Preparing a strong consumer bankruptcy case begins with hiring an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. Bankruptcy is a special type of case that occurs in a specialized court, a bankruptcy court. These cases can be extremely complex and involve significant amounts of paperwork.

Filing for bankruptcy can be a difficult decision with lasting consequences. A lawyer will need a large amount of detailed information in order to assist with a bankruptcy filing. It may seem like no stone is unturned in an individual’s financial life.

A lawyer’s recommendations regarding the case will vary depending on the types of debt an individual owes. The two forms of consumer bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy does not cancel all debts, including child support and/or student loans. If an individual has significant debts that cannot be cancelled under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they may need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead.

During an individual’s initial consultation, they should expect to participate in a detailed discussion regarding their debts. It is important to bring the documentation discussed below so the attorney can make a personalized recommendation for the case.

What Documentation Should I Gather Before I Meet with My Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer?

There will be a significant number of documents required for a bankruptcy lawyer to review prior to assisting an individual with a consumer bankruptcy case. It is important to bring as many documents as possible to the consultation so the lawyer can evaluate the case and provide accurate advice on how to proceed. If an individual is unsure whether or not a document will be relevant, they should bring it for the lawyer to review.

The lawyer will need documents including:

    • Any and all financial documents, including:
      • bank account statements;
      • receipts for major purchases;
      • wage statements; and
      • tax returns;

 

    • A list of all creditors to whom an individual owes money, including:
      • their contact information;
      • account numbers; and
      • how much money is owed on each account;

 

    • Any and all documents relating to any outstanding loans that an individual has, including:
      • mortgages;
      • student loans;
      • car loans; and/or
      • any other loans an individual has;

 

    • Any and all large personal property items that an individual might have a lien on and/or be subject to repossession, including:
      • motor vehicles;
      • expensive jewelry;
      • leisure items;
      • major appliances; and/or
      • electronic gaming equipment;

 

    • Any and all Information related to real property that the individual owns and/or any information relating to property that the individual rents;

 

    • The value of all major assets that the individual owns including:
      • property;
      • vehicles; and/or any other expensive items;

 

    • Any other financial information that an individual feels may be relevant to their bankruptcy; and

 

  • Any other information requested by an individual’s attorney that the attorney feels is important in the bankruptcy case.

It is essential to be completely transparent with the bankruptcy attorney. It is better to bring too many documents to a consultation than to bring too few. There is no such thing as being too prepared and/or being too honest in these cases. This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand an individual’s financial situation. Essentially, it will require a review of any and all financial items in an individual’s life.

While declaring bankruptcy may give an individual unable to pay their debts a way to solve their financial problems and rebuild their credit, it can be one of the most document intensive legal proceedings. The court relies on an evaluation of a debtor’s assets compared to the amount of debt they owe.

Prior to a meeting with their attorney, a debtor should create a document checklist. They should also make a list of any questions they may have for their attorney regarding the process. The bankruptcy attorney needs to review the individual’s financial background thoroughly to determine whether bankruptcy is a legal option.

If an individual decides to proceed with the bankruptcy, there will be even more documents required in order to determine which type of bankruptcy is required. If an individual has any pending judgments and/or wage garnishment orders, the bankruptcy lawyer will need to know about those.

An individual should make sure to bring all of their debt-related legal documents with them to the bankruptcy consultation. It is important to remember that the attorney is requesting information to help with an individual’s case, not to be a royal pain.

What Makes a Consumer Bankruptcy Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?

A strong bankruptcy case is made by an organized demonstration of why an individual cannot repay their debts. It may also depend on which type of bankruptcy an individual is filing. There are certain assets that may determine which bankruptcy to file. Certain property may be exempt from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy but an individual may be required to sell the majority of their belongings.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the exemptions may have an impact on an individual’s repayment obligations. Since an individual will be making agreements to pay for debt, it is helpful to demonstrate reliableness, even if the individual was not able to pay their debt previously. There may have been some bills that the individual regularly paid and was only not able to keep up with certain obligations.

A weak bankruptcy case would occur when an individual appears to have enough income and assets to satisfy their debts. Bankruptcy is not used as a get out of debt free card when someone simply does not want to pay for something but wants to keep it. In many cases, bankruptcy will prevent an individual from opening lines of credit for years.

What are Some Dos and Don’ts for Consumer Bankruptcy Cases?

Some “do’s” for a bankruptcy case include:

    • Do: Be forthright with the attorney and the court. It is necessary to examine all aspects of an individual’s finances for a bankruptcy proceeding.

 

    • Do: Be patient. Bankruptcy is not a quick fix. It can take, in many cases, between 4 and 6 months.

 

  • Do: Be prepared for a new financial way of life. As previously mentioned, a bankruptcy will affect an individual’s credit for many years, usually between 7 and 10 years. Additionally, if an individual files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they will be on a strict budget and required to make payments.

Some “don’ts” for a bankruptcy case include:

    • Don’t: Attempt to hide any income and/or assets. This could cause an individual to face criminal penalties. If an individual cannot find a document and/or forgets a document, it is important to simply let the attorney and/or the court know.

 

    • Don’t: Attempt to hide any debts. Filing for bankruptcy does not dismiss all debts an individual owes and some creditors may still try and collect on those debts.

 

  • Don’t: Get discouraged with the process. If a bankruptcy is necessary, it will take time and a thorough examination of an individual’s finances, but it will ultimately help them out in the end.

When Do I Need a Lawyer for a Consumer Bankruptcy Dispute?

Anyone facing consumer bankruptcy should seek the help of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. A lawyer can review and analyze your situation to determine if and which type of bankruptcy is best for your situation. As with any court case, you have the right to represent yourself pro se, however, most people filing bankruptcy in the United States do so with the help of an attorney.

There are specific rules required for each type of bankruptcy and a lawyer will be familiar with these requirements. Bankruptcy is a complex legal issue that can overwhelm you if you are not familiar with the law. A lawyer will help you understand what debts can be discharged, what property you may keep, and ensure creditors do not violate your rights. Your attorney will also be there to represent you during any court proceedings.