If you are serious about getting out of debt you have to step up to the plate and take charge. Getting out of debt takes work. Your bankruptcy lawyer cannot do all the work for you. You must be invested in your case if you want to get a fresh start.
The first thing you need to do as a Debtor is to provide all the documents your lawyer requests. Trust me: your bankruptcy lawyer is not going to ask you for documents that aren't needed to fully review and prepare your case. The minimum documents you need to provide include:
1. A copy of your driver's license and social security card;
2. A copy of your last 2 years of tax returns;
3. A copy of all of your bills (if you don't have a bill, you need to provide a complete mailing address, the account number, the amount you owe, and when the debt was incurred);
4. A copy of the tax assessor's statement for any real property that you own an interest in;
5. A copy of each and every paystub you and your spouse have received for the last 7 months; and
6. A copy of your last bank statement.
Filing out the Forms
I know that it is a pain to fill out the forms that I give you to complete. I tell people to think of the forms as their “get out of debt card.” Fill out the forms and I can get your case filed. Don't fill out the forms, and there is little that I can do to help you. You know your finances. I'm ready to help but I can't file your case without you.
Complete Your Credit Counseling
Before your bankruptcy lawyer can file your bankruptcy case, you must complete an approved credit counseling course. This course must be completed at least one day before your case can be filed. Your bankruptcy attorney cannot do the counseling for you. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete the counseling online.
Showing Up for Hearings
Every debtor must appear for their meeting of creditors (341 meeting). There may be additional hearings that you will be required to attend. If you fail to appear you bankruptcy lawyer cannot effectively represent you.
Staying in Touch
One of the most important things you can do while you case is on-going is to stay in touch with your bankruptcy attorney. If you move, change jobs, change phone numbers, or email addresses, you must communicate that information to your bankruptcy lawyer.
Making Your Payments
If you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case you must make your first payment within 30 days of filing your case. You must also make all payments to your secured creditors who are not included in your plan. For example, if you are behind on your mortgage the arrearage will be put in the plan. Your regular monthly payment must still be made direct to your lender. The same is true for your car payment unless the entire balance owed is put into your plan. If your mortgage payment is $900 a month, you shouldn't think your $200 Chapter 13 payment is going to cover all your debts and your regular mortgage payment. And yes, I do have clients who call and tell me that is what they thought was going to happen. Really?
Completing Your Financial Management Requirement
After your case is filed, you must complete the financial management requirement. This is different from the credit counseling that you did before you filed your case. It generally involves the attendance at a live class or the watching of a movie over the internet. There will be a test so pay attention. If you fail to complete the financial management requirement, you will not receive a discharge. Your case can be closed without the entry of a discharge for failure to complete this requirement and, if that happens, you will have to pay to have your case reopened to get your discharge entered.
If you are ready to get out of debt, all you need to do is set up an appointment with a bankruptcy lawyer. The initial consultation is free. You will have to participate to complete the process but by doing so you can begin living a life free of overwhelming debt.