When someone calls and has a bankruptcy related question, what they are really seeking is a bankruptcy lawyer. It can be a very simple question such as where is your office located or it can be a very complex question such as how does Chapter 11 differ from Chapter 13? In any event, what I try to do is answer the question to the best of my ability. If it is something that cannot be easily answered over the telephone, then I will invite the person to come to the office for an initial consultation. If I don’t know the answer immediately, I have the ability to research the law on the topic at hand.
Most of the advice that I give out is dealing with bankruptcy basics. People want to know whether or not they qualify. They then want to know the cost. Most people will qualify for debt relief under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. In rare instances, the debtor will not fall within the filing requirements of either chapter. In those cases, the debtor can explore non-bankruptcy alternatives. Those include working out installment, payment plans or simply avoiding collection efforts.
I often caution against someone who thinks it’s easy to file bankruptcy yourself and avoid the expense of a lawyer. In most cases, the debtor will not be able to handle the filing without a skilled attorney. The laws have changed and way it was done 10 years ago is not how it is done today. In fact, many attorneys who used to file bankruptcy cases are no longer practicing bankruptcy. They simply were not able to keep up with the changes to the law. In the Northern District of Illinois, there is a great disparity between the decisions of the judges. What may work in one judge’s courtroom may not work in the adjacent courtroom.
When someone is thinking of claiming bankruptcy, I invite them in for an initial consultation. I also advise that he or she view several of the lengthy videos on my website. There is so much information out there if someone is willing to take the time and investigate. I have a thirty minute video on Chapter 7 bankruptcy and a 30 minute video on Chapter 7 filing. I find that an informed client is better than an uninformed client. It makes the entire process easier on both parties if there is a general understanding of what is to come. The best advice I can give is to seek help from an attorney who is an authority on the subject. I have made helping people file for bankruptcy my life’s work.
File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Of course you do not want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Everyone would first like to explore the alternatives. But just what are those alternatives and are they are good for your situation? The answer is as varied as the number of folks that are in debt. Do you have any assets that can be attached? Do you have any wages that can be garnished? Are you being harassed by creditors for payment of certain debts? If any of those answers are yes, then you may be subject to filing for bankruptcy at some point. The trick would be to get out of debt and yet, not have to file, correct?
That is the promise that many television advertising campaigns seem to tout. If you have more than ten thousand dollars of debt, we can help you. But can they really help you? In my experience, most debt settlement attempts fail and they do so with drastic results. I have had clients who were in debt settlement payment plans for years only to get sued by another creditor. In some cases, the balance did not get reduced accordingly and they lost money to the company itself. In other situations, the debt settlement company wound up claiming bankruptcy. Experience shows that many of the non-bankruptcy options are just not powerful enough.
You could try to do it alone. You could call your creditors and attempt to make an arrangement. The worst that they can say is no, we want more from you than that. Be careful however, that you do not give up too much information. Any information that you give can be used in an effort to collect on the debt. If you give your employer’s information for example, you may be seeing a wage garnishment coming down the pike. Whatever you do, please don’t file bankruptcy yourself. You have no clue how difficult it is to get a case processed correctly.
Lastly, if your non-bankruptcy options just do not seem to be working, then consider the services of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney. The attorney will know your best options under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. It may be a Chapter 7 or it may be a Chapter 13. You will not have to make the legal decision. You will only have to make the decision to file if you feel that after receiving all of the information that it is in your best interest to file. No one can or should force you to file for bankruptcy relief.