The following program was produced by the United States Courts. Individuals have a right to represent themselves
in bankruptcy court. However, bankruptcy is a complex area and involves
many considerations, including whether to file, what chapter to file under, and what exemptions to claim. It is important to understand all of the protections
of the Bankruptcy Code in order to make full use of them. The right decision for you depends on an
evaluation of your family situation, your assets, your obligations, and many other factors. It is a very serious step that could affect
you for the rest of your life. It is possible to lose all of your assets in a
bankruptcy and still come out owing all of your debts. A lawyer can explain to you how the process
works and can help you make the right decisions. Some debtors use non-lawyer bankruptcy petition
filing services to complete the documents that must be filed
with the court. While this may cost less than consulting an
attorney, these services are prohibited by law from giving legal advice or representing you in court. If a problem
arises, they won’t be able to help you. If you are contemplating a Chapter 13
or Chapter 11 case, the need to be represented by an attorney
is even greater. The complexities of the law make it extremely difficult for a debtor to
successfully complete a Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 case without the assistance
of an attorney. A corporation cannot represent itself in a
bankruptcy case and must be represented by an attorney. Debtors are strongly encouraged to find competent legal counsel. Even if you cannot afford to pay an attorney, you may be able to qualify for free or discounted legal services, depending on your annual income and number of dependents. There are a number of resources available
to help you find a lawyer. Many cities have lawyer referral services, listed under “lawyer”, “attorney”, or “information
and referral services” in the Yellow Pages of the phone book. A referral service will give you an appointment
with a lawyer for a nominal fee. Your state and local bar associations are
also good sources of information about hiring an attorney and finding free, also known as pro-bono, legal
services programs. In addition, many law schools have legal clinics
that offer free legal services. Other resources for finding free or discounted
lawyer services in your area include the American Bar Association’s legal
help page at Findlegalhelp.org, and the legal services corporation web site
at www.lsc.gov. I hope you found this video informative and helpful
to you as you ponder whether bankruptcy is the remedy for your particular situation. If you have any more questions about bankruptcy you may obtain informational brochures
from the bankruptcy courts, and you may access additional information
at the bankruptcy courts’ web site, which includes useful links for debtors. You can find links to local court web sites
on the US Courts’ web site at www.uscourts.gov. To find your court’s web site, go to the court web
site locator, choose the bankruptcy court as the court you
want to locate, and then search by either your city and
state, or your zip code. Local court web sites often have contact information
for bar associations and pro-bono legal service programs, as well as important procedural information. Another good resource on the US Courts web
site is the link to the “Bankruptcy Basics” document. Remember, bankruptcy laws help people who can
no longer pay their creditors get a fresh start by liquidating their assets to pay their
debts, or by creating a repayment plan. Good luck with your fresh start.