The question does arise as an East Hazel Crest bankruptcy attorney where someone wants to know if he can file Chapter 13 without an attorney. The short answer for this is yes, you can and you have the right to file a Chapter 13 yourself. However, I would advise that you consult somebody before you decide to file a Chapter 13 yourself as a pro se debtor. The reason being is Chapter 13 is very complex. There are a lot of nuances and rules and regulations and case law that go into a Chapter 13 plan. You really have to know a lot of the information of what needs to be looked for and what kind of information you need from the debtor that would move the bankruptcy Chapter 13 in the right direction.
Chapter 13 is complicated. It is a 3 to 5 year plan, 36 to 60 months that takes into consideration all of your income, all of your expenses, all of your debt and the amounts of debt that you have. It can be pretty hefty and there are a lot of things that you have to do just to file the case. Not only do you have to file the case but you have to go to several different court hearings and court matters in order to complete your Chapter 13. Once again, it is complex. There are a lot of deductions that you may miss in your income that could help lower your Chapter 13 payments. This is one of the many reasons why having a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer would be advantageous.
And the other thing is, you have to go to court. Going to court is usually not something that most people would want to do. I commend those who do want to do this themselves. But those who want to do it themselves should really consider consulting another person who has gone through Chapter 13 or an attorney, mostly an attorney however consult your friends. But really try to find someone who did a Chapter 13 with an attorney and asked them their experience and how it went. I am sure you will find that Chapter 13 is quite the beast of the bankruptcy law. It is a commitment for five years. This is a commitment that you are going to have to make yourself and if you do this without an attorney, who knows how many times you will have to go through court. That’s time off from work that you could be working and it is an issue where a lot of people think that they can do it, which a lot of people can and they are successful. If you find that you cannot navigate the system, then you can seek a local bankruptcy lawyer to jump in for the duration of the case.
Now success could come at a cost of a lot of headaches, a lot of court dates and a lot of possible failure. A lot of Chapter 13 cases will be dismissed and they are dismissed regularly; dismissed meaning that the court totally dismisses any of the claims and petitions and everything with the case. The case gets thrown out in a sense.
So the answer to can I file Chapter 13 myself; yes, you can. You have the right to file yourself. However, I would not advise trying to file bankruptcy yourself. There is a reason why there are a number of attorneys that do this specifically for a living because it is a complex animal of the bankruptcy law that has a lot of complex issues with financial issues; debt issues statutory issues, case law issues. This is the type of law where you always have be on top of things because things are always changing in the Chapter 13 realm; things meaning the law is always changing so you always have to look at case law to see if there is any new case law that has come down that could help you. And that specifically is something that would be very difficult for a non-attorney to do is legal research.
So Chapter 13 is complex and you should definitely consult an attorney or a person who has successfully completed a Chapter 13 and asked them their experience and get some first-hand knowledge from them.