How Do I Know If I Should File for Bankruptcy?

Filing for bankruptcy can be a daunting task, to be sure. There will be lots of questions about how to actually file the paperwork, what type of bankruptcy will be best and what the lingering effects of this action will be.

First, it’s important to ask whether this is the answer to your financial problems. Filing for bankruptcy is a serious decision and should only be undertaken if there are no other alternatives. Having a bankruptcy on your credit file can affect buying a house or car in the future and will remain on your records for years to come.

“To file, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code also requires that a filer obtains some credit counseling from a court-approved counseling agency before submitting a bankruptcy petition,” said Reginald Osenton of Osenton Law Offices in Brandon, Florida.

The next step is to determine what type of bankruptcy is right for your situation. There is Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which offers immediate relief, but it is not available to all debtors under bankruptcy law. The other alternative is Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is a restructuring of debt typically over a 3 to 5 year period.

While there are some people who file bankruptcy paperwork without the assistance of an attorney, this is highly discouraged. Bankruptcy is a serious and complex matter that can have ramifications for years to come. It is best to seek an expert attorney on this decision.

The lawyer should meet with you to go over your options and financial matters. If your initial meeting is with a paralegal or assistant, and not an attorney, you should seek another law firm. After discussing your situation, the attorney should inform you what the legal fee and court costs would be to proceed.

Once you retain a lawyer, refer all creditors to him or her. After you file the bankruptcy petition, the court will set the first meeting of creditors, which is a time for the bankruptcy trustee and creditors to ask you questions about your case. In most cases, this is the only time you will appear in court. The creditors then have a certain time period to respond to your request of a discharge or restructuring of debt.

Again, choosing to file for bankruptcy is a serious matter. “It is imperative to seek the advice and guidance of a competent attorney with experience in bankruptcy,” Osenton said.

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