Do I need an attorney to file for Bankruptcy?
No. The truth is that you can file for Bankruptcy on your own, or with the help of a document preparer. The real question is whether or not this is a good idea. Most non-Bankruptcy attorneys will agree that Bankruptcy is a highly technical area of the law. That does not mean that someone with a very simple case, who is organized and willing to put in the time could not file a Bankruptcy without an attorney. What it does mean is that you have to be realistic about the time and research that you can put into preparing and completing a Bankruptcy. In our opinion, we don't recommend even hiring a Bankruptcy attorney with less than five years of experience practicing in Bankruptcy court. With that in mind, trying to do it yourself can be a real problem. In a Chapter 7 case, you cannot simply dismiss your case if you do not like what is happening to you, and so if you make a life changing error, you might not have any options to reverse your mistake. In the case of a Chapter 13, there have been years where nobody has successfully completed a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy without an attorney. There are Bankruptcy petition preparers, but keep in mind that these people are not attorneys, they will not go to court with you, and they take no responsibility if they make a mistake on your paperwork.
Are there hidden fees?
No. We lay out all of our fees for you at the initial consultation and there should be no fees that you are not aware of. We try to do our cases on an affordable flat fee basis. There are fees that you have to pay that are not attorney's fees, such as a court filing fee, but we explain those fees, how to pay them and when they need to be paid, so there are no surprises in this process.
Can I keep my car? Can I keep my house?
Yes. If you are current on your car payment, house payment, or other secured debts, you can keep them. Depending on the type of Bankruptcy case, your monthly payment might even drop, but at a minimum, as long as you are current, you can keep secured loans and assets like a car or a house.
Do I have to qualify to file for Bankruptcy?
Not in the traditional sense. There are certain requirements that you must meet, but most people have no issues in that regard. The real question is whether or not Bankruptcy is going to solve your problems and meet with your goals. We want you to get a fresh start and see tangible improvement in your life. If we do not think that Bankruptcy will accomplish this, then we will let you know. Our job is not to “sell” you on a Bankruptcy. We want to improve your situation so that you can be productive.
Can I keep a credit card?
That is up to the credit card company, and in truth most active credit cards will cancel your account when you file for Bankruptcy. That includes credit cards that have a zero balance. That does not mean that you will never have a credit card again. Within a short period of time after the Bankruptcy, as long as you have a steady job, you will get offers for credit. We advise you to be very judicious about getting into debt after Bankruptcy. Don't get into debt because you think it will improve your credit score. Only acquire debt if you absolutely need it, and if you need it, there will be many companies wanting to do business with you after filing for Bankruptcy.
Will my job find out about my Bankruptcy?
In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case, unless there are highly unusual circumstances in your case, there is normally no reason for your employer to be notified about your Bankruptcy case. In a Chapter 13 case, the Trustee will likely reach out to your employer so that your monthly Chapter 13 plan payments can be paid directly from your pay check.
Do I have to close my bank account?
No. You can keep your Bank account, but we do recommend that you only do business with banks that you do not owe money to, so if your checking/savings account is with the same bank that you have a credit card or personal loan with, we advise you to start banking somewhere else. Also, if you discharge a loan with a bank that has a checking/savings account with you, they may close the account themselves, which is one more reason to find a bank that you do not have a prior debtor/creditor relationship with. If you do not owe your bank any money then you will likely be able to keep your bank account during and after the Bankruptcy case.
How long will my credit score be affected?
Typically, a Bankruptcy case is viewable for ten (10) years or more on your credit report, but the real issue is how long will your credit score be affected. Most people's credit score improves significantly after filing for Bankruptcy, and many people are able to finance cars, and homes within a few years of the completion of the Bankruptcy. Please keep in mind that your Bankruptcy is only one factor in successfully obtaining credit. You need to have a good record of on time payments, a consistent residency, and a good steady job in order to obtain the types of credit that most people want after Bankruptcy.
How long does the process take?
A typical Chapter 7 case takes between three to four months to complete. A typical Chapter 13 case takes between three to five years to complete.
Can I reinstate my suspended driver's license?
Normally yes. Unless you have special circumstances, such as a habitual offender status, most people can reinstate a driver's license through the Bankruptcy process. Which Bankruptcy you file (Ch. 7 or Ch. 13) will depend on why your license was suspended. If your license was suspended because of being in a car accident and not having car insurance, then a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy typically solves that problem. If your license was suspended because of outstanding traffic tickets and court fines then a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, where you pay back the fines in a manageable monthly payment is necessary to reinstate your license.
Can I lower my car payment?
In some cases, you can lower your car payment in a Bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy there are limited circumstances where a lower payment can be negotiated with a creditor. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, we can often lower the interest rate on your car payment, and (if the car loan is older than 910 day), we may even be able to lower the principal balance owed on the car.
Can I make payments towards my Bankruptcy?
In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you can retain us, and give out our phone number to your creditors, but the entire balance of attorney's fees will have to be paid before the case can be filed with the court. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy we can file the case with only a small percentage of the attorney's fees being paid up front, and we will then be paid through your monthly payment to the court.
Will I have to go to court?
Yes. You will have to go to court. One of our attorneys will be with you the entire time and we will endeavor to make your court appearance go as smoothly as possible.
If I hire you, will that stop harassing creditor calls?
Technically yes, but the problem is that collection agencies are notorious for violating the rules of conduct with respect to fair collection practices. If you hire our firm we will tell you what to say to your creditors if they call you and we will have you direct their calls to us. Unfortunately, some creditors will not take you seriously until the Bankruptcy is filed. Once a Bankruptcy is filed, ALL creditor contact and harassment will stop. So it is imperative to file the case to truly stop the collection activity and creditor harassment.