resulted in
stripping my nails and causing them to crack when I never had problems before.
Now I have to decide if I am going to plunk down another $60 to maintain my
nails or go back to doing them myself.
I am kind of cheapskate so I decided to go back to doing my own nails and
skip the French lifestyle all together. Fast forward to my next client intake
when the debtor wore a French manicure and a very nice manicure at that. When I
inquired about the French manicure the response was “I am not changing this
routine.” I was also informed that I offended her for being so mean to suggest
that a French manicure was a luxury expense and she could not file bankruptcy
because of it. What I actually said was that if the trustee looked at your
nails they might ask if your budget is set in reality and can you do more to cut
your living expenses?
But the bottom line is that the client is the client and I can only advise
and not force an issue. We attended the 341 meeting and because
of certain circumstances the United States Trustee’s
office was part of the proceedings asking questions about the budget and why
couldn’t they adjust their expenses to pay back some of the debt?
For reasons not related to the French manicure the debtors were able to
obtain their discharge and proceed with their “fresh start”. However, before
the discharge was entered I was questioned as to why my debtor was sporting a
French manicure and giving an attitude while being questioned about her budget.
We went on to discuss the French manicure and the cost of the procedure. I was
informed in no uncertain terms that the attitude of I deserve to walk away
from my debt without adjusting my lifestyle would not be tolerated. Luckily
the totality of the circumstances
outweighed the French manicure and attitude.
Perception is a very powerful tool and like it or not you must keep this in
mind when filing bankruptcy. If you strut into court with your Dooney & Bourke and
French manicure acting as though the court personnel should bow at your feet,
you might just wind up learning the hard way that you are a guest in the
trustee’s house of debt forgiveness and not the other way around.
Remember that knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have about changing
your perception of what your lifestyle should be, the more power you will have
to obtain a “fresh start” as described by the United States Supreme Court.