By the time most Americans have decided to file for bankruptcy, their finances are so out of control that simply paying the filing fee may seem possible. For these many bankruptcy filers, the notion of filing pro se, or without an attorney, may seem like an attractive option. However, this option is best avoided if the desired outcome is to be free and clear of debilitating debt.
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a complex process. Filing the initial petition is only the first of many long and complicated steps. Along with, or shortly after the petition has been filed, a series of schedules must also be filed with the bankruptcy court. These include a schedule of assets and liability and a schedule of income and expenditures. The debtor must also file a statement of financial affairs with the court. In the event any of these schedules are inaccurate or incomplete, the bankruptcy court may reject or dismiss the petition.
In the rare occurrence that a debtor successfully files all the necessary paperwork, they may move onto the next phase of the process and are assigned a bankruptcy trustee. However, this does not mean the debtor?s work is done. They must provide the trustee with numerous documents, including tax records, a credit counseling certificate, pay stubs, and, if applicable, education and tuition statements.
It is quite common for pro se bankruptcy filers to overlook certain details. This should be of great concern to filers, as it can cause their bankruptcy to be dismissed rather than discharged. And in the event fraud is found, pro se bankruptcy filers may face serious penalties
Working with a bankruptcy attorney can help people avoid these issues. While there is a certain cost associated with hiring an attorney, doing so may help filers rest assured that their petition is comprehensive and accurate and will not be dismissed. If the desired outcome is to be free and clear of debilitating debt, hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney may be for the best.