15 Aug Bankruptcy Success Depends on Your Cooperation With Your Lawyer
I am generally very supportive of my Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 clients because I understand that they are going through a difficult time, are most likely under a lot of pressure, both financially and personally and probably view a visit to the bankruptcy lawyer’s office kind of like a visit to the dentist.
However, if you do file a case, you must work with your lawyer and help him or her by being an active participant in your case.
I recently filed a Chapter 13 case for a client who has not done anything to help me or to help himself. My first clue that this case would not be easy arose when my client was unable to produce all of the information and documentation I request at the time of my initial consultation. I publish a page on my web site called “Get Your Free Atlanta Bankruptcy Analysis” where I identify specifically what I need to evaluate a bankruptcy case. This client faxed me an incomplete package requiring me to follow up with him several times to get all of the pay stubs I needed to run the means test.
More disconcerting, he did not have his 2006 income tax return, which must be sent to the trustee prior to the 341 hearing. In this case, we were facing a foreclosure so I went ahead and filed with the express understanding that the 2006 income tax returns would be forthcoming within the week. Needless to say, no tax returns were ever sent. My secretary had to spend her time repeatedly calling the client to ask for the tax returns, which were finally provided the day before the 341 hearing.
The 341 hearing also did not go well. Despite numerous reminders and written instructions on my web site, my client showed up at the 341 hearing without proof of his Social Security number (i.e. a Social Security card). He did have an insurance card with a redacted Social Security number (xxx-xx-1234). Because the card did not contain the full Social Security number the trustee refused to hold the hearing and we have to go back on a Friday at 3pm when all of the resets for the past week will be held.
Besides wasting my time going to and from court, I now have to use up another three to four hours out of my day to go back to court.
The trustee’s hearing calendar also showed that no money had been sent in from the payroll deduction order I had filed. When I asked my client about this he informed me that he had changed jobs a week after filing! Since he had not mentioned this fact to me or to my secretary, the case is now a month delinquent in funding. Additionally, I now have to file a new budget with the new payroll information. Is it likely that he knew about the pending job change when I filed this case? Probably. Now, I am stuck with a lot of extra work that I did not consider when I quoted my fee. I most definitely feel that this client has taken advantage of me.
As you might imagine, from my perspective, this gentleman has started his case in a very bad way. Bankruptcy, especially Chapter 13, is a two way street. This fellow is not taking ownership of his case. He does not respect my expertise or my time. I will do my best, but this is most likely a case that will not survive through discharge.
If you are contemplating bankruptcy, learn from my client’s mistake. Communicate with your lawyer and cooperate fully. Produce documentation that is orderly and readable. Show up to your hearings on time – or, even better, 30 minutes early. Make sure that you have your identification. Don’t make your lawyer and his staff chase you for documentation or information. Respect your lawyer’s time and treat him or her the way you would want to be treated.
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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