Meeting with an attorney does not mean that you’re obligated to file for bankruptcy
Meeting with a bankruptcy attorney means that you are interested in exploring your options for dealing with debt. It does not mean that you are going to file bankruptcy or that you have failed financially. To the contrary, the business world regularly uses bankruptcy to restructure and start over, there’s no reason why it should to be any different for the average family. Rather than marking the beginning of a bankruptcy case, a meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer will usually be informational in nature, giving the client the opportunity to ask questions and learn about their state’s laws. The analysis will typically focus on a few issues:
Can bankruptcy help?
1. Can bankruptcy help? This is the first thing your bankruptcy attorney will need to address. In some cases, the answer will be a resounding yes. For example, you may have a reliable source of income but owe mountains of high-interest credit card debt that is draining every last penny from your checking account every month. You may own some nice things, but nothing that will be vulnerable to the bankruptcy trustee. In this case, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy might make sense and your bankruptcy attorney will advise you accordingly. Conversely, you may own a home free and clear and live in a state like New Jersey that has a limited homestead exemption. In this case, filing for bankruptcy might mean having your home liquidated. In a scenario like this, your bankruptcy attorney would likely advise that you are not a good candidate for bankruptcy and that you may want to try to resolve your debts another way.
Do you qualify for bankruptcy?
2. Do you qualify for bankruptcy? This is a problem that many people face, bankruptcy may be able to help, but they don’t qualify for Chapter 7 and are reluctant to commit 5 years to a chapter 13 plan. One of the purposes of a bankruptcy consultation is to learn what the income guidelines are in your state and how they apply to you. If you learn that you make a little bit too much income to file for Chapter 7 and are not open to the idea of filing for Chapter 13, either because of the time commitment, or because your attorney has advised you that it’s not the best option, you’ll be able to move on with other debt relief options.
Are there good alternatives to bankruptcy available?
3. Are there alternatives to bankruptcy? A good bankruptcy law firm will explore options with you outside of bankruptcy court. If you attend a meeting with an attorney and feel as though you’re being pressured into filing for bankruptcy or don’t fully understand the ramifications, you should run for the door. Practitioners who are representing debtors for the right reasons will always explore ways of avoiding bankruptcy if possible.
The bottom line
The bottom line is this: meeting with a bankruptcy attorney does not mean you’re going to file for bankruptcy. If you’re struggling with debt, scheduling an informational session with a bankruptcy attorney is the responsible thing to do. You will leave the appointment aware of your options, better prepared to fight back against creditors and armed with a plan for the future. If you find yourself being pressured to file for bankruptcy and are not yet sure that it’s the right situation for you, find another attorney. The initial meeting is designed to be informational only, filing for bankruptcy is an important decision that needs to be given careful consideration. A good law office understands the stress you are facing and will help you find the right option, whatever that may be.