It is completely normal to feel anxious about filing bankruptcy. There are hundreds of unanswered questions, the process seems to be tedious, and the impact that it will have on your life is inconceivable. Needless to mention, filing bankruptcy is a serious matter and it must be looked at from several angles. But, bankruptcy can also be an excellent solution when the stress of financial struggles has become overwhelming. 

Do I Have to Appear In Court?

This is one of the most asked questions when an individual is considering bankruptcy. In most cases, you will not have to appear in court before a judge. There are very few exceptions. You will have to be prepared to meet with a bankruptcy trustee, but that is a quick meeting and nowhere near as tedious as appearing in court before a judge. 
How Long Does the Bankruptcy Process Take?
Another common question is: How long will the bankruptcy process take? While each case depends on circumstances, the entire process, from deciding to file to the completion of the bankruptcy, should take approximately four months. 
Sometimes, people are left in the dark and do not know what to expect from the process. However, when you come to our law firm, you will be informed exactly what to expect every step of the way. We will make the process easy for you. 

What Do I Need for Proof to File Bankruptcy?

Do not fret the details of the process now. The following information is here to provide you with a general idea of what to expect. We will walk you through everything you need to bring to us when you come to our office and we will hold your hand every step of the way until you obtain the discharge order. 
In the beginning, you will be asked to provide us with basic information about you and your family. Some of the things you will be asked include your name, address, phone number, place of employment, marital status, and how many children are living with you.
  
A list of your debts will be required next. This will help us analyze your financial situation. The best way to do this is by obtaining a free credit report and compiling your outstanding bills. We need both your credit report and outstanding bills because your credit report will not necessarily include all of your debts. If you have a mortgage or car loan, you should bring proof of both of those, as well.
 
The law requires that you provide paystubs for the last 60 days. However, when we list income, we have to list all income for the past six months. If you have not worked in the past six months, an affidavit can be prepared. If you receive unemployment, social security, or retirement benefits, bring the relevant documents to prove that income.

Additionally, per law, you will need the last four year’s worth of income tax returns. Similarly, if you did not file tax returns for some reason, an affidavit can be prepared.  
When all pertinent documents have been gathered, it is time to sit down with your lawyer. One of our experienced bankruptcy lawyers will ask you questions to help assist you with your bankruptcy and consider your goals for your financial future.
 
We will categorize your debts, evaluate your property such as your home and car, list all of your assets, and ensure that you get all of the property exemptions your state allows. Your income and monthly expenses will be tallied accordingly. Then, we will double-check that there are not any problems. If there are any issues, we will discuss them with you immediately. Most of the time, though, this process goes fairly smoothly, and there is nothing to stress about.

Other Things to Consider

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there are several types of debts that will not be discharged. For example, back child support and some IRS debts are not allowed. Parking tickets and traffic tickets, alimony, and student loans are also not allowed by law to be wiped out. We will tell you which of your debts will be discharged and which ones will not be allowed. 

If the equity of your home (market value minus mortgage balance) is more than your exemptions, this can cause a problem. We can help you figure out how to solve situations like this or explain how it will affect your bankruptcy.
 
You will need to decide whether or not you want to keep your car. Most people want to keep their car and continue to pay the car payments. If that is your decision, you will sign an agreement with the lender that promises you will continue to make your payments, just as you would have had you not filed the bankruptcy. This is called “reaffirming” your car loan. In order to do this, you will be required to prove to the court that your vehicle is necessary and the payments that you are making are reasonable.  

The Next Steps

Now that all of the difficult work is done and we have explained our fees, the court’s filing fee, and all of the financial options to you, you will need to make the final decision. Do you think that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best choice for your financial situation?

If the answer is yes, we will ask you to read and sign documents pertaining to our agreement.

You will be required to complete Credit Counseling before your bankruptcy case can be filed with the court. This course can be done online with a computer and it costs less than $10. If you cannot use a computer, a tablet or phone can be used, but the cost will then be $50. It does not take much time to complete credit counseling. 

The Final Steps

This is when your bankruptcy petition will actually be filed with the court and you will be required to pay the filing fee. If you cannot pay the fee all at once, you can ask the court to split the fee into payments. If you qualify for a fee waiver (your household income is 150% of federal poverty guidelines or less and you do not have the income to pay fee installments), you can apply to get the fee waived.

Approximately 20 to 40 days after filing the petition, you will be required to meet with the bankruptcy trustee. Do not worry - your lawyer will be with you. The meeting is typically short and only requires you to show your identification and then answer quick and simple questions about yourself and the bankruptcy.  

The bankruptcy trustee is responsible for ensuring that all of the documents required for your bankruptcy are in order. The trustee has a variety of obligations and powers, but overall, the trustee is an independent contractor who is in charge of overseeing your bankruptcy.
 
If you need to dispute a creditor’s claim, you need to do it before your case closes. When you filed your bankruptcy petition, you stipulated how you planned to handle any outstanding secured debts. These things will need to be handled before your bankruptcy case closes.
 
Before you receive the discharge (the court order that clears up your debt), you will be required to take another course. This one is a Debtor Education course, which costs the same as the Credit Counseling course. If you do not submit the certificate of completion for this course on time, the court could close your case without a discharge. We will remind you to do this, however, so you should not be worried.
 
It takes approximately three months from the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee to the close of your case when you will receive the formal discharge. 

What If A Creditor Objects to My Case?

Although it is rare to see an objection to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they do happen. The more common objections are due to the filer’s failure to disclose an asset, so it crucial for us to be thorough when we are detailing assets. 

 

Are You Considering Filing For Bankruptcy?

If you feel bankruptcy is the best option for your financial situation you need to speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 888.348.2616 to schedule your free consultation.

James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.