Dr. Debt Answered Your Questions

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During our Ask Dr. Debt segment today, Rozanne Andersen, Executive VP and General Counsel for ACA International, answered some of your important personal finance questions. If you have a question for next week, feel free to post it here or send it to us at


My husband and I filed bankruptcy in NY. Our debts were discharged in 2003. My question is: Can we file again in Florida?


There is no limit to how many times you can file for bankruptcy. However, as a result of changes to the bankrutpcy law 2005, you must wait a certain amount of time to re-file. In order to file for banktuptcy again, regardless of where you file in the US, if your original bankruptcy was a chapter 7, you must wait eight years to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and four years to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy.


A collection agency called yesterday about a debt from 1996. We disputed this debt and I spoke to the credit bureaus last week, and this debt they reference is not on any of the credit files. Is there a statute of limitations on the age of old debts? I want to know where I stand if they call again.


Yes, all states have statutes of limitation concerning how long a creditor has to file a lawsuit against you to collect a debt. However, with the exception of two states, even if the debt is beyond the statute of limitations, a debt collector is permitted to continue collecting the debt, but the debt collector is not permitted to threaten you with litigation when attempting to collect the debt if the debt collector knows or should know that the debt is outside the applicable statute of limitations.


My home is paid for, but I have a few loans I'd like to pay off. There is a good possibility I may be laid off in October and I'd like to know if it is wise to take equity from my home to pay off this debt?


It really does depend on your current financial situation. If you have a sufficient amount of equity, obtaining a home equity loan could be a wise option to pay off current debt. But you must remember that ultimately in the long run you are paying one debt and gaining another debt, leaving you in the same position you were before. Start working on a strong financial budget today so that should you unfortunately lose your job, you are able to weather the period of potential unemployment. But you should certainly speak with your bank or financial advisor to discuss your options.


My ex-husband is filing for bankruptcy and I am a signer on several of the loans he is including in his bankruptcy. Can I stop him? Or is there a way to protect my credit rating? Is my 401k at risk?


Her ex-husband filed for bankruptcy, and she is a co-signer on some debt. She cannot stop him from filing. There is no provision for that. However, the good news is that her 401k cannot be touched. If there is fraud involved in the 401k, or if the amount in there is more than enough to meet her retirement needs, then some states will allow creditors to attack it, but those are very rare situations. She will be liable for any debt that he files on (if she co-signed on that debt). Her credit score could be affected, to the extent that she cannot pay on all of the debts that is co-signed on Also, it is important to note that as to any consumer debts where she is a co-signer, the creditor cannot pursue her for those debts IF HE IS IN A CHAPTER 13. This is called the "co-debtor" stay, and only applies to Chapter 13s where there is a non-filing co-debtor (such as Marie).