Bankruptcy Basics

06 Jun Why Nothing Good Comes from Pro Se Bankruptcy Filings

I have been a personal bankruptcy lawyer in Atlanta for more than 30 years and one of the trends that I have seen over all these years has been that personal bankruptcy is more complicated and confusing now than it is ever been in the past. Back in 1988, for example, I would often see pro se (people who filed bankruptcy without a lawyer) appearing at 341 hearings and Chapter 13 confirmation hearings. At that time, a pro se filer could head over to Office Depot and buy Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 forms, fill them out with a pen, make copies and stand in line with everyone else to file a case. In those days, there was no online access to the Clerk of Courts office and everyone - lawyers and non-lawyers - would have to stand in long lines with 5 or 6 copies of bankruptcy petitions and wait for the clerk to hand stamp each copy. Bankruptcy schedules in 1988 were fairly straightforward and other than figuring out how to declare the right exemptions to protect property, a reasonably intelligent person could muddle through a Chapter 7 case. Chapter 13 cases were problematic for pro se filers even in the 1980's but occasionally a friendly trustee would take the time to help a non-lawyer navigate the waters of Chapter 13.
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