Want to file a bankruptcy on your own?

Just because you can file a bankruptcy on your own does not mean you should, as error or mistakes could end of costing you time and money

Bankruptcy is a common legal action. Millions of individuals and businesses file every year. Much of the process is done by forms, which may lead some people to believe they really don't need an attorney for the process. For some, that could be true, but the process can be complex and how would you handle the situation if something goes wrong during the process.

Are you good at reading really fine print?

Bankruptcy, like most procedures in law, is detail oriented. There are procedures that must be followed, paperwork and documents that must be filed and deadlines that must be met. While you can read about much of this on the internet, if you have substantial debts and you need genuine relief you must remember that the meter on your debts is always running, and filing a bankruptcy is not inexpensive. You must pay the clerk the filing fees, or your bankruptcy will not commence.

If you make a mistake and your case is dismissed, there are no refunds. If you need to start over, you will be assessed the full filing fee again. Technical mistakes made when filing may come back to haunt you and even if you hire an attorney at a later point in time, you may have created an issue that is much more expensive to resolve.

Mind numbing syntax

Statutes, such as the Bankruptcy Code are not written like most texts you will have encountered. They can be very long and complex; often referring to other sections of the statutes in ways that make reading through them quite difficult to understand.

The "Automatic Stay" is an important feature of the bankruptcy code. It is contained in Title 11, section 362, typically cited as 11 U.S.C § 362. The text of the first subsection reads as follows:

"(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a petition filed under section 301, 302, or 303 of this title, or an application filed under section 5(a)(3) of the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, operates as a stay, applicable to all entities, of-

(1) the commencement or continuation, including the issuance or employment of process, of a judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that was or could have been commenced before the commencement of the case under this title, or to recover a claim against the debtor that arose before the commencement of the case under this title;"

Subsection (a) has subdivisions (1) through (8). Subsection (b) has 27 sub-subsections (one has been repealed, so there are 28 listed). The lettered subsections continue through (o). The entire section is comprised of more than 6,600 words. To make it more complex, what some of those words mean are controlled by other sections of the Bankruptcy Code and by the thousands of court cases that have interpreted its language.

The Bankruptcy Code is made up of hundreds of other sections and many of those are extraordinarily complex. Moreover, to make sense of instructions and orders of the court, you need to understand how all of these sections work together.

Your day in court

Now imagine you are required to appear before a bankruptcy judge from the Middle District of Florida here in Orlando. They ask you a question regarding your bankruptcy filing. Are you going to understand the question well enough to respond in a way that does not damage your credibility with the judge or potentially damage your case and lead to the dismissal of your case?

If that were to happen, the feature we mentioned earlier called the Automatic Stay from Section 362 is lifted. That means it is no longer in effect. Because the automatic stay is critical to protecting the property of the bankruptcy estate during the bankruptcy, it may mean that the car you drove to the courthouse could be repossessed by the lender.

All other collection activity could recommence and your lenders could foreclose on your home and repossess your vehicles. They could even execute a levy on your bank accounts if they have obtained a judgment.

Chapter 13

If you are planning on a Chapter 13, you should seriously consider speaking with a bankruptcy attorney. A Chapter 13 will last three to five years and will require that you place all of your disposable income into the plan to pay off your debts. This is a complex calculation and a bankruptcy attorney can help create a plan that you can live with, which is a good thing, as you will have live with it for the term of the plan, which is typically five years.

If you do it on your own, you risk the time and expense of filing only to have it fail confirmation or to be dismissed in a few months when defects in your plan, such as failing to list all of your creditors, debts or assets, not including lawsuits or other necessary elements cause your case to fail.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney understands all this and more. An attorney from the Law Office of Paul L. Urich, P.A. can help you choose which type of bankruptcy to file and will work to see that your filing proceeds in an orderly fashion to ensure that you obtain the fresh start promised by the bankruptcy code.

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