Federal Courts Article
Corporations and partnerships must have an attorney to file a bankruptcy case. Individuals, however, may represent themselves in bankruptcy court. While individuals can file a bankruptcy case without an attorney or it is extremely difficult to do it successfully.
Debtors must list all property and debts in their bankruptcy schedules. If a debt is not listed, it is possible the debt will not be discharged. The judge can also deny the discharge of all debts if a debtor does something dishonest in connection with the bankruptcy case, such as destroying or hiding property, falsifying records, or lying. Individual bankruptcy cases are randomly audited to determine the accuracy, truthfulness, and completeness of the information that the debtor is required to provide. Please be aware that bankruptcy fraud is a crime.
Beware of bankruptcy petition preparers who do not comply with all legal requirements. The role of non-attorney petition preparers is sole to type information on Bankruptcy Forms. Petition preparers are barred by law from providing legal advice – they cannot explain how to answer legal questions or assist in bankruptcy court. Petition preparers must sign all documents they prepare; print their name, address, and social security number on such documents; and furnish copies to the debtor. They cannot sign a document on the debtor’s behalf or receive payment from the debtor for court fees.
It is very important that a bankruptcy case is filed and handled correctly. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor’s rights. For example, a debtor whose case is dismissed for failure to file a required document, such as a credit counseling certificate, may lose the right to file another case or lose protections in a later case, including the benefit of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences – hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.
Carolyn Secor is a Clearwater bankruptcy attorney and Clearwater foreclosure attorney serving Palm Harbor, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Tarpon Springs, Seminole, St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay area.