Often the comment is made: “If I could afford your fees I would not be in the financial mess that I am in.” On average attorney’s fees to file a Chapter 7 will be in the neighborhood of $2,000. Attorney’s fees vary by area and most certainly by attorney. Sometimes the cost will be lower, sometimes higher. People are always looking for ways to save money. This includes surfing the Internet to find a cheaper short cut to filing bankruptcy. As a result I hear that for $125 one can have their case drafted through an Internet service. You have the right to choose this route and it is not uncommon to see these cases in court.
However, before you make that decision and think an attorney is too expensive ask yourself if you know the law and how it affects you? Do you know whether the 10 year look back period will apply to your case? What about the insurance check you have not cashed, or the tax refund you have not received but applied for, etc… If you owe $10,000 or more in credit card debt, medical, repossession debt, etc… my question to you is how can you not afford to have an attorney on your side protecting your interest? Ben Franklin once said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure“. Meaning your attempt to save money may now have the attorney’s fees double because it takes twice as much work to protect you or correct the mistakes. This is assuming that an attorney will even take your case if you filed it on your own.
Many attorneys will not touch a bankruptcy case today that started out as a pro se case because the interpretation of the bankruptcy code is in a constant state of flux. If bankruptcy code was cut and dried there would be no case law to decide, no arguments to be made by the creditor or the debtor could file their case by themselves. However, there are many issues undecided throughout the United States pertaining to the law. What about the issue of credit counseling? Can you take the course and file in the same day or do you have to wait 24 hrs? This answer alone can make the difference between succeeding in your bankruptcy or having your case dismissed. Depending on your district this question may not have been decided yet.
If you are in the State of Missouri and believe you truly cannot afford a bankruptcy you may seek help from the Missouri Voluntary Attorney Project at (816) 474-6750 or Missouri VAP. For other states you can go to Pro Bono Programs. These folks maybe able to help you file your bankruptcy for free. Generally if you are attempting to save a house and need to file a Chapter 13, the pro bono services will not take your case, but call to verify the guidelines in your area.
By law I must disclose to any potential client that they can represent themselves in the bankruptcy court or use a petition preparer who is not allowed to go to court with them. 527(b). If the bankruptcy attorneys and judges have been studying this law from the day they began taking cases and continue to debate everyday in court, this alone should be evidence the bankruptcy code is NOT as cut and dried as the creditors would want you to believe.
Be informed and protect your rights! Seek the advice of a qualified bankruptcy attorney in your area and get the facts.