Filing Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer

It should be understood by anyone pursuing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy that the Chapter 7 process is in fact somewhat involved. It is imperative that the entire procedure be completed correctly in order to avoid consequences.

Although in theory Chapter 7 can be completed by anyone, this urban legend is misgiving. Having an experienced Chapter 7 Bankruptcy attorney can truly make the process go more efficiently and without problems. Cases filed without an attorney, known as “pro se” have a much higher rate of serious error.

Dismissal of Chapter 7 Case

Pro se cases typically get dismissed which has serious implications. A dismissal means that the debtor’s credit report will show a bankruptcy however, the debtor will not receive any of the benefits of the actual Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Furthermore, creditors are permitted to continue to collect debts as well as interest and late charges which have accrued during the failed bankruptcy. A dismissal means waster time, energy and finances with no long term benefit of receiving a successful Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Another common questions is, “what happens is a case is dismissed, then the debtor hires an attorney to file bankruptcy a second time?” If a bankruptcy is dismissed for any reason, re-filing is significantly more difficult. There is added difficulty in acquiring necessary protection from creditors. Furthermore, Virginia courts have created additional restrictions in order to prevent what is termed as “serial filings”, even if the reason for dismissal was a pro se debtor. These are just some of the reasons why having an experienced professional handle your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is important. Additionally, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney greatly increases your chances of loosing valuable assets, or even real estate due to a botched filing.

Criminal Violations

Another factor in deciding whether to file pro se or with an attorney is the risk of violating federal criminal law. Bankruptcy fraud is a federal crime which can carry a fine of up to $250,000.00 and even prison time. Fraud can include unintentional mistakes by a pro se debtor. Avoiding this frightening possibility is a strong argument for hiring an attorney.

In the end, some debtors will decide to file pro se even though it hurts their odds of receiving a successful discharge. My recommendation to hire a competent attorney comes from years of experience filing Chapter 7 cases. Although filing pro se may seem like a way to save financially, in reality you are risking far more. Legal fees are a small price to pay in comparison to receiving a dismissal or ending up in a worse predicament.


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