Law Office of Charles A. Smith

Free Initial Consultation (406-442-4840)



Personal Injury

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy helps you get a completely new slate.  It wipes unsecured debt away.  It's often referred to as "liquidation bankruptcy" or "straight bankruptcy."  Generally when you file Chapter 7 an automatic stay takes effect.  This is a court order that prohibits most actions from occurring, including calls from debt collectors, repossessions, utility shut-offs, wage garnishments, and foreclosures.

Typically debts that will be cleared are:

  • Credit cards
  • Personal loans
  • Wage garnishments
  • Medical bills
  • Judgements from accidents
  • Repossessed vehicle deficencies
  • Some tax debts that occurred in the past under different laws
  • Payday loans

Debts that are NOT dischargeable:

  • Child support
  • Student loans
  • Most tax debts

When a debtor files Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most, if not all, unsecured debts will be discharged.  In order to do this some of the debtors assets may be sold by the court to pay off debtors.  However, there are some assets that are protected by bankruptcy laws and exemptions. 

There is a Means Test that the debtor must qualify under.  It's designed to make sure those individuals filing actually need it and looks at the debtors household income compared to the median income.   If it's below the median income, Chapter 7 may be an option.


Most of us could not live without a vehicle these days.  Losing your car to bankruptcy can be a scary thought.  There are a list of exemptions in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which includes automobiles.  Each person in Montana is entitled to an exemption of $2500 in equity or value on a vehicle.  An automatic stay will go into effect generally after you file for bankruptcy, which will stop a repossession and may protect you from a forced sale.

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Chapter 13

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a "reorganization of debts."  Many debtors considering bankruptcy choose Chapter 13 in order to catch up on past due payments, such as home and auto loans, and other secured debts.  Individuals that may not qualify for Chapter 7 may qualify under Chapter 13.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves a 3 to 5 year repayment plan overseen by the bankruptcy court.  The debtor makes monthly payments to the court, which allows the debtor to keep all assets in the debtors possession. 

Homes, Vehicles, & Other Assets

The most significant benefit to Chapter 13 is that the debtors are offered an opportunity to save their homes and vehicles from foreclosure.  When Chapter 13 is filed, foreclosure is stopped.  Delinquent mortgage payments may be cured over time, but the debtor must continue to make mortgage payments that come due.  Another benefit is that secured debts may be rescheduled and extended over the life of the Chapter 13 plan.  This may potentially lower payments, allowing the debtor some relief.  It acts as a consolidation plan.  The bankruptcy court, through the Trustee, distributes payments to the creditors.  The debtor does not have to have any direct contact with creditors.

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Medical Bankruptcy

One of the biggest reasons individuals file for bankruptcy is due to an illness or injury that causes medical bills to skyrocket.  With the high cost of insurance and health care in general is it not uncommon to find someone in serious debt because of medical bills.  While it can be a hopeless feeling to be unable to manage the high costs, there are ways to help. 

There are no bankruptcy laws applying specifically and only to medical bankruptcy, but Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the two main types of personal bankruptcy.  Depending on an individual's situation, either could possibly be the assistance needed to get out of or help manage the debt.

Read more about Chapter 7.

Read more about Chapter 13.

Please contact us today for caring and compassionate help.

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Divorce / Parenting Plans

Do you need assistance with any of the following?

  • Modification
  • Paternity
  • Custody Litigation
  • Child Support Calculations
  • Property & Debt Division
  • Adoptions

Divorce and child custody is a difficult time for all involved.  During this time you need someone who the experience to help you get through it.  There are many laws and many aspects to understand and at a time like this experience is even more important. 

There are many things to be considered during a divorce, including, but not limited to:

  • Maintenance (alimony) / Spouse Support
  • Assets / Division of Property
  • Child Custody / Child Support

Montana has a no-fault divorce law.  This means that there does not have to be a specific reason to end the marriage, which in legal terms in Montana is the "dissolution of marriage."  It also means that if one spouse wants to divorce, the other spouse cannot stop it.  In order for the court to grant the divorce, it must be determined that there are irreconcilable differences.

Assets will be divided equitably.  This does not mean equally.  It just means that they will be divided fairly and as determined through negotiations between the spouses.  The Court's will determine, if necessary, how property is actually divided.  This applies to debt also.

When minor child(ren) are involved a Parenting Plan must be submitted to the court and must contain several provisions.  Child support is based on the income of the parents.  Insurance, medical expenses, and child care are also considered when determining support.  Parenting Plans and child support can be complex and must ensure the needs and best interests of the child(ren) are taken into consideration.

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Personal Injury

Most of us have been involved in some type of accident at some point in our lives.  For some of us those have been serious accidents.  When that happens to you, the last thing you want to have to deal with is an insurance company.  Their goal is to make you go away.  Our goal is to make sure you are protected.

There are generally specific time frames that a lawsuit must be filed in.  It is extremely important to make sure that dates are met or it could adversely affect your case.  Missing a date could even cause it to be dismissed.  With the law system as complex as it is, don't risk trying to deal with the insurance companies on your own.  They have high paid aggressive attorneys making sure their interests are taken care of.  Don't take a chance with your future.  Contact us today to see how we can help you. 

We specialize in

  • Auto Accidents
  • Workers' Compensation
  • Defective Products
  • Bodily Injury
  • Wrongful Death 

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