The Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez provide you with personal attention from the minute you walk into the door. Ms. Benitez focuses on the client first, making sure that you, the client, is involved in every step of your case, whether in State or Federal court. She understands that your needs are unique and the costs to you will vary depending upon the personal attention you require. Ms. Benitez will ensure that you feel informed every step of the way and that you feel comfortable putting your case into her hands.

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The following areas of law practiced include:

Bankruptcy

What Is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a method to provide you with a new beginning by wiping out most of your debts. By filing Bankruptcy, you are also able to prevent creditors from harassing you and taking additional action to collect on any debts.

What Are the Different Types of Bankruptcy?
The two most common types of Bankruptcy under the Federal Bankruptcy code are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7- Liquidation:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a federal court procedure in which you are able to eliminate most types of unsecured debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often called the liquidation bankruptcy because your non-exempt property may be sold to pay your creditors. It is important to note, however, that the right to a discharge is not guaranteed, and some types of debts are not dischargeable.

Chapter 13- Reorganization:
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is often referred to as "reorganization", and it involves a repayment plan that is submitted for court approval to allow a debtor to restructure his or her debts. Under a Chapter 13, you would be allowed to keep your property and pay off debts over time. Under a Chapter 13, a repayment plan must be approved and the size of the plan payments are determined by the amount the debtor can afford after paying necessary living expenses. The debtor receives a discharge if all the plan payments are made.

Can I keep my house if I file for bankruptcy?
Yes. If you are behind on your mortgage payments and you file a Chapter 13, which is a payment plan bankruptcy, you can keep your home as long as you stay current in your plan payments, and in your post-petition mortgage payments. Your pre-petition delinquent payments can be paid over time through your Chapter 13 plan.

If you file a Chapter 7 you may be at a greater risk to lose your house. If there is no equity in your home and you are behind in your payments, your secured lenders(s) will most likely file motions to continue with the foreclosure unless you decide to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender(s) to keep that from happening.
However, if there is equity in your home, and you have other creditors that need to be paid, the Chapter 7 Trustee may sell your home to pay off your creditors. As always, you need to discuss your unique situation with your attorney.

Should I try a loan modification or debt consolidation before I file for bankruptcy?
That is a personal decision and depends on the facts of your case. There are a lot of fraudulent companies these days that offer “loan modifications” and “debt consolidation” which are taking peoples’ money and then doing absolutely nothing! Your best bet is to consult with an attorney prior to trying to modify your home loan.

How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy?
At the Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez, every situation is evaluated independently, so the cost for filing may vary. The Federal filing fees are as follows:

Chapter 7 Petition Package = $299.00
Chapter 13 Petition Package = $274.00

In addition, you are now required to complete credit counseling within 180 days before filing Bankruptcy, and those costs can vary depending on the company. Your attorney can assist you with a reputable provider.

The new bankruptcy law also requires attorneys to perform “due diligence” before they file your bankruptcy petition. This means that at the very least, your attorney needs to run a credit report to validate the information that you have provided to her. Generally, however, due diligence also includes pulling a tax transcript, a NADA Guide or Kelley Bluebook auto valuation, a lien search & ownership report, and an AVM home appraisal.

Business Litigation

A business dispute or lawsuit can become a very expensive problem if you don't handle it effectively and efficiently. At the Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez, Catarina is efficient in assisting you in protecting your financial interests.

Foreclosure/Mortgage/Predatory Lending Disputes

Do you own a home that is on the verge of foreclosure or have you lost your home to foreclosure? Are you a victim of mortgage fraud or predatory lending? The Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez assists home owners who are in both the pre and post-foreclosure stages and provides sound advice regarding your home. Don’t let the Banks take your home without reviewing your case with an attorney.

Juvenile Dependency Law

What Is Juvenile Dependency Law?
This area of juvenile law is geared toward dealing with situations in which children have been removed from a parent's care by a social worker or the Department of Social Services for a variety of reasons and is declared a dependent of the court. The Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez is dedicated to assisting individuals in seeking to regain custody of their children.

In many cases, if child neglect or abuse is suspected, a social worker from the Department of Social Services or other child protective organizations may come into the home and remove the child or children as a precautionary measure. We represent parents in dependency court who are trying to get their children back from protective custody. Our firm also represents relatives who are trying to have children placed in their care in matters where the children are in the care of non-relatives.

What Happens When You Go to Court?
If there is suspected abuse or neglect in the home, the law allows law enforcement of an agent of CPS to remove a child from the home and keep the child out of the home for up to 72 hours. This is the initial stage known as “Detention”.

Detention Hearing:
At the Detention hearing, the court must order the release of the child to his or her parent unless the court finds that there are legal grounds to keep the child detained, or out of the parents’ care and custody.

Jurisdiction Hearing:
Approximately 15 days after the Detention hearing takes place, the Jurisdiction hearing occurs. At the Jurisdiction hearing, the court must order that the child be returned to his or her parent unless the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the petition is found true and that the child remain a dependent of the court.

Disposition Hearing:
A Disposition hearing takes place approximately 10 days after the Jurisdiction hearing. At this stage, the court determines temporary placement of the child. In determining placement, the court considers the detriment to the child in placement. Where a relative placement is requested, the Department of Social Services will consider the placement for the child. At this point of the proceeding, the Department must establish that there is clear and convincing evidence of substantial risk of danger to the child and that the child cannot be returned due to the evidence presented.

Six Month Review Hearing:
At the six-month hearing, the minor shall be returned to the parents unless there is a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial risk to the minor’s physical or emotional well-being , or when the parents have failed to participate in court ordered services.

If the child is three years of age or under, the parents have six months from the date the child entered foster care to complete court ordered services.

Twelve Month Hearing:
At the twelve month hearing, which generally takes place one year from the Disposition hearing, the child shall be returned to the parents unless there is a substantial risk to the minor's physical or emotional well-being or when the parents have failed to participate regularly in any Court ordered treatment programs. For a child who, on the date of initial removal is three years of age or older, the parents have twelve months from the date the child entered foster care to complete court ordered services

Eighteen Month Hearing:
At the 18 month hearing, the minor shall be returned to the parents unless there is a substantial risk to the Minor’s physical or emotional well being or where the parents have failed to participate regularly in court Ordered treatment.

Selection and Implementation Hearing:
At this hearing, which takes place approximately 120 days from the hearing to terminate reunification services, the court will terminate parental rights and order adoption, guardianship, or long term foster care unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Landlord/Tenant Disputes

Landlord/Tenant issues can be confusing and frustrating. Whether you are a landlord or tenant, at the Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez, we assist you in protecting your investment and informing you of your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez for a consultation.

Landlord/Tenant issues include:

  • Habitability concerns
  • Landlord defense
  • Landlord-tenant litigation
  • Other real property issues
  • Post-foreclosure litigation
  • Tenant defense
  • Collections

The Law Offices of Catarina M. Benitez also assist with drafting landlord-tenant agreements, reviewing leases, litigation for small claims matters, and assisting with small claims matters.