Filing Bankruptcy On Your Own: It’s Not That Simple

You can file a bankruptcy case on your own which is known as filing pro se. However, I would not recommend this and I would certainly never recommend it in a chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Approximately once per month, someone will come into my office who has filed a bankruptcy case on their own behalf and they have found that they need an attorney’s help. Sometimes if the case is early in the process, I can jump in and file the proper amendments and get the case on track. In other cases, too much time has elapsed, deadlines have passed, and there is no realistic way to save the particular case. This is where a refile option comes into play.

Just recently I took in a case where a woman had filed a pro se chapter 13 bankruptcy. She did not file all of the proper schedules which includes the plan. After interviewing her and seeing exactly where she was in the process, I determined that she could be helped and that we could salvage the existing case. It basically took an interview and hours of time updating all of the required documents by filing amendments. I also had to get her up to speed on what her duties and requirements were under the chapter 13 case. After all, she had not made a single trustee payment at the time she came into my office. She was already one month down and payroll control had not yet started. I was able to get the confirmation hearing continued to a future date, which allowed me to make all the amendments and allowed her to catch up on her own prior to the payroll control kicking in.

I can understand why clients think that they may be able to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy case on their own. There is simply not enough information out there to make the pro se debtor aware of exactly what he or she is getting into. The clerk of the court will accept the documents, accept the filing fee and start of filing. The clerk of the court cannot give legal advice so the clerk could not even advise a client to seek legal counsel if he wanted to. The truth is that some people think that they can do it on their own and think that they can save money by doing it on their own. After all, the attorney fee in the Chicago area for a chapter 13 is $4000 over the life of the case pursuant to the court approved model retention agreement. What debtors fail to realize is that  this money is paid out over the next 3 to 5 years and does not have to be paid up front.

For these reasons and more, I would never recommend that a person file a chapter 13 bankruptcy case on their own. It is always best to seek and hire excellent counsel to assist you with these cases. If you have filed on your own and you need help, you can contact my office at 847-520-8100. I will help determine whether or not the case can be saved or in some cases, the case needs to be refiled. You don’t have to struggle alone. Help is available. You simply need to make the effort to meet with a bankruptcy attorney who is willing to jump in on an existing case. I tend to believe that most bankruptcy attorneys would not take the time to help somebody who had already filed pro se. I, on the other hand, am very willing to help somebody and to save their case.

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