WHY DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY TO FILE MY BANKRUPTCY?
At least once per year I have the privilege to volunteer my services at the Brevard County Legal Aid Clinic. At this clinic, when I encounter persons experiencing financial problems, I advise them about the pros and cons of hiring a bankruptcy attorney as follows:
PRO-SE: The laws of the State of Florida allow for you as an individual to file a bankruptcy without the need for an attorney. Your costs would be the filing fee ($209 for a Chapter 7, $194 for a Chapter 13). Without an attorney, you will attend the §341 Meeting of Creditors on your own and if you have any debts you wish to reaffirm (meaning keep a debt and continue to pay such as an auto or home loan), you will need to appear in Orlando for a hearing in front of the Judge on this matter separate from your Meeting of Creditors. In the event of any errors such as an omitted creditor, you will be responsible for adding this creditor, paying the Bankruptcy Court fee, and possibly waiting additional time for your discharge.
PARALEGAL: You may have the paperwork (petitions and schedules) completed with the assistance of a paralegal. A paralegal is not allowed to give you legal advice and merely acts as a data entry person. You will attend the Meeting of Creditors on your own and if you desire to reaffirm a debt, a second hearing will be held in front of the Judge in Orlando. In the event of errors such as an omitted creditor, you will probably have to pay an additional fee to the paralegal as well as the Bankruptcy Court to make this correction. Depending on the time you add this creditor, it may delay receipt of your discharge.
ATTORNEY: The most expensive alternative but the lawyer is your representative from the start of your Bankruptcy to the discharge/finish. They will accompany and appear with you at your Chapter 7 Meeting of Creditors hearing. An attorney also can provide legal advice throughout the process. Attorneys can file Motions to Redeem and Avoid Liens during the Bankruptcy that are quite difficult to handle without an attorney. Each of those motions can be filed pro se but will entail at least one additional trip to appear in front of the Judge in Orlando. Although each of these motions require additional attorney’s fees and costs, they can result in savings to you of possibly thousands of dollars. Lastly, because you are represented by counsel, you will need only attend one Chapter 7 hearing (Brevard County residents in Viera, Osceola County in Orlando) whether you wish to reaffirm a debt or not.
In summary, from a cost perspective you can see that filing your own case may be the most inexpensive…in the beginning. It might entail more time invested in attending additional hearings and if you don’t get proper legal advice prior, it could costs you thousands of dollars. If you can possibly afford it, seek the advice of a competent attorney.
As of June 1, 2005, Florida residents can receive one free credit report(s) per year.
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE IS BASED ON EXPERIENCES RELATED TO PRACTICING BANKRUPTCY IN THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION. AS EACH DIVISION OF THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA HAS ITS OWN RULES AND PROCEDURES, YOUR JURISDICTION MAY HAVE DIFFERING RULES AS WELL. PLEASE CONSULT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR JURISDICTION FOR A MORE ACCURATE OPINION AS TO YOUR BANKRUPTCY NEEDS.