You might be tempted to ignore your debt issues- thinking you can address it later when the Covid-19 crisis subsides. But, in my experience, debt problems- like tooth aches or car troubles- only get worse if you ignore them. In addition, I’ve found that just talking to an attorney about the situation can help reduce the stress of financial problems.

Many people fall behind on their debts. Even more so during this crisis. Some people file bankruptcy, while some settle their debts. But each persons’ strategy is different, and needs to be fully discussed. Do you have an income that will return to normal and allow for monthly settlement payments? Do you have access to resources that you would be willing to use on certain debts? Do you have any old judgments, garnishments, or restraints? Do you have any assets, or income, or other circumstances that make filing bankruptcy less desirable? These questions and others will help an experienced attorney work with you to sort through your options and craft a plan that works specifically for you.

Debt settlement is a very common approach to dealing with debts. This option is mostly chosen by individuals that have an income or resources sufficient to allow for monthly payments to each creditor. It’s typically more costly than bankruptcy, although sometimes because of an individual’s income, or assets it’s less costly. It’s typically slower than filing bankruptcy because debt settlements may take years to satisfy (meaning your credit score will likely take longer to improve)- although if an individual has access to lump sums then debt settlement might be faster. Finally, it’s often more stressful than bankruptcy because it takes time, and requires negotiations with creditors that sometimes don’t proceed as expected- while bankruptcy (although I realize uncomfortable at the beginning) is more certain and doesn’t require negotiations with debt collectors.

Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is more common for individuals unable to make monthly payments for debt settlement, and looking to get a fresh start as soon as possible. It goes without saying this is a very complex, very personal decision that you should only make after learning and understanding your options. What I’m calling Chapter 19 Bankruptcies (or Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filings that are the sole result of the Covid-19 virus) will be on the rise- but thankfully because of that rise the stigma that surrounds filing is on the decline.

This Covid-19 crisis is stressful, and I’d encourage you to call me for a free, telephonic consultation to discuss your options and hopefully reduce some of the stress in your life. Stay safe. .


Many of us have been directly impacted, or know someone that has been impacted, by the Covid-19 virus. We now live in an age of "Social Distancing" and regular hand washing to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

However: Your legal issues are important and may require prompt attention. Although these serious times present new challenges, we understand that people need help with their legal problems, and we are here to help. Our office remains open, even if only by telephone and email, to answer your questions, provide you your best options for going forward, and working with you to implement a plan.

 State Courts remain open for emergency matters and Bankruptcy Court remains open. It is important to not wait until the day before Courts reopen for regular business to obtain legal representation. We expect a flurry of new filings once Courts reopen, and would expect cases to be handled on a first filed first in line basis- meaning preparation is key.

Whether you need assistance with: bankruptcy, divorce, debt settlement, custody, house closings, child support, personal injury, litigation, or any other legal issues, please call us for a free consultation. Stay safe, and know we are here to help.


For years when I’ve been asked ...“who files bankruptcy?"

 I’ve always warned: EVERYONE is one unforeseen event from sitting across my table- everyone. Get divorced, lose your job, get sick, become disabled- anything that upsets your week to week financial income or expenses that causes you to fall off the financial cliff. And Covid-19- with its school closings that cause an increase in child care, small business closings, unemployment, sickness, creditors reducing credit limits, etc…- is an enormously disruptive unforeseen event. I expect many, many people will be filing what I’m calling Chapter 19 Bankruptcy- meaning bankruptcies that are being filed only as a result of the Covid-19 virus- many of them.

 People filing Chapter 7 because they’ve fallen behind on their credit cards while being unemployed. People filing Chapter 13 because they were unable to pay their mortgage or property taxes because they needed to use that money to pay the increased child support. People filing Chapter 7 because their business closed as a non-essential business, and all that hard work and money spent is sadly being wasted. Chapter 19 Bankruptcies will likely exceed any volume of filings in recent memories.

And because of that volume- and because of that anticipated volume of households falling behind on their debts- I cannot suggest enough that you call our office to plan ahead for filing or to avoid filing. The Bankruptcy Courts remain open for filing, but the administration of the cases have been delayed- so the sooner you get in line the sooner the matter will be resolved. There are certain steps you should be taking to prepare to resolve any anticipated debt problems:

Who to pay and who not to pay? How or if to spend money that you might have saved for retirement? What is the timeline for preparing to file bankruptcy or settle debt? These and other issues require an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help. Further, there may be some things that can be done to avoid filing- and those strategies can be explored. Please call my office for a free, telephonic consultation, so that we can explore your options and allow you to choose your best approach to dealing with this unforeseen financial crisis. I look forward to helping..

Though the State Courts in Erie County, New York are generally closed, they are still hearing certain emergency issues.

1: ORDERS OF PROTECTION: Everyone is cooped up these days. Strained tempers and short fuses can bring things that may have been simmering to a boil. You do not have to continue to put up with abuse or harassing behavior. State Courts are still entertaining Orders of Protection to keep you and your children safe. Contact us today to discuss your options and ways we can help you if you are a victim of domestic violence

2: SUPPORT MATTERS: Just because someone has been laid off, or has had work hours cut back, does not mean your child support or spousal support can be altered or stopped! Only a Court can alter or terminate an order of support. If your child support or spousal support has been decreased or just stopped coming, without a court ordering such a change, contact us today! We can help you to obtain the funds you and your children need to make it through these difficult times

3: CHILD PROTECTION PROCEEDINGS: Child Protective Services (CPS) is still out there keeping our children safe. Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong. If you have received a summons to appear (personally or via telephone or video conferencing) in a child protection proceeding, YOU MUST TAKE ACITON! This is one of the few types of proceedings that is still occurring. Contact us today if you have received a letter from CPS stating that you are being investigated or are a person of interest in an investigation. We can help you to take appropriate action to insure your rights are preserved and your children are safe.

Contact Smith & Messina today for a free telephone consult regarding any of the above issues, or your other legal issues. We can help you, in this time of crisis .

3 Reasons you should not wait to address your Custody/Visitation Issue.

Many families are experiencing a disruption to their normal access schedule in this time of social distancing and health crisis. If you have an access schedule for your children, with your ex-partner, has it changed since the beginning of this crisis? Are you comfortable with how it has changed? If you are not comfortable with your ex withholding your children, or restricting your time, or otherwise changing your schedule, you need to address the matter IMMEDIATELY!

Here are three reasons you need to take action now:

1. A TIDAL WAVE OF FILINGS: Once the State Courts reopen for routine business, there will undoubtedly be a flood of new filings! People just like you, who haven’t been able to see their kids for weeks, or even months. You want to have your filing ready and filed to get you in front of a judge as quickly as possible, not backlogged for more weeks after the fact, when another thousand people have already filed the same petition. Call us today to start the process and to be ready, to enforce your rights as soon as possible.

2. ERIE COUNTY COURTS WON’T HEAR YOUR CASE TODAY: As of this writing, NY Family Court in Erie County is refusing to hear petitions to enforce your right to see your children. That’s right! The Courts do NOT deem it an “Essential matter…” for you to have access with your children during this outbreak. The sooner you contact us to help you prepare your petition, the sooner we can have it ready to go the moment they are again accepting petitions.

3. GET MAKE UP TIME: Once the courts are again hearing petitions, you are going to want to get make up time with your kids, as soon as possible. Let us help you make that happen. Call or email us today for your free telephone consultation. .

Call or email us today, so we can help you through these difficult times