Talk to any bankruptcy attorney who has been practicing long enough, and she’ll tell you that there are three main reasons someone turns to bankruptcy to straighten out their financial affairs: unemployment, divorce, and overwhelming medical debt.
Of course, there are exceptions. I had a consultation recently that reminded me that people turn to bankruptcy for a variety of reasons. This woman was born in Mexico, but had long ago migrated to the U.S. She still has a great deal of extended family there and makes frequent visits. A few years ago, her 18 year old son made a trip down there alone. The day he was supposed to return, this woman went to the airport to pick him up, but he wasn’t on the flight he was supposed to be. Eventually, the woman got a call from her son. He told her he had been kidnapped.
Unsurprisingly, this woman and her husband didn’t have the cash to meet the kidnappers’ demands, so they resorted to taking out a large loan. Who can blame them, given that their son’s life was on the line. Although it was a hardship at the time, they were able to make monthly payments on the debt. But then the woman lost her job and was unemployed for many months. Nowhere else can the domino effect be seen in starker demonstration than in household finances when someone loses his or her job.
I have also helped victims of pyramid schemes and online con artists. While these cases are rare, they always remind me that anyone’s finances can be thrown into chaos through unforeseen events. The woman whose son had been kidnapped was extremely embarrassed to be considering the possibility of filing bankruptcy, but I doubt anyone else, no matter what their financial situation, would have given a second thought to taking out loans to save their son’s life.
Bankruptcy is sometimes the best, if not only, option when it comes to recovering from a devastating change in financial circumstances, no matter what the reason.