Can I File for Bankruptcy on My Own?

August 10, 2016

If you are struggling to make ends meet and are constantly being harassed by creditors over your outstanding debts, you have probably considered filing for bankruptcy as a means of relief. Chances are also good that you have considered filing for bankruptcy “pro se,” or without the assistance of an attorney, in order to save on legal fees. While it is indeed possible for you to file for bankruptcy on your own, this may not be the wisest decision. Even the simplest bankruptcy cases can cause you to encounter certain pitfalls and costly delays without strong legal guidance. With that being said, many people have filed and will continue to file, for bankruptcy on their own without legal representation. If you plan to do this, it is important you be aware of the potential problems you may come across.

  • You may not even need to file for bankruptcy: Some people who file for bankruptcy on their own do so without a firm understanding of what bankruptcy can and cannot do, or what their alternatives to bankruptcy are. An attorney can help evaluate your finances and determine if filing for bankruptcy is necessary for your situation.
  • You may file under the wrong chapter: In most situations, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the most appropriate options for consumers. But what are the differences between these chapters? Which chapter will help you save your home? Why is eligibility different for each type? How will your property and debts be treated under each option? An attorney can answer all of these questions and help you pursue an option that best protects your assets and discharges your debts.
  • You may not choose the correct exemptions: Selecting appropriate property exemptions is a key step in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. These exemptions help determine which property you are allowed to keep. Improperly listing your property or belongings under the wrong category or assigning an inaccurate value to your property could introduce costly delays – or worse, cause you to lose your property.
  • Understanding credit counseling vs. financial management: In both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, debtors are required to undergo credit counseling before filing and pass a financial management course before receiving a discharge. This is a source of confusion for many pro se filers. Failure to file the proper certificates can cause your bankruptcy petition to be dismissed or prevent you from being able to receive a discharge.
  • Handling motions and adversary actions: In certain bankruptcy cases, creditors may contest the dischargeability of a debt, accuse a debtor of fraud, or introduce some other reason to challenge their filing. Pro se debtors are often woefully unequipped to defend themselves against these types of actions.

Discuss Your Situation for Free

Bankruptcy can be an overwhelming and confusing experience – and it is not one you should consider handling alone. At Leibowitz Law Group, our Long Beach bankruptcy lawyers have more than 45 years of combined legal experience and are nationally recognized leaders in the area of bankruptcy law. To find out more about how our team of world-class advocates can assist you, schedule a confidential case review, or call us today.