I am a regular contributor to the “ask a lawyer” feature at avvo.com. Recently I answered “how do I get started with filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?” With a few minor edits, my answer was as follows:
Step one is simple. Find the name and phone number of a competent bankruptcy lawyer in your state, preferably near your home. This web site (referring to avvo.com) is a good place to do that.
Step two: pick up the phone and call that person. Most provide a free consultation, at least over the phone. (I provide a free consultation over the phone. After that, if things look promising, I’ll invite you to my office for a more heavy duty look at your situation. For the in-office review, I charge a very small fee.)
Step three: disclose to that lawyer everything he or she asks, fully and without reservation. The lawyer needs to know everything about your income, assets and debts. Be ready with two years of tax returns, six months of pay stubs, and a list of your debts or a stack of statements for your debts that includes every last one of them. Your lawyer may also want to take a look at your bank statements for all your accounts, perhaps as much as six months worth.
When it comes to income, don’t forget your part time job. Don’t forget the money you make selling Mary Kay or doing photography on the side. Your lawyer will need to know about any large gifts you have made in the past couple of years, large items such as cars or boats that you may have sold in the past couple of years, and what debts you’ve been paying and what debts you have not been paying.
It’s a lot of work, which is why it’s not free. And it certainly can’t be done all at once. At least at my office, it is a process that takes several meetings. It’s way more complicated than just preparing a tax return. As with any large project, plan on getting started and doing it a little at a time.
Your lawyer can help you figure out whether you really want to do a Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 might be better. Every journey starts with just one step.