The process in our office begins with your call to schedule an appointment to see an attorney. The initial consultation takes only about a half an hour, during which we cover the essentials of bankruptcy law and apply them to your particular situation. You do not have to bring anything to the interview, except perhaps a brief listing of your largest creditors and an approximation of how much you owe them. You will have a good idea at the end of that interview of your various options, and to the extent that non-bankruptcy options were suggested, you will be encouraged to pursue those before scheduling another interview in our office. We will give you several forms to complete and list of items to return if you decide that bankruptcy protection is your best option. You will feel no pressure to retain one of our attorneys when you come in to talk with us. Except in emergency cases, you cannot even retain the attorney at this initial consultation. We want to make sure that you do not feel pressured into filing bankruptcy or retaining our services. (Given the stressful circumstances, it is easy for an attorney to sway a person into doing something that he or she may not really feel good about doing. We want to make sure that you have a lot of time to think about this important decision.)
If you decide to file for bankruptcy protection, we will schedule a second appointment to review the paperwork you completed and begin filling out the extensive paperwork for the filing. After the attorney completes your petition/paperwork, you’ll need to carefully review and sign it. Accuracy is key, and you will sign the papers under penalty of perjury. So let’s make sure that everything is correct. The bankruptcy petition and schedules are filed with the bankruptcy court after you sign them.
The Court will schedule a hearing with a trustee and your potential creditors. Although creditors are invited to attend the hearing, they rarely do. We, of course, will be with you at the meeting.
At the hearing, the trustee will ask you questions about the accuracy of your filing, your present financial situation and may request additional information and documentation from you.
After the hearing, you must complete a “debtor education” course. (This is different from, and in addition to, the “credit counseling” course you took before the bankruptcy filing.) If you fail to take this course, your discharge will not be granted. Don’t worry — we will remind you of this requirement.
About three months from the date of filing, and assuming you have completed the “debtor education” course and no complications arose in your case (e.g., creditors haven’t filed claims to declare debts non-dischargeable, no property to surrender, etc.), and that you attended the required “debtor education” course, your case will come to an end. You will be granted your discharge in bankruptcy and a notice of this will be sent to you by the bankruptcy court.