Now that you know you need a bankruptcy attorney, how do you decide whom to choose? Don’t all lawyers file bankruptcies? Isn’t it simple? No and no. Bankruptcy Courts are separate courts in the federal system and you have to be a member of that court to represent folks filing for bankruptcy. That is because there are special rules and laws that apply to bankruptcies that are different from other areas of law.
• Chose an attorney that focuses on bankruptcy.
• Find out how long they have been practicing. Are they recognized in the field of bankruptcy law?
• Do they belong to legal groups about bankruptcy law?
• Choose someone you feel comfortable with when you meet them.
• Any attorney should treat you with respect and courtesy.
• Look for someone licensed in Virginia and who has an actual real office near where you live.
• MAKE SURE YOU ARE MEETING WITH AN ATTORNEY OR FIRM THAT WILL COME TO COURT WITH YOU AND BE BY YOUR SIDE!
• Ask friends, relatives, or other people you respect if they know of a good bankruptcy or debt attorney.
Some out-of-state or Northern Virginia firms are trying to get folks to hire them over the internet and then “farm out” or send someone else to your hearings because they don’t want to drive to Western Virginia for a bankruptcy hearing. We don’t think that is right.
The vast majority of attorneys practicing in this area offer free consultations. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t hire that attorney. Know what you will pay and what services you will get in return. Always have a written fee agreement with the lawyer that details what is covered. Does the fee quote include the bankruptcy court filing fees? Are there other filing fees? What about fees for your mandatory credit counseling and debtor education courses? Ask questions. While most attorneys cannot answer all your legal questions in an initial consultation, they should be able to explain the process, the cost, the risks and the benefits to you. If they cannot, you are talking to the wrong person.
We focus only on bankruptcy and in the past 25 years have helped thousands of folks in the Roanoke Valley, New River Valley, and Southside Virginia get out of debt.
We know that making the decision to even come see us hurts. You may feel queasy, your palms may sweat, and sitting in front of someone trying to explain why you got there is the last thing in the world you want to do. We get it. We are not here to judge. We are here to help you breathe easier.
We have the experience to look at your personal situation and advise you on options. Sometimes we will advise you to NOT file bankruptcy, and can suggest other avenues to resolve your issues. But if bankruptcy is the solution, we will explain the different types, the procedures, and let you know what to expect every step of the way.
Our attorneys are members of various bankruptcy related law groups and Malissa Giles is a regular speaker at legal programs teaching other attorneys about changes in bankruptcy laws. Tracy and Malissa have been recognized for years as Super Lawyers in the bankruptcy area and the firm is ranked at a Tier 1 (that the best!) Bankruptcy Law Firm by US New and World Reports. No other consumer debtor bankruptcy law firm in the Roanoke area has the number of teaching hours and awards as we do.
So, what does that mean to you? It means we are really, really good at our jobs. We care about clients and when we combine that expertise along with a dedicated and caring staff, you get great attorneys to help guide you through the process to a fresh financial start.
1. How much does filing bankruptcy cost?
The cost of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends upon the facts in your particular case. Some cases cost more simply because they are more complicated. For routine Chapter 7 cases, we offer competitive payment plans and fees.
Our fee quotes for your case will include all the filing fees, the mandatory credit counseling and debtor education courses, and a credit report in every cases. You will know what is included and the likelihood of additional charges. If price checking, compare the level of service you will get from our firm and what fees are included. Make certain you are getting the full story.
For clients whom we offer to represent, we will provide a written fee quote after your free consultation that breaks out the fees and the different payment plans. The most basic Chapter 7, including all fees and costs, can start as low as $1,500.00 (and yes, we know even that is a lot of money when you are broke, but look at the dollar amount of debts that will be gone!).
Again, the cost of your Chapter 13 depends upon the facts in your particular case. Complicated cases cost more. But because you are making payments to the court, in many Chapter 13's you only have to pay $500-$600 up front to have your case filed with the court. All other legal fees will be paid through the consolidated Chapter 13 plan payment. For some folks, this is the affordable choice as they get protection for a low up-front cost and the filing of a Chapter 13 is on their credit report fewer years.
2. I only want to file bankruptcy on a few debts. Do I have to list all my creditors?
Yes. When filing a bankruptcy you must list every single creditor to whom you owe money. You must swear under oath to the Court that you have listed all of your creditors to the best of your knowledge. Simply put, this means you may not intentionally exclude certain creditors. But, the law very specifically says you may voluntarily continue to pay any debt after your discharge if you elect to do so.
3. Can I get rid of student loans in bankruptcy?
Student loans are nondischargeable in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. In general we advise you to continue paying all student loans for which payments are due and make certain to keep those payments up to date. How a student loan is treated in a Chapter 13 depends upon your individual Chapter 13 plan.
There is a provision in bankruptcy law for a discharge of student loans if you can prove extraordinary hardship. This legal standard is extremely difficult to meet and can be expensive litigation. Please speak to your attorney about options regarding this litigation.
We often find applying for an Income Based Repayment Plan through the Department of Education is a solution for consolidating government-backed student loan and getting a reasonable payment plan.
Some clients find a Chapter 13 can help them manage high student loan payments by allowing them to pay back a portion of the debt and control the amount of the payments. While this is not the best solution for dealing with a student loan, at times it may be the only workable solution, especially when facing aggressive private student loan collectors.
4. I co-signed for my kid’s student loan and now they are asking me to pay? Can I get rid of that debt? It was not my student loan.
Unfortunately no. No matter if you incurred student loans for yourself or on behalf of a child they are still nondischargeable in bankruptcy. See the answer to number three.
5. I filed bankruptcy before? Can I file again?
Yes. You can receive a discharge in a Chapter 7 every eight years, and you can file a discharge –eligible Chapter 13 only four years following a prior Chapter 7. Please speak to your attorney about what options you have for bankruptcy filings if you have previously filed. There are options that can be used to help protect you from creditors even if you are not eligible for a discharge due to a recent prior filing.
6. How soon can I rebuild my credit?
That depends on your personal situation, but most folks rebuild credit within 2 to 3 years. After a Chapter 7 discharge you are generally eligible for a mortgage within two years. Some car lenders will finance a car on credit immediately following a chapter 7 discharge. However, be warned that the closer you are to the bankruptcy discharge the higher interest rate you will pay. Most folks rebuild and are eligible for a reasonable interest rate within two years.
Many folks in a Chapter 13 see their credit score start to rise within the first 12 months of making Chapter 13 plan payments as debts are now being paid.
Each case is different based on your debts, your income, and the status of debts prior to filing bankruptcy.
While we recognize it is important to rebuild credit, our goal is to GET YOU OUT OF DEBT and KEEP YOU OUT OF DEBT!
7. Do I have to take a credit counseling course? Can I get out of that?
Everyone who wants to file for bankruptcy must take a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course. This course is a mandatory requirement for all debtors. We will pair you with one of our counseling partners for you to take this course in the privacy of your own home over the internet or the telephone making it as convenient as possible.
If you do not have internet access at home, we will arrange for you to take the course in our office if you desire. The cost of this course is included with the bankruptcy pricing provided at your initial consultation.
8. Do I have to go to court?
Yes. All debtors must attend at least one hearing. This hearing is before a trustee and is called the “Meeting of Creditors.” However it is highly unlikely that your creditors will actually appear at this hearing. It is really just an opportunity for the Chapter 7 or 13 trustee to verify under oath that your petition and schedules filed with the court are truthful and accurate. Your portion of this hearing typically only takes about five minutes.
We will prepare you for this hearing by provided a list of the questions in advance and one of our attorneys will be by your side at the hearing.
9. Will I lose my house, car, etc.?
In general, no. Some folks cannot file Chapter 7 because we know they will lose a house, car, etc. Some folks have to file a Chapter 13 to protect equity in the property they own or catch up secured debt payments.
The key is having your attorney thoroughly review your situation before you file a bankruptcy so he or she can advise you of all your options in order to protect the things that are most important to you.
• Correctly choosing which chapter of bankruptcy to file will protect the property you own.
• Correctly choosing an experienced attorney to advise you will protect the property you own.
10. Will my case be successful?
Bankruptcy is not a win–lose type of case. If you truthfully answer all your attorney’s questions and honestly disclose your assets (meaning things you own) and liabilities (debts you owe), income (from all sources), and expenses (bills you will be paying going forward) your case will be successful.
This is where experience counts and the law firm of Giles & Lambert can make your filing a smooth process. We will explain every step of the way, and be there to help and support you throughout the process, giving you the guidance to make your case successful.