Free bankruptcy classes overflowing

Hiring a personal bankruptcy attorney could cost a couple thousand dollars.

But for those on the Western Slope unable to afford an attorney, there is help, and her name is Carol A. Viner.

An attorney with Colorado Legal Services, Viner said the number of people attending her monthly do-it-yourself bankruptcy classes have more than quadrupled since she started the classes in mid-2008.

“I have noticed a huge increase,” Viner said. “The rural areas, they have been particularly hit hard.”

Numbers have escalated from about five people attending classes to more than 35 at the most recent class last week at the Old Mesa County Courthouse.

“I’m the only person on the Western Slope that does them for free,” Viner said. “I really feel I am doing a service for people, giving them what is called a fresh start.”

The class lasts 2 1/2 hours and is packed with information that can expose potential pitfalls and enlighten attendees to the numerous hoops they might have to jump through.

“I can highlight where there are red flags,” she said.

Most people who come to her for help have been through the wringer, she said. They have lost their jobs, and often their financial condition is exacerbated by a medical condition.

“Generally, medical debt is what drives most of my clients into debt,” she said.

Those who attend the class are many, but only about 15 percent who have gone through the program actually file for bankruptcy on their own, Viner said. She did not know why the number was so low. Perhaps many of those who attended the class eventually hired an attorney, she said.

The classes are held in Montrose and Grand Junction, usually alternating locations every other month. Those who want to attend are asked by Colorado Legal Services to call first to fill out required paperwork, receive information and make staff aware of the particulars of their case.


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