When other attempts to resolve debt in times of deep financial stress have failed, bankruptcy may emerge as an option worth considering. However, it is important to be informed about the implications of bankruptcy and the methods that you can use to identify a good attorney to represent your interests.
Bankruptcy establishes a payment plan whereby you can repay your debt under court supervision. As part of the terms established by the bankruptcy agreement, the court will impose a stay (known as a bankruptcy discharge) on all legal actions surrounding debt. Among the different forms of personal bankruptcy, the most commonly declared are Chapters 7 and 13.
When filing for bankruptcy, it is crucial to hire a skilled lawyer with extensive experience in the field. You may choose to represent yourself when filing for bankruptcy, but this is not advisable given the complex legal nature of the subject and the amount of additional stress involved. An attorney with expertise in the field of bankruptcy law will be better equipped to construct a convincing case on your behalf.
Bankruptcy attorneys are certified by the National Bankruptcy Institute and can be identified through specialized groups such as the Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, as well as a number of broader legal organizations, ranging from State Bar Associations to legal aid societies. Many attorneys offer reduced-cost or entirely meetings to potential clients. Among the responsibilities of a bankruptcy attorney is the administration of the Means Test, a mechanism used to determine where your income stands in relation to your state’s median income level. This is used to identify which form of bankruptcy applies to your financial situation.
As you search for the right bankruptcy attorney, there are a few important things to remember. While all bankruptcy attorneys receive certification from the National Bankruptcy Institute, there is a wide range of legal practice within bankruptcy law itself. Skilled bankruptcy attorneys often have additional training in particular specializations, which may make some better suited to arguing your case than others. Greater specialization may indicate a higher degree of knowledge and expertise about the area of the law in question, so looking to see whether an attorney has received additional training is advisable.
It’s also important to question attorneys on the extent to which their work involves bankruptcy. Those who deal frequently with personal bankruptcy cases may be able to help you more than those with more sporadic experience, even if they have the appropriate training. Furthermore, you should assess the level of access you will have to your attorney, as they regularly deal with several similar cases simultaneously. Consequently, many of your interactions over the course of the bankruptcy filing may be with clerks or paralegals.
Finally, make sure that you are aware of all fees, not just those charged by your bankruptcy attorney, but all incidental fees that may be incurred, such as payments for a forensic accountant. By staying involved with the proceedings of your case (which your attorney can help explain) you can avoid further problems in debt repayment and encourage your attorney to also remain focused on supporting you.
Since the summer of 2010, he has volunteered as a Savings Officer for the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in Chapel Hill, which seeks to promote financial literacy and help fiscally strained individuals achieve self-sufficiency. Apart from writing, Siddarth enjoys reading, travel, and watching British television programs. Upon graduation, he plans to earn a graduate degree and seek employment in the field of international development.
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