Don't try Wilmington bankruptcy without a lawyer
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So, you are considering Wilmington bankruptcy and thinking of doing it without a lawyer. The letter of the law allows you to represent yourself in any civil or criminal matter in the courts. It’s okay if you go it alone in small claims or traffic court, but diving into the waters of federal bankruptcy law without a lawyer is akin to repping yourself for a murder charge or trying to perform heart surgery on yourself.
What happens if you file pro se?
Pro se is Latin for “for oneself” and is the terminology used when you represent yourself in court. US law, across the board, allows anyone to engage in court cases without the benefit of counsel, but it’s not always the best way to proceed. One study by the bankruptcy court system in California showed drastically different outcomes between those that filed pro se versus with a lawyer.
The first factor examined was case dismissal. Bankruptcy case dismissals are often due to missing paperwork, failure to appear in court, and failure to obey court demands.
In Chapter 7 cases considered, less than 4% of those that used an attorney saw their cases dismissed, and this was likely because the client failed to supply their attorney with information or documents requested by the court. For those who filed on their own, without counsel, the dismissal rate was closer to 30%.
The stats are more alarming with Chapter 13 cases, which are more complex and continue for three to five-years. The study showed a whopping 98% of Chapter 13 cases filed without a lawyer were dismissed, meaning no debt relief. Only 2% of pro se filers had their plans approved. Those who used a lawyer, though, had a 60% plan approval. Those with a lawyer whose plan was not approved likely had cases that involved insufficient income or failure to produce documents.
Discharge is when the case follows through to completion and you get the debt relief you need. If you tally both the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases considered by the study, 82% of those with lawyers obtained a discharge and debt relief while less than half of those who file pro se made it all the way to discharge and debt relief.
Most people try and file Wilmington bankruptcy without a lawyer to try to save money. Unfortunately, filing pro se may end up costing you more than you think – even if you get a debt discharge. Here are five reasons why:
1 - Filing through an attorney is less stressful
The bankruptcy process can be tedious and complex. If you don’t know the letter of the law, that’s no excuse in the court’s eyes. They expect you to show up and know the system and rules of the games as well as an attorney. That’s a significant source of stress. Being stuck with debt you can’t afford is bad enough. Trying to learn the law and court system may be even more so.
2 – Less risk of case dismissal
Bankruptcy case dismissal can be for many reasons. It may be lack of proper documentation, failure to file the right forms, failure to properly complete the proper schedules, or failure to show up for a hearing. The reasons go on and on, and the bottom line is that if you don’t know the game, you can’t play it well. Bankruptcy lawyers know what they’re doing as they do it all day, every day.
3 – Less chance of errors
If your car isn’t stopping like it should, you go to a brake shop. If you’ve got a toothache, you see a dentist. When you have excessive debt you can’t service, you should go to an expert. It’s unfair to expect yourself to learn quickly what lawyers picked up over years of law school and via court experience. If you make mistakes in your papers or court, your case will be booted.
4 - Better debt relief
Of those cases in the California study filed without a lawyer and which made it all the way to discharge, there’s still uncertainty of whether they achieved optimal debt relief under the law. Lack of knowledge of the law means you may have failed to include debts that were dischargeable or you failed to protect assets that could be exempt. It’s a risk!
5 - You may not file the best chapter
For Wilmington bankruptcy, most consumers can choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Most people earning a steady income qualify for Chapter 13, but Chapter 7 requires a Means Test if you earn above a certain threshold and can be trickier. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, you might file the chapter that’s not best for you.
Don’t cheat yourself out of the debt relief you deserve. To find out more, contact the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt. Read reviews from satisfied clients then call +1-919-646-2654 to schedule a free Wilmington bankruptcy consultation at one of our locations in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Wilson, Greensboro, Garner or Wilmington.