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Filing Bankruptcy on Your Own

While bankruptcy provides a uniquely powerful method of debt relief, filing for bankruptcy is a complex process. As a result, the U.S. federal court’s website recommends that bankruptcy filers seek the aid of a bankruptcy attorney.

There are, however, a number of people who file for bankruptcy themselves. The most important steps for a do-it-yourself bankruptcy filing may occur early in the process.

Early Steps in Filing Bankruptcy

Before filers may officially being bankruptcy they must meet certain requirements. These include:

  • Mandatory credit counseling. Before filing, a person must receive credit counseling within 180 days before you officially file for bankruptcy. You may complete this course in person, over the phone or online.
  • Chapter 7 eligibility. This is determined by taking the Chapter 7 means test, which compares your income with the median income in your state. The means test income levels typically change at least once a year.
  • Chapter 13 eligibility. To file for Chapter 13, a person must fall under a certain threshold for unsecured and secured debt. Filers must also have a predictable source of income to meet the repayment plan created in court.

In addition to these pre-filing hurdles, people filing bankruptcy by themselves must also become familiar with the rules and customs of their local bankruptcy court. Losing one’s ability to file for bankruptcy based on a technicality can be devastating. If you begin a filing and are unsuccessful you may not be able to file again for 7 years.

Filing Bankruptcy Paperwork

After the pre-filing requirements are met, individuals must next file all the relevant paperwork with the bankruptcy court. Information that must be filed with the court includes:

  • The official bankruptcy petition
  • List of creditors
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Statement of current income and regular expenses
  • Copies of all pay stubs received 2 months before filing
  • Statement of itemized monthly income
  • Anticipated earnings over the next year
  • Proof that a filer received pre-bankruptcy credit counseling

This is just basic information, and it does not include the further paperwork required for people with debts tied to property, including cars or homes.

To make matters even more difficult, if individuals fail to give the court all this information in a proper manner within 45 days of their bankruptcy filing, the court may dismiss their case.

Thus, while filing bankruptcy by yourself is certainly possible, self-filers may experience hurdles or even set-backs in their quest to eliminate debt.

For more information on filing bankruptcy yourself, fill out the form below for a free consultation with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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