Importance of a Chapter 7 Discharge
A Chapter 7 Discharge is the culmination point of measuring success in almost all Chapter 7 cases. A Discharge is the court order approving a person's release from most kinds of debts.
Mistakes Often Made When Filing Without a Lawyer
Common problems in self-represented debtors' cases include: the failure to file required documents, resulting in dismissal; filing a chapter which may not be correct for the debtor's circumstances; choosing incorrect property exemptions; unnecessarily filing bankruptcy in the first place; not filing the required credit counseling or financial management certificate; being unable to answer or adequately defend an action seeking to deny discharge; and not understanding the significance of certain motions or adversary actions. Self-represented creditors are often harmed by not filing a proof of claim in time, by missing the deadline to file a dischargeability action, and having difficulty filing an objection to a claim.
About 39% of Chapter 7 cases Filed Without a Lawyer Will Not Have a Discharge
A chapter 7 bankruptcy--generally, the easiest type of bankruptcy available--should result in a discharge of debts. Using this basic measure of success, a self-represented debtor in chapter 7 in the Central District of California will obtain a discharge of debt only approximately 61 percent of the time in this district, compared to the much more favorable 95 percent discharge rate of attorney-represented chapter 7 cases. The odds for success are very poor when filing bankruptcy without a lawyer. Persons who hope to be released from debts and gain a fresh start don't have a very good chance unless they file with a lawyer. The Central District of California is huge, covering Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino. Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties.
Statistical Sources for this Article
The statistics in the artice were obtained from a report entitled 2011 Annual Pro Se Report issued by the Uniterd Sates Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, available at http://ecf-ciao.cacb.uscourts.gov/Communications/prose/annualreport/2011/sectioniib.htm