With the economy in a recession, job layoffs common and prices for necessities rising, it is no surprise that bankruptcy filings across the country are at an all time high. Not surprisingly, our firm frequently receives calls from prospective clients who need to file bankruptcy but who are flat broke.
If you are extremely cash strapped, you might be tempted to look for a “cheaper” way to file for bankruptcy – either by trying to fill out the bankruptcy petition paperwork yourself or by hiring a non-attorney “petition preparer” to assist you.
At Clarkand Washington, we would strongly urge you to reconsider any decision to proceed with bankruptcy without the help of a licensed Florida attorney.
Bankruptcy paperwork is complicated and mistakes in preparing and filing your petition and subsequent pleadings can haunt you for years to come. More importantly, you may not receive all of the benefits that bankruptcy can and should provide you.
Here are just a few of the complicated issues that arise in every bankruptcy case:
- means test analysis – the Bankruptcy Code requires every debtor to prepare and submit an detailed analysis of his/her family income during the six month period prior to filing. The purpose of this analysis is to determine whether you have enough “disposable income” to pay creditors back in a Chapter 13, or if you qualify for Chapter 7. The means test analysis requires you to use IRS tables of approved monthly expenses and median income tables for various family sizes that is prepared by the United States Trustee’s office
- amendments to petition – frequently you will face objections or requests for additional information in your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case. These requests will come in the form of official looking pleadings that will be served on you. If you are proceeding without counsel, you may not know how to respond to these pleadings or where to submit your response.
- bankruptcy procedure requirements – in addition to the official pleadings, every individual bankruptcy debtor must submit additional paperwork, including credit counseling certificates, financial management course certificates, pay stubs (with Social Security numbers blacked out) and tax returns. Would you know where and how to submit these documents if you are proceeding without counsel?
It is unfortunate that preparing and filing a bankruptcy has become so complicated. However, Clark and Washington has a standing policy whereby we will not turn away any deserving debtor because of a lack of cash on hand. In most cases, we will be able to file your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case with only the filing fee paid (the filing fee for Chapter 7 is $299 and the filing fee for Chapter 13 is $274). Thus, for less than $300 to start, you gain the benefit of an experienced Tampa bankruptcy law firm.
So, if you are tempted to file bankruptcy on your own or with a non-attorney, please take a minute and call our office first.