If you are considering bankruptcy, you probably have a lot of questions. Use the resources here to learn what bankruptcy entails, what the alternatives are, and if bankruptcy sounds like a good option for you. Once you are comfortable, start by taking a Free Bankruptcy Evaluation with a local attorney. You can get an evaluation right here – just complete the one-step form below.
Taking the time for a free case evaluation will tell you how much a bankruptcy will cost, how long it will take, and you’ll know if you feel comfortable proceeding. Your first step towards bankruptcy should be speaking to a couple of local attorneys.
After you’ve spoken to a local attorney or two, you should have an idea of how much a bankruptcy will cost, and how long it will take. If it sounds like a good solution for you, the first thing you should do is decide if you want to hire an attorney, and hire whichever attorney you are most comfortable with. It may be best if they are a local attorney who specifically handles consumer bankruptcies.
Also, if you know anyone who has filed for bankruptcy before, it can be helpful to talk to them about their experience and how it worked for them. There is a lot of emotion connected to filing for bankruptcy, and hearing the results first hand can help you see the benefits.
Once you’ve hired an attorney (or “retained” an attorney), you’ll have a couple of jobs before you can actually file for bankruptcy. You’ll need to complete a Credit Counseling course and a Bankruptcy Means Test. These two items will help you and your attorney figure out if you are a good candidate for bankruptcy, and also whether you are eligible to file in your state. Your attorney may be able to give you an idea of whether you will qualify before you complete these tasks.
Once you’ve finished your Credit Counseling course and Means Test, you can start working on your actual bankruptcy filing! It is a process that will take you some time. Unfortunately bankruptcy isn’t as simple as completing a form and submitting it at your local courthouse; it often takes weeks or months to complete. But you will hopefully feel a sense of relief knowing that you are underway, and having an attorney will make the whole thing more manageable. Filing for bankruptcy will require patience on your part, but when you’ve wiped out your debts and are working on rebuilding your financial health you can look back on this time with a smile.
Your attorney will ask you for many different documents that show your debts and financial situation. You’ll need to provide these documents to your attorney’s office, often working with a paralegal to gather up all of the documents that you need. This is sometimes called “papering the file.” Sometimes you may need to provide your attorney with a current credit report as well. You’ll be instructed on exactly what is needed. During this time you also may be making regular, small payments to your attorney to pay your legal fees.
After completing the preparations and paying your legal fees, your attorney will file your bankruptcy with your local courthouse. You may or may not need to go to the courthouse yourself – your attorney will let you know exactly what to do. Your attorney will take care of filing your bankruptcy with the court and seeing that it is processed properly. Once it has been filed with the county court, your bankruptcy is in effect!
There will be changes to your life after bankruptcy. Be sure to read our more detailed Life After Bankruptcy page to understand the changes that you will see. But immediately after filing for bankruptcy you can expect some things.
Make sure you understand which debts are being discharged in your bankruptcy and which debts you are still responsible for. If you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you need to understand the payment schedule and what your responsibilities are to your lenders. It is important that you pay your bills after bankruptcy, as you will be rebuilding your credit score and you don’t want to get behind on any of your remaining bills. With a bankruptcy on your credit report it may be more difficult to re-qualify for services that you want to keep, so be sure you pay those bills!
You will also enjoy the benefits of the Automatic Stay, which means that all of your creditors must immediately stop harassing you to pay your bills that have been discharged through your bankruptcy. You can once again answer your phone without worrying about who it is. This topic is also covered in detail on our Life After Bankruptcy page.