Bankruptcy laws don’t require debtors to have an attorney to file for bankruptcy relief. You are allowed to represent yourself in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a pro se debtor. But it's not always a good idea. Whether you should hire an attorney to represent you in bankruptcy depends on:
If you have a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have a better chance to successfully file and complete your case without an attorney. A simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically means that:
But keep in mind that even filing a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy requires a fair amount of time and research on your part. If you want to successfully complete your case, obtain a discharge, and not put any of your property at risk, you have to:
In many cases, it will be in your best interest to hire an attorney to handle your bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a powerful financial tool that can allow you to:
But a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is typically much more complex and labor intensive than a Chapter 7. In general, if you want the court to confirm (approve) your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must propose a feasible repayment plan that is fair to all of your creditors (which usually requires extensive bankruptcy law knowledge and is difficult to do without the expensive programs many attorneys use).
Further, if you wish to strip your second mortgage or cram down your car loan, you will need to file additional complicated paperwork with the court. For these reasons, it’s generally in your best interest to hire an attorney to file your Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
While you may be able to handle a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own, it generally makes sense to hire an attorney for more complicated cases. In most cases, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney to handle your bankruptcy if you:
Filing even a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a daunting task to do without an attorney. If you don’t believe that you can manage the entire bankruptcy process on your own (or are not comfortable with it), it may be in your best interest to get an attorney to prepare your case and represent you.
While having a bankruptcy lawyer on your side will almost always be better than filing on your own, not all debtors can afford an attorney. (Learn more about your options if you can’t afford a bankruptcy attorney.)
In general, if you can’t afford a bankruptcy lawyer, you might consider: