Can I File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Without an Attorney?

NJ bankruptcy attorney

Though filing bankruptcy without an attorney may seem like something you can handle, it’s not necessarily the recommended option. This is not to say that filing for bankruptcy is impossible without an attorney, but it requires serious dedication, time, and self-education. Even with the most extensive research and attention to detail, it’s easy to make a mistake or miss a crucial step in the process. If you’re thinking about filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy without an attorney, be aware of the common mistakes that pro se individuals most often make. Ultimately, whether or not you decide to hire an attorney is up to you, but as always, Veitengruber Law is more than happy to provide you with stellar bankruptcy representation.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides the opportunity to construct a repayment plan that will help you pay back your debt. In order for your Chapter 13 application to be approved, you need to be able to prove that you have a steady job that provides enough income for you to realistically be able to pay off your creditors within three to five years.

If you’re considering bankruptcy as a solution to your financial struggles, we want you to know that it may not be your best option. Certain forms of debt, known as nondischargeable debt, cannot be relieved by filing for bankruptcy. Related to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets may be at risk if you are unable to exempt them. Knowing these small but significant details will assist you when making the decision to file.

For most people, deciding whether to file for bankruptcy and which type to file depends on: the type of debt they want to eliminate, whether or not they own nonexempt property, if they are able to pay back debt outside of the bankruptcy case, and other details that are unique to their case.

One of the biggest disadvantages of not having an attorney to guide you through the process is that you may not be aware of some of the steps that are imperative to a successful bankruptcy outcome. Just one of these key steps is the credit counseling/debtor education requisites. For any type of bankruptcy filing, it’s necessary to work through credit counseling. If you skip this step, the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court will dismiss your case. To initiate this process, you’ll need to find an agency that can provide an approved credit counseling program. Once you submit your case to the court, you will need to provide the court with proof of counseling completion. Following the submission of your bankruptcy case, you will need to conclude with a debtor education course, also known as personal financial management. If you fail to complete this, you will not receive a discharge from the court.

As with most financial processes, there is a plethora of arduous paperwork to file in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. These include your petition, schedule, statement of affairs, creditor matrix and many other necessary forms. Obviously, if you don’t have an attorney, you may not know which documents need to be completed (along with their deadlines). By choosing not to work with a NJ bankruptcy attorney, you take this responsibility into your own hands.

Believe it or not, bankruptcy court laws are not universal; every state and county court will have their own set of local bankruptcy procedures and regulations that you will be required to follow. Because you have to submit local tax returns and other forms to your bankruptcy trustee, it’s possible that the trustee will have additional, specific forms for you to complete as well. When you fail to follow any of these rules or meet your deadlines, expect to have a delay in or a dismissal of your case.

A huge part of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in New Jersey means creating a repayment plan that assures creditors that you have the ability to pay back the debt. If you’re foregoing an attorney’s help, it’s your job to design your repayment plan. Once you submit the initial plan, the court must approve it before finalization. The creditors will reject the plan if it doesn’t meet bankruptcy code. While this task is not impossible to do on your own, writing up a repayment plan simply isn’t in the average person’s skill set. This is a step wherein working with an experienced NJ bankruptcy attorney is extremely beneficial.

The complexity of filing for bankruptcy shouldn’t scare you away, but because of its nature, it is our advice that you work with a bankruptcy team that has experience with Chapter 13 cases like yours. If you’re set on skipping an attorney, be sure to do ample research online and ask questions of your local bankruptcy court if you are unsure of something. In the end, we would recommend finding a trustworthy legal team near you to walk with you through all of the steps of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy