How Do I File Bankruptcy?

Wallet in a vice grip.

How Do I File Bankruptcy?

When the time comes when you suspect you might need to file bankruptcy, you should approach the situation carefully.  Bankruptcy law involves complex concepts that have evolved for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Bankruptcy Research

General Bankruptcy Information

With the advent of the internet, you have an overwhelming amount of information at your fingertips.  A simple Google Search can lead to tens of thousands of search results discussing the different aspects of bankruptcy.  There are federal bankruptcy statutes, national bankruptcy rules, local bankruptcy rules and even unwritten, closely held local customs and preferences that impact a bankruptcy.  You will also come across anecdotal stories from others who filed bankruptcy discussing the pros and cons that they themselves experienced.  Again, the amount of information available is extensive and overwhelming.

Choosing a Bankruptcy Attorney

The next avenue you will go down is deciding which bankruptcy attorney to choose.  Some people elect to file bankruptcy on their own (or pro se).  Those cases almost always end up a disaster and are, in large part, responsible for the horror stories you hear about bankruptcy.  If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, 99 times out of 100, your case will be filed successfully.

There are many different methods of choosing a bankruptcy attorney.  You can simply Google “bankruptcy attorney” and long list of websites and ads will appear.  There are sites like AVVO and FindLaw that act as legal directories that narrow down the list of attorneys by what type of law he or she practices.  There are also review websites like Rate-a-Biz and even Facebook where you can read reviews from actual bankruptcy clients.

Bankruptcy Filing Process

Initial Consultation

Once you have selected an attorney, you usually hold an initial consultation.  The initial consultation is where you and your attorney get to know each other.  You tell him or her the story of how you got to where you are and where you’d like to be.  The attorney then asks you a series of questions to narrow down what options are available and which option is the best.  This is also where you discuss what may be the most important issue to you – bankruptcy lawyer fees.  Once you have settled on a course of action and how much it will cost, it is time to get things moving.

Bankruptcy Filing Documents and Meeting

After the initial consultation, you will meet face-to-face with your new attorney.  At this appointment, we go over your case once more and I start drafting up the actual bankruptcy documents that will be filed with the Court.  You review and sign the documents and then we file your bankruptcy electronically with the Court.

Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

How your case progresses after filing largely depends on whether you filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy usually involves just one hearing and is over about three to four months after it is filed.  A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy still involves the one hearing but you also make monthly payments to the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee.  Those payments can last from 36 up to 60 months.  Needless to say, one of the most important decisions you will make is whether a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is in your best interest.  That is the benefit of hiring a bankruptcy attorney to assist you.  He or she can explain all the advantages and disadvantages of each chapter so that you can make the best decision possible.

Whether to File Bankruptcy

Again, if you choose to file bankruptcy, you cannot afford to take that decision lightly.  Be your own advocate.  Do some research on what you think you need (Which chapter?  What questions should you be asking the attorney? Etc.).  Do some research on the different bankruptcy attorneys out there.  Make an informed decision based on all the information available to you.  You will not regret it.

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