Although filing bankruptcy is a legal process there is a way for individuals and/or married couples to file the paperwork themselves without the aid of an attorney. This is called filing “pro se” and in most cases it is not recommended. However, if you are going to file without an attorney then you should only do so in the case of Chapter 7 bankruptcy and not Chapter 13. This is mainly because Chapter 13 bankruptcy is much more complex and the paperwork involved requires more than just filling in the blank.
If you decide to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own then you should start by gathering your paperwork that you will need to complete the petition (bankruptcy form). This paperwork will consist of your recent pay stubs, bank statements, vehicle registration, mortgage or lease documents and the last few years of tax returns. With this information handy you will be able to fill out the necessary petition paperwork. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms you need can be acquired online or from your local federal courthouse.
Once you have correctly completed the forms you will need to complete the 2 courses necessary to file bankruptcy. Registration for those courses can be found online at www.bkcert.com. These courses can be taken online or over the phone and are not graded for correct answers, but rather for completion. The first course known as the Credit Counseling Course must be taken before your paperwork is filed with the courts. The second course called the Debtor Education course must be completed after your case is filed with the courts.
In order to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms with the court you will be required to pay a filing fee of $306. This is typically a non negotiable fee, but if you feel that it will be a hardship for you to pay it then you can request a waiver from the court. Once your paperwork has been filed you will be notified by mail about the time and date of your bankruptcy hearing. The hearing is a requirement for anyone filing bankruptcy and must be attended. During the hearing you will be asked questions by your bankruptcy trustee about your financial situation and statements on your paperwork. The bankruptcy hearing normally lasts anywhere from 10-15 minutes.
Once you have completed your hearing you will wait 60-90 days before receiving your discharge paperwork in the mail stating that your bankruptcy case has been completed and it was successful. You are the only person that can decide whether or not a do it yourself bankruptcy is for you, but if you have any hesitation at all it may be best to consult with an attorney. Don’t let the attorney’s fees intimidate you, in most cases bankruptcy attorneys are willing to work with you on a monthly payment plan. Hiring an attorney could mean the difference between your bankruptcy being successful and clearing away your debts, or being incorrect and dismissed from court.