09/21/2011 at 02:00 PM EDT
When Teresa and Joe Giudice first filed for bankruptcy in 2009, listing a staggering
$11 million in debt, their obstacles seemed insurmountable.
But now, an attorney for the Real Housewives of New Jersey
star says she feels "vindicated" to be voluntarily paying her remaining debts rather than have them discharged in bankruptcy court. (They will move to settle the case later this week.)
"Teresa and Joe are happy about this," Teresa's bankruptcy attorney Jim Kridel tells PEOPLE. "Teresa has always wanted to be able to say that she paid her creditors."
For a while, though, that didn't seem to be a possibility, with joint debts totaling nearly $11 million – the combination of mortgages on inner city apartment buildings Joe owned, bills for building materials and the balances of multiple credit cards.
"Almost all the debt in the bankruptcy was Joe's debt," Kridel explains, adding that Teresa, 39, "wanted to pay" various credit card bills and smaller debts, which totaled near $100,000, but couldn't once they'd filed the petition. Once a bankruptcy has been filed, creditors cannot be paid preferentially.
But now that several of the banks have been repaid from the sale of apartment buildings Joe had owned, and a former business partner's $586,000 claim againt Joe was settled through a building's sale, the remaining debts are within a manageable range, Kridel says.
"The cost of litigation might exceed what she owes," he says. "She may not be able to pay all [her creditors] with one check, but she can pay them back. She wants to do the right thing."