Michele filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after her business failed.
Bankruptcy - A Complicated Process
people found Michele's experience helpful.
In 2008, my business started to fail rapidly due to the downturn in the economy. I was supporting it through my personal credit cards, hoping against hope that things would get better soon. Unfortunately for me they did not; it was time to let go. 2009 saw me closing down the business for good, and in early 2010, I turned towards filing for bankruptcy as the final chapter of my financial nightmare.
I was now faced with the fact that I was out of work with no revenue streams immediately available or obvious to me. Employment with a paycheck large enough to take care of my cost of living and debts was not possible. I had spent most of my adult working life as self-employed or a business owner with very little to show for it. Telling potential employers that I lost my business would not exactly inspire confidence in my abilities to perform a job. I decided it was time to cut my losses and file for bankruptcy.
The act of filing for bankruptcy is not an easy one by any means. It's complicated and is not designed for the layperson to understand. Retaining a lawyer was out of the question as I was completely broke. The money I did have was going towards survival and little else. The only way I was going to close the books on my debt was to do it myself.
My first step was to start researching bankruptcy. That meant signing up at forums that were dedicated to bankruptcy and reading as much as I could take in at one time. If there is one thing about the Internet, it is that people are more than willing to share their experiences, and this includes bankruptcy. I also had access to a lawyer friend who gave me some pointers, but was unable to help me with filing because he was not admitted to practice with the federal bankruptcy court. The one thing I did that helped me the most was purchasing a do-it-yourself book.
Armed with all this knowledge, I filled out my petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Whenever I got stuck, I referred to the book for an explanation. It took hours to get everything completed, and it had to be done by hand, but I did it. I then had to take a credit counseling class to be able to file; once that was out of the way, I took my petition to the federal courthouse for submission.
This point of filing was when I jeopardized my own bankruptcy. When I submitted the petition, a reviewer went through the paperwork to make sure everything was complete. However, she did not catch an important mistake of mine; I had missed signing the affidavit that states that I stand by everything I entered into the petition, and that it was true. The affidavit is an important part of the petition, and I had not signed it.
Two weeks or so after filing, I thought I was home free until I got a letter in the mail telling me that my case would be dismissed without prejudice if I did not fix a problem. I was instantly sick, and my head went into a spin. I was not home and had to research on my phone, an early smartphone which was not cooperating. All kinds of scenarios went through my head as I desperately tried to figure out what I had done wrong.
I managed to calm down and make my way to a computer and logged onto a forum. There I asked what to expect, and took what little solace I could get from the answers. The letter included a court date, and I resolved to show up.
The day of court arrived, and I sat myself down while carrying a load of stress in my head. I felt like it was all I could do to not explode from the pressure. The judge arrived, court opened, and cases were called. My name was called; I presented myself in front of the judge and was as polite as I could be. I explained the situation to her, and was admonished by her to go see the free legal resource in the building to find any more mistakes. She also gave me time to submit the missing affidavit. I felt a little better when she told me that even seasoned lawyers make this kind of mistake.
I went to the legal help center in the building, and the person there that day looked through my petition. She could not find anything else wrong apart from the missing affidavit, and said I should be OK. As it turned out, she was right, and the court cleared my case to move forward. I went to my 341 hearing with the trustee, answered questions, and then awaited my discharge date. Discharge day came and went, successfully closing the books on my bankruptcy.
While I did my bankruptcy pro se, or without a lawyer, if I had to do this again, I would have found some money and asked a lawyer to review my petition. Chances are good that it would have saved me a lot of grief and stress had I done so.
Would I do this all again? Absolutely. My advice to those who are deep in debt and have no way out is do not wait. File as soon as you are sure you have no other way out. Bankruptcy is a financial tool that in no way reflects your moral obligations. If you cannot pay your debts, you simply cannot pay them, and there is no shame in asking for help.