Wisconsin has one of the most unique state laws to assist residents with financial troubles. I would safely assume most debt advisers and lawyers have no clue about this little known program. But one attorney who does is Nathan DeLadurantey.
So I asked Nathan if he’d like to contribute a guest post and share his expertise. He graciously accepted the offer.
Nathan is a consumer protection lawyer in Wisconsin. He represents consumers in Wisconsin and California in cases involving the illegal collection actions, improper credit reporting information, or debt relief scams. While he’s a lawyer, this article isn’t intended to be legal advice and does not create any attorney-client relationship.
Living in Wisconsin and in Debt – Read This
Sometimes it happens – you find yourself buried in debt. Credit cards, medical bills, collections – and just the general bills that run your life over. If you’re in Wisconsin, we have some special laws that can help, found under Wis. Stat. 128.21. Around Wisconsin Courts, this is commonly just called a “Chapter 128.”
Here’s what Chapter 128 allows for Wisconsin residents: you can take all your unpaid, general unsecured debt, put it into a simple court-approved repayment plan, and then pay it back in equal monthly payments over the next 36 months. Like many laws, there’s some exclusions. Here’s a few (but not all): 1) you need to be employed to file a Chapter 128; 2) you can’t include things like back federal taxes; 3) you can’t include your car payment.
Filing a Chapter 128 is pretty straightforward. Simply complete the court’s forms with your information, list of creditors to be included, and a few other items. You can choose to make your monthly payment by either having it withdrawn from your paychecks from your employer or by mailing a check each month. You can find all the necessary forms and filing checklist online.
From there you will mail the documents to the Clerk of Courts for the county where you live. The judge will appoint a “trustee” to your case – this is the person responsible for receiving your monthly payments and distributing it to your creditors. Throughout the duration of your Chapter 128, you really need to read any letters you receive from your trustee. That person may tell you that you estimated the balance wrong on your debt (and need to pay more or less!), tell you that some of your creditors aren’t cashing their payment checks (for example, because they went out of business), or other important information. I’ve met some of the Chapter 128 trustees; they’re all really great folks. Their services are a huge benefit to the public as they help Wisconsin consumers get out of debt. So treat them politely, as they help you.
Some people decide to hire a lawyer (usually for a reasonable fixed fee) to assist them in filing their Ch. 128. Others feel like they can file the documents on their own. The fixed court costs for the case are minor (less than $35).
During your Chapter 128 your creditors can still sue you, but they can’t garnish you. This is a huge benefit to protecting your wages while you’re paying off your debts. At the end of your Chapter 128 all of your debts are deemed “paid in full.” We always recommend that people pull their credit reports after they’re done, just to make sure everything is reporting correctly. You can pull your credit reports for free annually at www.annualcreditreport.com. Lately we’ve noticed that many creditors are not properly updating the accounts as “paid in full” and listing the accounts in a derogatory status. Obviously, this is wrong and often results in a lawsuit from the consumer against the wrongdoers.
While a Chapter 128 isn’t for everyone, it’s certainly a good solution for many. One piece of closing advice, regarding of the state you live in: don’t fall into the trap of using a debt relief scam. For every legitimate debt relief organization, there are many more scams. Do you research (on websites like GetOutOfDebt.org) and make sure you’re not being ripped off! Best of luck to you as you explore your debt relief and consolidation options.