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Attorney Christine Kingston Speaks With Katherine On “This Needs To Be Said” About, In The World Of Bankruptcy. – Part One

Categories: Bankruptcy, Interview
Katherine: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in to This Needs To Be Said TV. I’ve been doing the podcast for several years, and there’s an attorney that I get the opportunity to spend time with on a monthly basis. I love what she does so much that I wanted to share it with you because there are things that our personal beliefs will keep us from doing because it seems like it’s a bad thing to do when it’s really a way to reset your life, and we wonder, “How do the Trumps of the world make it and why do they get away with this and get away with that?” It’s not that they’re getting away with anything. It’s that they understand the law.
And the people who don’t understand the law feel like they’ve been taken advantage of. So, attorney Christine Kingston is going to come with us and share some of the things that she and I talk about in the world of bankruptcy. Remember, I am the talk show host, and she is the expert in this case. So, while I’m going to ask curious questions, she’s very generous and sharing, so please take a pen and paper out because class is always in session whenever I am sharing information.
I want to make the community better, and this works for anyone. Welcome to This Needs To Be Said TV, Christine. How are you?
Christine K.: I am fantastic, Katherine. Always good to be with you, and thank you so much for having me.
Katherine: Thank you for accepting the invitation, and I know you understand why. You are an attorney who loves to help, and I think we’ve joked and called you the cuddly attorney before and all your bright colors and festive colors, and I just love the energy whenever we talk. So, exactly. You look wonderful. I love it. It just popped, and it goes with your personality.
Christine K.: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Katherine: Well, you’re welcome. The irony is that you’re an attorney, and that people are afraid to go to an attorney for anything. It’s going to cost me lots of money. I’m going to be in trouble. If you have an attorney, you must be constantly in trouble. You know what I mean? It seems like it’s bad, but it’s not. Having an attorney on your side is A, you’re able to be educated, and you know what to expect.
It’s not about avoiding the pain or avoiding going through whatever life is going to take us through, but it is about how to go through it, and you do a great job of showing people that. Now, you have a book that’s coming out, and it covers a lot of what we’ve talked about with bankruptcy and student debt and being recession proof, and all of these things in your world could be interchangeable.
You just show us how to make it work for us and all the troubles we find ourselves in. So, I’m going to shut up for just a second or more than a second, so you can share with the This Needs To Be Said audience who you are. Talk a bit about bankruptcy and how it’s not a bad word.
Christine K.: Absolutely, and Katherine, as you know, I am a licensed attorney here in the state of California, and I know you’re on the East Coast as most of your viewers and listeners are. So, between you and it’s my opinion today rather than some legal advice. So, you know just be aware that what we’re talking about is information that’s generally useful to everybody. I may be a bankruptcy attorney here in the state of California. The bankruptcy is federal law and so everybody throughout the United States could file a bankruptcy case, okay?
So, basically, bankruptcy is what I call the cheaper, better, faster way to get out of debt. Why? Because whether you’re proposing a payment plan under what’s called chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code, or whether you’re going for a liquidation bankruptcy under chapter seven where you don’t make any payment plans because you can’t afford it. Those routes are generally cheaper, better and faster than any other type of debt relief. A debt settlement or debt negotiation all wreak havoc on one’s credit report.
And most people have this backwards opinion about how bankruptcy ruins their credit. What’s interesting and ironic about that whole concept is bankruptcy actually will improve your credit score because we’re eliminating the debt.
Katherine: Yes.
Christine K.: So right, right. When we get rid of the debt, the credit score goes up, and it might cost you a few points because of the bankruptcy. It stays on your record. Sure, for about seven years under a chapter 13 and 10 years on a chapter seven, but my bankers tell me…And I bank at Bank of America just in case anybody wants to know. My bankers had told me, and I have confirmed that you’re back on what’s called normal standard credit after five years out of bankruptcy. What does that mean? It means you can buy a car and buy a house, and it’s not going to stop you from renting an apartment or doing all of those things that you need that credit score for.
So, that’s it. In a nutshell, that’s bankruptcy. Gosh, we’re talking about the book, and I know last time I’ve changed the title, so I really want to give everybody an update on that. It started out… Here’s my thinking, how it goes. Five Steps to Freedom From Student Loan Debt, which matches my first book, Five Steps to Freedom From Debt. Then I went into Student Loans Are Scarier Than Shit. I thought that was a pretty good book because-
Katherine: I do too.
Christine K.: There’s, a lot of other books out there that start cussing, and you know I take cussing to an art form, so I’ll take credit for that there. But this last iteration is How to Tame the Student Loan Dragon. Why? Well, gosh, who doesn’t love a good dragon argument? Besides that, I think it’s a monster anyway with the $1.6 trillion in student loans. So-
Katherine: Whoa.
Christine K.: … in working with the people that I’m working with, helping me put this book out nationally, which is why we’re headed up to the East Coast there and talking to you and your listeners is because this is a national problem. What I also noticed is the East Coast has more student loan debt than we have out here on the West Coast.
Christine K.: I have also been teaching… Right? Yeah. It’s way bigger out on the East coast than it is out here in California. I’ve been training other attorneys and begging other attorneys to take this work, and I feel like I’m a pioneer in this business because I get all the local referrals. Right now, it requires litigation inside a bankruptcy case if you want your student loans included in that bankruptcy discharge.
So, this book is really a little bit of a historical perspective of how we got into this mess in the first place, and then it’s some solutions and some steps that people can take that will help them train and tame that dragon. It may not get rid of it. Gosh. It’s not snake oil, first of all, and it’s really not a cure-all as well. This is not something that we’re getting out of anytime soon by any means.
And it’s also a call to action to our legislators and Congress and those that write the laws, hopefully, bringing it back into bankruptcy. Maybe we set some boundaries around it, but I think a lot of work needs to be done, and I’m here on the consumer side helping educate the consumers with accurate information about how bankruptcy helps rather than hurts, because I don’t know how else to market this, Katherine.
Katherine: Well, I’ve learned over the years of having an opportunity to talk with you all is that I thought it was a scary thing. I’ve gone through bankruptcy myself, but that was before life with Christine because… And the person that helped me, she was not a mean person. She was just an attorney, and she was doing her job, and we were going through the process, and I was feeling very miserable, and this feels like I did something wrong.
And while I was in my background, my upbringing wasn’t about never filed bankruptcy. I don’t know that my family thought we would achieve being able to file bankruptcy, so it wasn’t even a conversation.
Christine K.: Right.
Katherine: So, going through foreclosure, going through bankruptcy, feeling like you’re losing everything you worked hard for is extremely emotional. That is what I did learn. So, when I met you all, I was like, “What are the attorneys… Okay, this is going to be weird. Okay, I’ll do it.” So, as we’re talking, I was like, “Oh gosh. I just talk. I don’t have a script of questions that just makes someone look good or look bad. I’m not a shock jock or a whole system to get you with questions that I want to make sure, Christine, what she says. I’m just having a conversation like any other person would have a conversation.”
So, what I’ve been pleasantly surprised with is how patient you are, how pleasant you are, how high energy you are, and this is a tough topic. This is a tough topic, first of all, so I understand how do you market this and when you infuse hope in this part of life that could reset us because you started at 18 with no credit if you didn’t know… if your parents didn’t know to have good credit to have you as an authorized user to help you get a better credit score. You start out with no credit, and no one wants to touch you because you don’t have any credit. And that’s the thing. I want to get credit, so I can have better credit. So, it’s like a vicious cycle at 18.
Then, if we’re going through life, as we go through life, and if we have to file bankruptcy, from what I understand from you, it’s a reset, but I’m not 18 again, but my credit has an 18-again behavior, but I have better education this time. I know how to keep myself out of these situations. It doesn’t mean not to have… in the past, I’ve heard attorneys tell you… Basically, it sounds like you’re sacrificing. You can’t live. You’re going to….
Christine K.: Right.
Katherine: … everything, and not just attorneys, but if you ever have to go to get public services for anything, they want you to find everything about you, then come ask for help. So, yes, it was scary talking to attorneys because I’m thinking, “Boy, I’m really getting ready to turn my audience off. This is going to be terrible,” but it’s not at all, and it has not been. So, as I go back into television, I said, “Let me bring… ” I do this. I’m known for bringing the podcast to the television show, especially if it’s something really good, and we can put it on another medium.
And so, you have this book that no longer is Student Loans Are Scarier Then Shit. It is now, you said, Taming the Debt Dragon. Did I-
Christine K.: Yeah, How to Tame the Student Loan Dragon. That will be the title of the book.
Katherine: Okay, okay.
Christine K.: We are settled on that.
Katherine: Settled on, okay.
Christine K.: So, yeah, How to Tame the Student Loan Dragon. Yeah, so we’re going to go through the backend of it. It’s interesting that you touch on our young people, because in the book, I’m writing about how we send our 18-year-olds, and now they’re even talking about trying to get people to be able to vote at 17, but we’re sending off our 18-year-olds, go to college, get an education, make a difference in your life and do whatever it takes to get that education.
But what we don’t teach them is how to negotiate and enter into a contract and a legal binding contract. And by the way, son, I forgot to tell you that if you make a mistake, you won’t be able to get rid of your student loans because they’re not dischargeable in bankruptcy. So, if you’d like to rather instead take $180,000 and go to Vegas and piss that away by gambling, we got your back. Bankruptcy will get rid of that debt.
But God willing, you should want to actually make a difference and transform your life and make some money for future generations. Don’t mess that up because that will go down on your permanent record, not the gambling problem in Vegas. How do we do that, right?
Christine K.: And so we’re sending our kids off and trying to fill out these… Yeah, right?
Katherine: Keep talking. I’m sorry.
Christine K.: Yeah, we send our kids off to sign a contract, sign their life away and go to college you know and then what happens is because the government is the biggest lender in the world, $1.6 trillion dollars in student loans are sitting at the government sector.
Katherine: Wow.
Christine K.: There’s maybe 1% of that. A very small portion of it is private student loans, small portion. The other thing that I’m noticing that’s scary because I’m getting a lot of phone calls with people with greater than $100,000 in debt. As a matter of fact, two, three, 400,000, all the way up to $800,000 is the type of debt I’m working with here.
Katherine: Whoa.
Christine K.: What’s interesting is they’re saying the average person is only carrying about $37,000 in student loan debt, and it’s very rare that you’ll see people with over 100,000, so I’m seeing all the unicorns in my office who have more than $100,000 in student loan. I’m thinking there might be more than 1% if you ask me, but I’m not one to gossip, so-
Katherine: Right.
Christine K.: Yeah and, so it’s important when people are in this mess. I’m talking to the 44 million people who are part of the $1.6 trillion in student loan. That’s my audience. Those are the people that I’m trying to help. Let’s give them a lifeline because you know the government tells me this, and I’ve got a DOJ attorney assigned to me. Every case that I filed, she’s the same lawyer that I work with on all my cases for student loans.
Here’s what she says. Typical government attorney, right? “Well, we put a website out.” I’m like, “Bravo. Fantastic. How about some advertising? How about some PSA?” It’s public service announcement. “How about letting the people know what their options are when they call their Sallie Mae/Navient or whoever their representative is? How about they go over those options with them?” “Nope. They sure don’t because everyone that comes to me says, ‘I never heard about these payment options until you told me, Christine.'”
And I’m thinking, “Wow. Why do we consumer lawyers have to now go out and give our own public service announcements?” Because every time I get into litigation on this stuff, she’s like, “Well, why haven’t they tried these options?” “Well, geez, you know government attorney, they were never told about them.” “Well, we put the website out. Isn’t that enough?”
Katherine: Oh, God. No.
Christine K.: That’s the message that the government… That’s not enough, and I know that’s not enough. I think they need to do more, but they’re not. They don’t believe that that’s their position, and the people that are running it right now up at the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, is ripping it apart, and she wants charter schools and all of that. So, that’s where we’re at with that whole thing.
Katherine: Anyhow, you taught me something of our previous conversations that student debt was a part of bankruptcy at what time? Is that what you told me?
Christine K.: 1978. Yeah, we’d go back in 1978 when it was included. It’s been that long. What’s interesting is I looked at a timeline. Since 1978, they started taking pieces away. They being the lenders and the creditors is who they are. Usually, what happened is they think that, “Oh my God. Well, if we’re going to allow student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, everybody’s going to take advantage of that. They’re going to get their degree.” There were no statistics that supported that fact at the time they got those laws passed.
It was 1978. It used to be five years of suffering, and then you could have a discharge, and then they cried again. “But they’re going to take advantage of us. Lenders, the consumers are going to take advantage of us,” so then they made it seven years. “But then wait, wait. They’re going to take advantage of us.” Then they got rid of it altogether for the federal loans.
Then when they did the Bankruptcy Abuse Consumer Protection Act, fondly known as the BAPCPA. In 2005, they included private student loans and took that away from a discharge. Now, it doesn’t matter if you have federal student loans or private student loans. Not a single bit of it is dischargeable unless we file a lawsuit, sue the creditors and ask for declaratory relief, which is equitable. We bounced the scales. Can we include this in our bankruptcy discharge, your honor? I get two theories on that. Undue hardship or whether it’s even a qualified education loan. Everybody gets messed up by a for-profit college, not registered maybe, but in the Cayman Islands?
Katherine: Ouch.
Christine K.: That’s not a qualified education loan.
Katherine: Wow.
Christine K.: Yeah, so there’s only two ways to do it, and it’s expensive. Litigation is cost prohibitive for most people, which is why we don’t see these cases coming out, and most attorneys who practice in bankruptcy will not take up the litigation part of it. There are very few of us who do the litigation work, and there’s even fewer like myself who have taken on the student loans and not only am I doing that. I’ve written a book for attorneys.
I train other attorneys. I’m giving this stuff away to lawyers for free, hoping that most lawyers throughout the country will take this up, and I’m specifically speaking to your coast, because I know that there are not very many attorneys on the East Coast, like my buddy in Georgia. I’ve got attorneys in all parts of the country right now. Not a single one of them are doing these cases. So, I’m begging them all. If you’re an attorney listening, please give me a call. I’m here to help.
Katherine: Absolutely. I think that should be taped over the back of your chair right there.
Christine K.: Yeah, I’ll check with the magic eight ball and see if I can predict people’s futures, right?
Katherine: Absolutely. I love it. I love-
Christine K.: Are you talking about that?
Katherine: No, I’m just thinking about all the things that you are doing in helping in… It seems like no matter what area you’re in, if you go as hard as you’re going to educate people, knowing that this is a heavy mantle to bear, but a lady I spoke with today about a completely unrelated topic here. I’m not too far removed though about housing, about the affordable housing crisis. But of course, in my particular area is what I was interested in, but it could be anywhere in the USA that people are facing not being able to afford a place to live.
So, wherever we are wanting to make sure that people have the information, there’s always a big uphill battle. I don’t mean to say it as a pessimist, but she was saying to me, “The things that we are trying to get attention to with the housing is limited, because the people who are affected by it don’t know how to fight for it, don’t have the time to fight for it,” all of that.
So, it could be any category of our lives of wanting to help people do better, and we’re so far behind where that rule… Like 1978, that’s a long time ago when you think of litigation because of what-
Christine K.: That’s right.
Katherine: So, to get it there in 1978, now, it’s being unraveled and no one stopped it, and now you’re trying to say, “Hey, wait a minute. We need to stop this. Do you all not see what’s going on?” We have to go back to the point of, “Well, what was this and did it cover this and can we get this back?” There’s, so many rules and laws that’s in our city here alone. You know there’s, so many laws that are not enforced, but they’re on the book. So, it’s a lot of busyness, a lot of stuff you have to sit through, and you don’t understand it.
I go to look at things sometimes, and I’m going, “I have no idea what this means. You know I need someone who can translate this.” So, yeah, you’re doing something wonderful. However, there’s plenty of work, but not a lot of workers. So, I’m hoping that when people tune into this show that they’re saying, “Hey, I wonder,” and they will begin to reach out to an attorney that eventually will reach out to you to get in touch with you to get the resources that you’re offering, because the education piece is huge for the attorney. I know it’s a lot of work.
Christine K.: Yep.
Katherine: We don’t want to do more work. I want to do this work-
Christine K.: It is.
Katherine: on this system, and here you go adding something else you know? It’s a lot of just being human, a lot of caring.
Christine K.: Absolutely.
Katherine: It gets hard because you’re doing the same things over and over. You’re getting up. You’re going through your day, and you’re starting again, and it begins the same mundane… But what if we could live in a world where I don’t exactly want what you have. I just want what I want and to have what I classify as a good life. What would that world be like? It won’t take anything from anyone, and everybody won’t take advantage of bankruptcy. Everybody hasn’t taken advantage of bankruptcy. By the time-
Christine K.: Nope.
Katherine: … I took advantage of it, it wasn’t an option like, “Ooh, this is going to upgrade me.” It was like, “Aw, man. I feel.” So, people aren’t rushing to failure. When they learn that it’s a good thing, when they can embrace it’s a good thing, because I can guarantee you. When you and I get done with this interview, I could talk with someone about bankruptcy. They know I do radio interviews and television interviews, and they will undoubtedly tell me, “Oh, that’s a bad idea. You must’ve done something wrong. Well, how did you get?
Christine K.: That’s right.
Katherine: … in that vehicle? You should get another job. You should pay what you owe.” So, even if I’m telling him-
Christine K.: Oh, you poor thing.
Katherine: Right, right. So, we were up against a lot of things that is going to squeeze out this information that you have that could cause us to have a good life now, and not because we want to shirk our responsibilities, but sometimes the plan you had in the beginning, it changes. Things in your plan change, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not that you-
Christine K.: That’s right.
Katherine: … knew better and you just didn’t get it done. Every person who went to school for whatever new hotness they said was going to be the wave of the future. We need lots of teachers. We need lots of IT people. I know lots of teachers and IT people and other people with degrees that are not working in their field, or they’re not even working. So, no, I didn’t plan-
Christine K.: They’re broke. Yep.
Katherine: Yeah, I wasn’t planning not to get a job after school. It didn’t work out. So, you tell that person, “You went about-
Christine K.: That’s right.
Katherine: Trying to improve your life and you’ve made a bad decision and now shame on you. You know just you have to deal with it.” I think a lot of times, we need some assistance. We need some help to get over the hump, to get through something, and you’re the kind of attorney that does that to help a person to get through it. Now, I know that the book isn’t out yet, but what are some of the things that are covered or going to be covered in the book?
Christine K.: Well, absolutely, it’s going to be all about student loans you know so, one of the things that I want to emphasize our resources for people, right? So, we have available… As attorneys, we get connected, and we network with other attorneys, and I network with attorneys all over the country now because of the work that I’m doing, which is fantastic. So, one of the resources that I’ll provide in the book for consumers is resources for the different payment plans that are available.
For example, I send everyone to a website put out by the National Consumer Law Center. Consumer advocates like myself, but it’s not a law firm that anyone can hire. But what they did was they built a really great website that’s free for everybody to access, but nobody seems to know about that, right?
Katherine: Right.
Christine K.: Www dot. Write this down everybody. Ready? One more time. Studentloanborrowerassistance.org. O-R-G. So, it’s student loan borrower assistance with the ANCE at end, dot org, all right? So, I think, Katherine, you’ll put that up on your website, I’m sure, but that’s a great website to talk about all the different payment plans that are available for federal student loans. What can you do if it’s a private loan? Are there administrative discharges available? We’ve seen the news feeds now about the public service forgiveness.
Speaking of teachers, by the way, thank you all for teachers. For all the teachers out there, all the work that you do, you have sentenced yourself to a life of poverty. I’m sorry, but the teacher forgiveness is… I mean, maybe one or two applications are being approved for that.
Katherine: Wait a minute.
Christine K.: In purgatory for two, three years-
Katherine: Wait a minute.
Christine K.: … and then not getting approved.
Katherine: Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Time out. For real.
Christine K.: And then, yeah, right.
Katherine: Okay. It’s another one of those things that I thought was automatic. I’m going to add it to my assumption list. I’m ashamed. So, you’re saying that teachers aren’t automatically getting their loans forgiven?
Christine K.: Nothing is automatic with the Department of Education. As a matter of fact, there is nothing automated about the Department of Education, and quite frankly, I’m not sure there’s anybody sitting at that desk you know, either. But again, this is just my opinion.
Katherine: Wow. Wow, yes, that’s a-
Christine K.: Yeah, so these applications have been pending. I get calls all the time about that. People are like, “My application has been pending for years. What can I do? Well, you either A, wait, or you can come into bankruptcy, and we can try to force an outcome.” But Nope. People don’t often want bankruptcy unless it’s the place of last resort for the student loans, because I don’t take these cases into bankruptcy very lightly. It is a heavy remedy. It’s not easy to do. It takes people with fortitude to go through the litigation process. They take their depositions, which is face-to-face question and answers while it’s being recorded. It’s a testimony under oath.
They’re facing the independent medical examinations and occupational therapist because they’re trying to predict their future, so that they can go to the court. Lenders, by the way, are wanting to go to court and say, “Gee, Your Honor, there’s no undue hardship. Sure, she’s got mental health problems, but they can still work, right? They can get a second job, third job, fourth job, and we can tie them to a desk until they pay the loans back, Your Honor. Come on, tie them to a desk.”
That’s really what opposing counsel’s arguments are, and it wears my clients down. Most of my clients end up settling or coming into some form of settlement, and they may or may not get anywhere while working with me. Most do get somewhere, and I do make a difference for my clients, but it’s not a cure-all, and it’s not snake oil, and it’s not an instant fix. There is no instant fix here.
Katherine: No.
Christine K.: It’s $1.6 trillion in student loans carried by our government. So, it’s either the borrowers themselves that are going to suffer, or if there’s any relief at all, now, American taxpayers are going to flip the bill for their neighbors and friends when we just bailed out the banks in 2008, because they cried wolf. You know the federal government has no backup plan, and America-
Katherine: I expect us to have one.
Christine K.: … as a whole is hearing more and more debt. What’s the point? I don’t understand what people’s attachment is to their damn credit score, but I’m telling you right now that all that says is how well you manage debt. It doesn’t say how great you are as a human being. I tell everybody, “Your blood pressure’s way more important than that,” and having debt only increases your blood pressure and your stress. So, why do it? What’s point?
Katherine: I think it would be great to have an emotional breakup when it comes to dealing with things like that.
Christine K.: Yes, it’s an addiction, I think.
Katherine: It is. It is. I know we’re going to talk again, so I’m going to wrap up our time here. But before we do, Christine, I want you to tell people how to get in touch with you outside of This Needs To Be Said TV.
Christine K.: Thank you so much again, Katherine. I’m Christine Kingston. I’m a licensed attorney here in the state of California. I have an office and private practice in the city of Huntington Beach. I am Surf City Lawyers. We can be reached at 714-533-9210 or on the web at www.surfcitylawyers.com. Thanks again, Katherine. I appreciate it.
Katherine: Awesome, and until the next time, have a super day. Thank you so much, Christine.
Christine K.: Will do. Thank you.