Debtors exploring the option of filing a bankruptcy on their own, without an attorney, may be in for a few unwelcome surprises if they do not know what they are getting themselves into. While it is permissible for you to file on your own, it is not advisable for several reasons. Bankruptcy is a very complex area of law that many experienced attorneys do not practice due to its difficult nature. In addition, bankruptcy courts have particularized rules and codes that must be followed precisely for your case to proceed smoothly.
One common pitfall is individuals who choose to file for bankruptcy, but have filed under the wrong chapter. There are specific requirements of both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 that must be met in order for you to be allowed to file under that chapter. If you file under the wrong chapter, it may result in you losing your property or not being granted a discharge of your debts.
Another difficult aspect of filing on your own is the paperwork. Many individuals do not realize that there are nearly 50 pages of petition, schedules, statements, and other documents to be completed in a typical Chapter 7. If you are missing documents, your case could be dismissed without even being reviewed. In addition, the Trustee in your bankruptcy case will require documentation such as mortgages, bank statements, paystubs, vehicle titles, and more that must be submitted in order for your case to proceed.
Debtors also often misunderstand property exemptions when filing on their own. These exemptions allow you to retain and protect assets and personal property, but they work differently based on which chapter you file, and vary if you choose federal or state exemptions. In addition, if you fail to accurately list an asset such as a tax refund or bank account, you may lose that asset.
It is important to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can ensure that all of your assets are protected and that you will be entitled to a discharge in your case. If you have filed on your own and experiencing some of the problems discussed here, contact an attorney immediately who may be able to assist you in amending your bankruptcy documents to prevent any issues in your bankruptcy.