Three bankruptcy courts will participate in a pilot program to assist unrepresented bankruptcy filers. Courts in New Mexico, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, California were selected for the Pro Se Pathfinder Project, a computer software program that assists do-it-yourself bankruptcy filers in completing the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and forms. In an article published in the Albuquerque Journal, Norman H. Meyer Jr., clerk of the bankruptcy court for the District of New Mexico stated, “We want this to be more user friendly with a sort of Turbo Tax approach.”
The mechanics of filing the case are relatively easy and the courts attempt to make the process as accessible as possible. However, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts warns, “[w]hile individuals can file a bankruptcy case without an attorney or ‘pro se,’ it is extremely difficult to do it successfully.” A 2009 study by Emory University found that dismissal rates in Chapter 7 pro se cases were higher than those with representation, and that trend has increased since the new bankruptcy laws took effect in 2005.
Filing a bankruptcy case without an attorney is a tricky proposition, and the pro se debtor is ill-equipped to perform a pre-bankruptcy legal analysis of the case. This analysis includes an assessment of property, income, expenses, and debts. Often a small adjustment to one of these categories can mean a huge difference in the outcome of the case. For instance, delaying a bankruptcy filing by a few weeks or even months may mean the difference between a three to four month bankruptcy case with no payments, and a three to five year bankruptcy case costing thousands.
The paperwork filed in a typical bankruptcy runs between 30 and 40 or more pages. The information provided in this paperwork largely dictates the outcome of your bankruptcy case. Often the pro se debtor is under a tremendous amount of stress or must act quickly to file the bankruptcy to protect property from creditors. Consequently, the pro se debtor is apt to make mistakes that can impact the case.
An experienced attorney will perform a pre-bankruptcy legal analysis of your financial situation and discuss strategies to maximize the positive benefits of your bankruptcy case. Additionally, an experienced bankruptcy attorney has office processes and procedures to eliminate mistakes in your case.
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, don’t go it alone. The benefits of having experienced counsel to represent you will save you money, stress, and provide peace of mind. Your case will be handled professionally and effectively. Don’t risk losing your chance at a fresh start. Call today for a consultation.