There’s no law or formal requirement that says you have to need a lawyer to file bankruptcy (unless it’s a Chapter 11 “business reorganization” Bankruptcy). There are numerous books, websites, and even Bankruptcy Court resources available that explain The Bankruptcy Process. But if you don’t have any legal experience or any experience dealing with the Bankruptcy Court yourself the process can be quite frustrating and even to your disadvantage should you encounter a problem.
Since the one thing that is in common with almost all bankruptcy debtors is a lack of available money, many people consider filing their bankruptcy case without a lawyer. This is known as “Pro Se” and is available to all consumer Bankruptcy debtors.
There are definite risks involved in “representing yourself” and filing “Pro Se”. The people who work at the Bankruptcy Court are most helpful, but they are not allowed to give legal advice. What you believe may be a simple question to a Bankruptcy Court Clerk could actually be legal advice if they answer. All too often people will go to the Bankruptcy Court and ask to obtain the “Bankruptcy Forms” from the clerk and run into a problem. They will usually have a question that needs an answer and will ask the clerk who responds “we are not allowed to give legal advice”. Bankruptcy is more than just filling out some forms. If you don’t do your paperwork correctly, your case could be dismissed. In everything you do within your Bankruptcy case, the exact same rules apply to you as if you were a lawyer. Just because you represent yourself the system won’t cut you any slack.
That being said the new bankruptcy law is more rigid in its requirements and the process is not as simple as filling in the blanks. In the past, if a debtor failed to follow through on a documentation requirement or filed incorrect paperwork, there was usually an opportunity to correct the problem. This is not the case anymore. Under the current bankruptcy law, there are various timelines or deadlines for certain actions, and the failure to perform these tasks timely could result in a dismissal of your case.
Keep in mind that everyone involved in the bankruptcy process is a lawyer or has an attorney representing them. The Judge is a lawyer and the Court has the US Trustee who is a lawyer, the Chapter 7 or 13 Trustee is a lawyer or has a lawyer or both, and most all creditors have lawyers representing their interests. If you are the only one without legal assistance, you are likely at a grave disadvantage. You can be compelled by the other side into making bad decisions, loose property, or even become subject to further legal proceedings if you do not know your legal rights. Remember, its always more expensive to hire a lawyer to fix problems than it is to assist you from start to finish.
If you’re facing financial problems such as foreclosure or repossession, a lawyer will typically cost you a nominal sum compared to the long term benefits and potential Debt Relief you may be afforded by filing for Bankruptcy. If you think you may need a lawyer to file for Bankruptcy, it is vital that you act quickly. Certain situations are very time sensitive, such as foreclosures, pending lawsuits, immanent repossessions, enforcement of judgments, and other legal actions related to your debt. There is always a specific amount of time you have to respond to lawsuits and other legal actions, so even if you're not sure what your course of action should be, consulting a lawyer at a free initial consultation is generally good advice. Representing yourself in these types of proceedings may cause more harm than good if you are uninformed or don’t understand the law. A good Lawyer can help steer you in the right direction and let you know if Bankruptcy is or isn’t an option for you.
The world of Debt can be very stressful and understanding your legal rights and options available is the first step in resolving your financial problems. Whether you’re seeking to file for Bankruptcy or are looking for Bankruptcy Alternatives, knowing when to consult a Bankruptcy Lawyer can be a matter of financial Life or Debt.
If you are certain that you want to represent yourself in filing for Bankruptcy the visit http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts.html for information on the process. Also visit your local library or law library to obtain more information on the latest case law and changes to the local rules.
If you need to consult a lawyer about Debt Relief of have questions about filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy please contact The Law Offices of R.J.Atkinson,LLC at 800-436-9056 for a free initial consultation to discuss your legal options. With locations in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas we are a Texas Debt Relief Agency and help people file for Bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code. Don’t Lose Everything.