Every court will tell you, this is the Number 1 way that bankruptcy filings get rejected and delayed. Its a simple mistake to make and to fix... unless a creditor is breathing down your neck or your house is on the auction block and time is of the essence. So before you send a filing off by yourself, check to make sure you have the payment enclosed AND that it is the right amount (courts like to increase fees with little notice just like any other business). Forget to do this, and you will lose critical if not irrecoverable time.
Don't Use Outdated Forms!
If you bought a book and are using computer generated forms on a CD, do you know if its the most up-to-date? No! What about some online software? No! You've got to do research and the court's website is often clunky and not user friendly. Make sure you use the correct forms otherwise a filing may get rejected and you have to start over!
Don't Forget about Technicalities!
We have all heard that "criminals" get off on this or that technicality, right? In the same way, every legal proceeding has technicalities that must be obeyed or else, that's right, start over, more time down the drain. #1 - Proposed Order Not Included With Filing; #2 -Proposed Order Improperly Formatted (i.e. does not include four inches of blank space at the top of the first page) (yes, I'm serious); #3 - Amended Schedules Filed without either a 1007-1(a)(3) Statement or an LBR 1009-1(c) Certificate; #4 - When Filing Electronically, The debtor/case information on the docket does not match the information on the petition pdf; #5 - Financial management certificates filed without Form 23; #6 - A Notice of Opportunity to Object was not filed. Like I said, technicalities will get you every time. And if you got confused or lost just reading this list, GET A LAWYER! That was the easy stuff!
Don't Forget to Take the Right Approved Pre- and Post- Classes!
Didn't your lawyer tell you that you have to go back to school (sort of) to file for bankruptcy? The good news is that the two "courses" you have to take can be done online from any public library and are quick and easy. Think of these as educational vs. test type courses. First, before you file, you must take an approved Credit Counseling course that is registered with the local jurisdiction you are going to file in. Don't take one or worse, take one that is not approved for your jurisdiction, and bingo, you just lost more time! Second, after you file for bankruptcy you have to take another online course, Debtor Education. Then, make sure you get the certificates and include them in the filings! Trust me, this is easy stuff, but talk to your lawyer to make sure you are not wasting your time!
Don't Forget to Sign Documents & Include Affidavits!
If you are going to go through all of this work by yourself, it is easy to get lost in the forest and forget to sign things, in triplicate, and initial pages, and have forms notarized, and so on. Remember that in bankruptcy, particularly Chapter 7, time is critical. Your lawyer is an expert in paperwork, forms, filing, and attention to detail.
By the way, when you signed up for those credit cards, did you read the 17 pages of microscope font Terms and Conditions? Heck, no you didn't! No one does, except lawyers! You are trying to get out of debt from businesses that have a ton of lawyers working for them. As you think about filing for bankruptcy to reduce your debt, it should be a no brainier that you need to talk with a competent lawyer about it. You are working to get back on your feet financially, protect your family, and start fresh again -- a great goal, but having a lawyer protecting your interests is critical to being successful.
Additional resources provided by the author
For more information, visit The D.C. Bankruptcy & Consumer Information Center or your local U.S. Bankruptcy Court for forms or basic information. Remember, a court cannot and will not give you legal advice, so when in doubt, please send me an email for a free consultation for those filing in the Washington, DC metro area and let's do it right the first time!