While it is possible to fill out a bankruptcy petition and file it with the Court without the help of an attorney, and it is also possible to hire a petition preparer to fill out the petition form and file it with the Court for you, the bankruptcy process is complex enough, and scrutinized enough, that any misstep in the process can worsen your overall situation, rather than improving it.
Upset by the number of bankruptcy filings nationwide, in 2005 the credit card industry persuaded Congress to pass a new bankruptcy law, with the intent of making it harder to successfully file for bankruptcy. The new law made the process of filing the bankruptcy much more complicated and more costly. It also set up a number of hurdles that need to be cleared in order for the bankruptcy to complete properly. If you miss any of these hurdles, your case can be dismissed. You will then have spent several hundred dollars to file your bankruptcy case, but will be just as vulnerable as you were before filing the bankruptcy to the collection activities of your creditors: lawsuits, garnishments, foreclosures, repossessions, all those harassing phone calls and letters, etc.
In a sense, filing bankruptcy is a little like having a baby. It is possible – and cheaper - to try to handle the process all on your own, but if you encounter any problems before the process has been completed, the results could be disastrous unless you have a professional right there to help you through the trouble spots.
We see many people who tried to file on their own, only to encounter problems and then decide to hire us. If they had hired us from the start, they would have spent the same amount of money overall (sometimes even less) and had a much less stressful and frustrating experience.
What risks do you take if you try to file bankruptcy on your own, or without a competent bankruptcy attorney to help you throughout your case? First, you risk filing the wrong chapter of bankruptcy. There are income calculations that must be done correctly in order to determine if you qualify for a Chapter 7, or how much your plan payment needs to be in a Chapter 13. If you file within the wrong Chapter, you will have wasted both your time and your filing fee.
Second, you risk filling out your bankruptcy petition incorrectly and therefore not getting the full protection of the law. Each state has its own “exemptions,” dollar amounts that can be used to protect your property from being seized and sold by the bankruptcy trustee. Applying these exemptions properly to your assets is a legal skill that is critical to making sure you are getting their full benefit. In addition, the bankruptcy petition asks numerous detailed questions about your earnings, your debts, and your possessions. You sign the petition under penalty of perjury, so if information is not entered correctly, and if it looks like you were trying to mislead the Court, even if it was because you didn’t understand the question properly, you can be accused of perjury, which is a felony offense.
Third, creditors occasionally object to provisions within the petition or plan or, worse, fail to abide by the laws that protect debtors who have filed bankruptcy. A good attorney will be able to use the bankruptcy laws to protect your interests. He or she will also recognize when a creditor is not following the law, and can use the Bankruptcy Court to make sure that your rights are enforced properly. (At The Bankruptcy Company, we take uncooperative creditors to Court, if that’s what it takes to make them abide by the law, even getting some of them to pay damages to our clients.) Without an attorney, you will be trying to figure out the law, legal terms, and Court procedures all on your own, while your creditors will have attorneys handling their side of your case.
The attorneys at The Bankruptcy Company have many years of experience in bankruptcy law, and bankruptcy is the only area of law we practice. We are here to guide you through every step of the bankruptcy process. We understand federal bankruptcy laws and local Bankruptcy Court rules. We are active in many local and national professional bankruptcy associations. We offer a free initial consultation to review your financial situation and goals with you, and to discuss your options – both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy. We’d be happy to work with you to get you that fresh start you need. Just give us a call.
Don't wait until till it may be too late to seek protection under the bankruptcy law. Schedule a FREE Consultation with one of our bankruptcy attorneys and learn how the bankruptcy law applies to your specific situation. Call The Bankruptcy Company today at 314-961-9822.