Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney Susan J. Salehi Bankruptcy Lawyer for Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Kern County, Los Angeles County Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
Filling Bankruptcy Without an Attorney
Credit Counseling | Foreclosure | Petition Preparers
Corporations and partnerships must have an attorney to file a bankruptcy case. Individuals, however, may represent themselves in bankruptcy court. While individuals can file a bankruptcy case without an attorney or "pro se," it can be extremely difficult to do it successfully.
It is very important that a bankruptcy case be filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor's rights. For example, a debtor whose case is dismissed for failure to file a required document, such as a credit counseling certificate, may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a later case, including the benefit of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences - hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.
Debtors must list all property and debts in their bankruptcy schedules. If a debt is not listed, it is possible the debt will not be discharged. (Lists of the documents [including schedules] that debtors must file are set out on Form B200 (pdf), one of the Director's Procedural Forms.) The judge can also deny the discharge of all debts if a debtor does something dishonest in connection with the bankruptcy case, such as destroying or hiding property, falsifying records, or lying. Individual bankruptcy cases are randomly audited to determine the accuracy, truthfulness, and completeness of the information that the debtor is required to provide. Please be aware that bankruptcy fraud is a crime.
Pro se litigants, whether debtor or creditor, are expected to follow the rules that govern procedures in the federal courts. Pro se litigants should be familiar with theUnited States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the local rules of the court in which the case is filed. Local rules, along with other useful information, are usually posted on the court's web site and are available at the local court's intake counter.
Beware of bankruptcy petition preparers who do not comply with all legal requirements. The role of non-attorney petition preparers is solely to type information on Bankruptcy Forms (available at this link without charge). Petition preparers are barred by law from providing legal advice - they cannot explain how to answer legal questions or assist in bankruptcy court. Petition preparers must sign all documents they prepare; print their name, address, and social security number on such documents; and furnish copies to the debtor. They cannot sign a document on the debtor's behalf or receive payment from the debtor for court fees