Sometimes academics who study a subject lose the forests for trees. In the process, they perpetuate stereotypes that have no basis in fact. And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
University of Illinois Law Professors Robert M. Lawless and Jennifer K. Robbennolt performed a study that offered a Chapter 13 budget plan to Bankruptcy Judges, one version accompanied by an”apology” from the consumers and one without. Then they asked the judges which plan would they be more likely to approve. Of course, the plans with the apology received a higher success rate than those without.
Does this mean that you should apologize for filing for bankruptcy? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Here are just a few reasons why:
- The Bankruptcy Code is designed to give relief to distressed consumers, not punish them.
- Don’t you already feel bad about being where you are? Why do we need to reinforce that?
- The Bankruptcy Code was revised in 2005 to reduce Chapter 13 plans to a formula based on your ability to pay. Whether or not you feel sorry about being in debt is irrelevant. As long as you are making your best efforts in good faith, guilt p not rare in the process.
In fact in most jurisdictions, judges don’t have the time to consider apologies in approving payments plans, they have a lot to do. For the most part, this is an administrative process.
This study continues the perception that consumers who have fallen in debt either did so through gross negligence or worse, intentionally. it does nothing to address all these who have lost their jobs through the bad economy over the years or who have suffered catastrophic medical bills as the result of uninsured or underinsured illness.
Don’t feel guilty. Take what actions you need to take to protect yourself and your family. Don’t let your bankruptcy attorney talk you into apologizing for anything. You are not a criminal. And finally, left Professors Lawless and Robbennolt know what you think of this study.