The bankruptcy court
Your forms will have to be filed in your local bankruptcy court. Most states have more than one court. You need to take care to make sure that you file in the right court or else your case will be dismissed. It is a good idea to pay a visit to the court, although you can telephone them for information if the court is some distance from your home. The court has clerks that will take your papers and check to see that everything is in order.
When you speak to court personnel you should verify:
- that you are filing with the correct court,
- the amount of the filing fee and whether they will accept your personal check,
- which sets of bankruptcy forms the court will accept,
- how many copies of your forms will be required, and
- whether there are any “local forms” that your particular court requires that are not required elsewhere. These will be available from the court.
Do you need a lawyer?
Although you have an absolute right to handle your own bankruptcy, hiring a lawyer can be a good investment even if you are financially strapped. Although you can gain a lot of knowledge about the bankruptcy system through self-study, your knowledge will not match that of an experienced bankruptcy attorney who will have an intimate knowledge not only of the basic rules but also of exceptions and local procedures based on case law and experience.
At the outset, an attorney will help you make a better decision about whether or not you should file for bankruptcy. An attorney may be able to represent you in negotiating with creditors to restructure your debts without having to actually file for bankruptcy. Although you can fill out the forms yourself, or use a typing service to help fill out the forms, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney for a few hours even if you plan to handle your bankruptcy yourself. In most cases, you will find one who will fit even a limited budget.