Do I Really Need an Attorney or Can I File Bankruptcy On My Own?
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Often, people ask “Do I really need a lawyer, or can I just do this myself?” Legally, I am required to tell you that you can file your own bankruptcy petition or hire a non-lawyer paralegal to fill out the documents for you. This can be problematic on several levels.
- First, a non-lawyer cannot give you legal advice — if you are doing something wrong, they can’t legally give you guidance.
- Second, the personal bankruptcy process can be very complex.
The new bankruptcy code enacted in 2005 is more than 500 pages long and is extremely complicated. This stuff is tough. While you can get the forms for free, they are very difficult to understand and most people don’t know how to fill them out correctly. This can lead to the judge dismissing your case.
What happens to my automatic stay if my case is dismissed?
If a bankruptcy petition is dismissed and re-filed, the automatic stay will remain in effect for only 30 days following dismissal. If this happens, you are required to make a motion to continue the automatic stay. This motion must be filed and heard by a Judge within that 30 day period. If a bankruptcy petition is dismissed twice, you lose the automatic stay. The automatic stay is your best weapon, and you don’t want to lose it!
You hear all the time about how every bankruptcy is different, and that is true. Some bankruptcies are easy and straightforward, while some are not. Problems may arise in the middle of a case that can get you into a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to handle the situation, you could find yourself alone before a judge and without a strong understanding of the legal process. You may not be able to find a lawyer willing to step in at the last minute to help you. If you do, the lawyer will likely charge you higher fees than you would have paid to have him or her file your petition in the first place. Also, no matter how good the lawyer is, the problem may be irreparable.
There are some very real risks to filing your own case, such as:
- You may give up property you are entitled to keep under the federal bankruptcy code.
- Your case could be dismissed due to a technicality, which could prevent you from filing for another eight years! Imagine eight more years of living in the exact same or worse position than you are in right now.
Hiring an attorney is not an expense, but it is an investment. Not investing in an attorney may hurt you in the long run by quickly wiping out what you saved.