So you've decided to go ahead with the bankruptcy filing. You may be nervous. You may be hopeful. And you may be worried perhaps you will make a mistake, that in front of the judge something will go wrong, or that your lawyer will fail to live up to his price.
There of course is a reason your nervous, hopeful, and worried. Bankruptcy is perhaps the biggest financial decision you and your family will ever make. Why?
Before we go over the basic services of a bankruptcy judge, you may be curious why you need to file at all. While there are literally thousands of articles and studies on bankruptcy, sometimes the numbers are your best bet. It's estimated over 1 million people filed bankruptcy in the U.S. in 2009. Tens of thousands of homes were lost to foreclosure, thousands more saved. The reason many filed were to save their home from foreclosure, to get relief from high medical debt, and to discharge credit card debt.
The advantages of bankruptcy are numerous. The above mentioned foreclosure, medical bills, and credit cards - likely the three biggest reasons to file bankruptcy. If you fear you'll lose your home, Chapter 13 can put an "automatic stay" on your home and effectively protect you from losing it. If you are one of many who have medical bills or credit card debt you simply cannot pay, you may be eligible for Chapter 7, the best way to discharge medical and credit debts.
What the Judge Does
The bankruptcy judge will oversee the entire bankruptcy process. Before you walk into court, you should hire a lawyer to help. A bankruptcy judge is a federal judge as bankruptcy is federal law. The judge has the power to literally change your life. Judges will hear arguments from your lawyer on why you are eligible, what you are eligible for (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), what debts can be discharged, and will appoint a trustee for Chapter 7. In most cases, the judge will give you a go ahead.
What the Lawyer Does
The lawyer presents your case to the judge. Lawyers make the main arguments you need. They also help with the paperwork you file before. Say you have $40,000 in medical debt and want to file under Chapter 7. In order for this to work, you must be eligible for a discharge. A lawyer must present why this is needed, and will try to influence the federal judge on why you are eligible.
What You Can Do?
In most personal bankruptcy cases you will have to appear in front of the court. This is a quick and painless process. If you hire a lawyer, he or she will handle most of the speaking.
How to Avoid Making Mistakes
If you fear you'll make mistakes in front of your federal judge, consulting with and hiring an experienced local bankruptcy attorney is your best option. You should also research the laws yourself, such as eligibility, what you can discharge, and what you might lose. Reading articles such as the one you're reading now is smart too.
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