Do I Really Need a Lawyer to File for Bankruptcy?

Filing Bankruptcy on Your Own — Can You??? Should You???

When you are struggling to make ends meet and have concluded that your best option is probably to file for protection under the federal bankruptcy laws, the last thing you may want to think about is paying money (that you don’t have) for an attorney to help you file. Can you do without the services of a lawyer in the bankruptcy process? Better yet, even if you can, should you?

The Bankruptcy laws do not require that people filing for bankruptcy have an attorney, but there are a number of good reasons why you should hire an attorney to help you file for bankruptcy.

A skilled bankruptcy attorney will help you to determine if you should file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. The success rate of Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases filed without an attorney is less than 5%.

With the changes imposed by the revisions to the bankruptcy law in 2005, you must now demonstrate to the bankruptcy court that you qualify for Chapter 7 protection, by completing a “means test.” The means test essentially determines whether you have the resources to repay your creditors over a three-to-five year period. The means test is fairly complex, but an experienced bankruptcy attorney will know how it works.

Bankruptcy has its own lingo. If you don’t know what a “domestic support obligations” or “priority unsecured debt” or “secured debt” is, then you will not be able to properly complete the bankruptcy forms. A bankruptcy lawyer knows bankruptcy lingo and can ensure that you provide all of the information necessary to the Bankruptcy Court.

To file a bankruptcy case the Court charges a $300 or $335 filing fee (depending on the chapter). Many cases where the person filing has no lawyer are dismissed because the person filing did not file all of the necessary paperwork. In these cases the filing fee is often forfeited and another filing fee must be paid in order to get bankruptcy relief. Cases filed by lawyers have a very low rate of dismissal.

Contact John Hargrave and Associates

We have provided comprehensive counsel to individuals in and around Barrington, New Jersey, since 1977. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our office by e-mail or call us at 856-759-6022 (toll free at 866-662-3191).


  1. It’s interesting that a bankruptcy without an attorney has a success rate of 5%. I remember talking to my brother last week about how he is debating on declaring bankruptcy soon since he has credit card debt. I’ll be sure to share this with him so he can know if it’s worth it to hire an attorney while filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

    • JHargraveAssoc says:

      Filing a Chapter 13 without the assistance of an attorney would be unwise. There are just so many ways things could go wrong. So don’t do it.

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