Timing is everything, they say, and as a bankruptcy lawyer in Columbus, Indiana, I found that statement especially true earlier this month. Second only to a home threatened by foreclosure, and in some cases even more important, an automobile is the one asset Indiana bankruptcy clients try their hardest to hang on to. Whether it’s getting their children to daycare or to the doctor, or even just getting to work and back every day (or to job interviews after a layoff!), for most people, keeping their car seems to be their key to carrying on.

In the case of one Columbus, Indiana gentleman, Mike, (who subsequently turned to me for help filing bankruptcy), he arrived home from a walk to the corner store to find a repo team getting ready to haul away his car. (By way of background information, creditors are allowed to come and take the car if the payments are more than thirty days behind, and Mike’s were.) Mike resisted forceably (but with no violence), standing in front of the car shouting that he had to have the car to get to work and to take his daughter for her treatments. Fortunately the repo people were aware of their boundaries and backed off, saying they’d get a court order to do a “replevin” (court-ordered repossession), which in fact took place.

All was not lost. Mike located my Columbus bankruptcy law office and filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. We worked out a plan for the creditor to surrender the vehicle back to Mike, with an agreement for him to make payments over the next five years at a very low interest rate. As I explained in my earlier blog Bankruptcy May Be The One Way To Keep Wheeling Along, in most cases, if a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is filed within ten days of an auto repossession or replevin, the creditor must return the repossessed vehicle and allow for the repayment over a three to five year period.

The car was the key to Mike’s “carrying on” his life. The two keys for my success in helping Mike were these: First, we were reacting swiftly, within the ten day window allowed under the law when a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed after a repossession. Second, as an experienced bankruptcy attorney, I was able to negotiate the terms of the “redemption” of the car in such a way that Mike has been able to handle the payments. He had done two things right – getting help, and getting help in time. Because of that, Mike’s back in the driver’s seat.