It was a humbling experience for the bankruptcy attorney.
As he had counseled so many of his clients, he had to accept that his financial obligations were far greater than his income, and his circumstances were not going to magically change.
Joseph G. Pleva, Esq. had to file for personal bankruptcy.
Working in Detroit in 2008, Pleva was a long way away from his current life at North Alabama Bankruptcy, and he was hardly alone. The housing bubble popped with a particularly resounding fury in Rustbelt metros. The attorney saw the $300,000 house he bought in 2005 in Grosse Pointe Park—one street over from the Detroit city limits—dip in value to $250,000, then $150,000, then $100,000.
After foreclosure, the house eventually sold for $85,000.
“There were five houses on our block alone that people just walked away from,” Pleva said, his eyes revealing a sadness for the plight of those who—like him—just wanted to provide nice, safe homes for their families.
Then, with a brightened look on his face, he added, “But if all of that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have ended up here.”
“Here” is an office on mid-Huntsville’s L&N Drive, where the walls are painted a pale mint green, “the color of spring,” he said. With its images of budding plants and caterpillars, his North Alabama Bankruptcy website also reflects the hope of springtime renewal.
That’s how he encourages clients to view their status.
“They come in, and they want to share their tale of woe,” Pleva said. “but I encourage them, rather than dwell on where they’ve been. They need to put all of their energy on where they’re going.”
Pleva is a Grissom High School graduate who went on to the University of Michigan, where he met his future wife Laura. Together, they attended Michigan State University School of Law. Because Michigan is Laura’s home state, the couple remained there after graduation in 2001, and Pleva was hired by a firm to handle consumer bankruptcies.
“Bankruptcy laws were reformed in 2005, and there was such gloom and doom about bankruptcy availability ending,” he said. “There were lines of people out the door at the courthouse in Detroit, people wanting to file before the changes took effect.
“But all the laws were trying to do was stop abuse of the system. It was more a procedural change than anything else.”
Pleva launched his own firm in Detroit, and he focused on personal bankruptcy. He said he found satisfaction in trying to help individuals revamp their lives.
“It’s a balancing act between debtors getting a fresh start and creditors receiving fair and equitable treatment,” he said.
But after the collapse of Detroit’s economy in the recession, Pleva and his wife decided to head south with their three daughters. He opened his office in Huntsville in 2011.
His wife also has a law degree, but she doesn’t work at the firm. Instead, Laura “provides big-picture, godly counsel” to him and focuses on raising the children. The couple added a son to their family since moving to Huntsville, and Pleva helps coach the children’s soccer teams.
Pleva has gratitude for the forces that brought him back home because his family has found such rewarding church homes. Plural. Church homes.
On Sunday mornings, the Plevas hold true to their roots and attend services at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
“We are committed to the Catholic service, which culminates in communion, the taking of the body and blood of Christ,” Pleva said.
On Sunday evenings, they attend Willowbrook Baptist, which provides additional fellowship and exploration of their relationship with Christ.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
One More Thing
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, the Plevas decided to drive to Washington D.C. in late January to attend the March for Life rally. Their 11-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son went with them.
“We were walking along an eight-lane road from the White House to the Washington Monument, with thousands and thousands of people,” he said. “The timing just felt right for us to be there. Hopefully, the timing is right for our country to address this issue.”
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and wonder if bankruptcy could be the best avenue for your fresh start, contact Pleva and his staff at [email protected] or (256) 617-7115.
He has been there.