Do you live in San Diego and are considering filing for bankruptcy? If so, this article will give you an idea of what you need to do in order to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This article should not be considered legal advice, but merely a guide for how to go about filing bankruptcy in San Diego, California at the time of its writing.
With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s move forward. First of all, we’re going to assume for the purpose of this article that you’ve already considered the pros and cons of bankruptcy, believe that you qualify for filing and have decided it’s a good idea for you. Now that you’ve come to that conclusion, what do you do next?
If you’ve lived in San Diego County for 91 or more days in the last six months, you will need to file at the California Southern District Bankruptcy Court at 325 West F Street in San Diego. For the most part, you can mail your forms and avoid going to the courthouse, but you will have to go to meet with a bankruptcy trustee at least once.
Most bankruptcy courts do a poor job of putting things into plain English, and while many clerks try to be helpful they aren’t able to walk people through the entire process or give advice. Figuring out what to file, when, where to take it and the like can be the most daunting part of filing for bankruptcy (and is the reason most people hire attorneys to help). Still, you should be able to get a self-service packet from the court to help you along.
After you’ve gathered all the necessary forms and resources, you’ll need to undertake mandatory pre-filing credit counseling. This takes about an hour and a half and costs $50-$75, though bankruptcy law states that people filing for bankruptcy must be given counseling regardless of their to pay, and so you might qualify for a fee waiver or reduction.
Fortunately, you can do this over the phone or online. Also keep in mind that if you and your spouse are filing bankruptcy together, you can both attend the same counseling session, but you both have to have your own certificates.
While some people see this as just a hoop to go through to file for bankruptcy, you should get the most out of your session with a credit counselor. Take notes, ask questions and get a second opinion on whether you should file for bankruptcy.
The next step involves a lot of homework. Once you’ve seen a credit counselor you have to get all your paperwork together. This requires filling out more than 50 forms that spell out your assets, debts, expenses and income. At this point you also have to make decisions on what you’re going to do about things like your car loan.
If you slip up on this part, you can really mess up your bankruptcy filing. It’s not recommended for people who are not detail-oriented. While filling out those dozens of forms, you also need to supply supporting documents. It’s very important to get all your forms and documents right, which is yet another reason many people hire bankruptcy lawyers to help in the process.
After you’ve got everything lined up, crossed your i’s and dotted your t’s, it’s time to submit all those forms and documents to bankruptcy court. While low-income filers may receive fee waivers or reductions, there are fees involved with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Diego:
20 to 40 days after filing your bankruptcy forms you’ll have a meeting with a bankruptcy court trustee. This is similar to a normal court hearing where you and a number of other people filing for bankruptcy wait for your name to be called then answer questions from the trustee. Creditors also have the opportunity to make objects or challenge aspects of your claim.
Depending on how things go with your trustee meeting, you might have to file motions with the court. Creditors and the trustee may object to things on the forms you submitted up to 30 days after the meeting and you may respond to the objections. Once again, you might be well-served to hire a lawyer to respond properly.
You might think that once you’ve done all that research, filed all that paperwork, met with the trustee and creditors and responded to their concerns or objections, you’ll come through with the discharge, that coveted piece of paper you’ve worked so hard for. But no, you’re still not done.
When Congress passed the bankruptcy laws, they assumed that only people who don’t know how to manage money file for bankruptcy (ask Donald Trump about that), so you still have to take a debtor education debt management course, which will cost another $50-$75. If you did otherwise just go through with successfully filing for bankruptcy, you probably are broke, so you can ask for a reduced rate for one of these classes. You might even get it for free.
As you can see, filing for bankruptcy is a long, detailed and arduous process. While anyone can file for bankruptcy themselves, most people are better served hiring a professional. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in or around the San Diego area, the least you could do to get off on the right foot is to schedule a free consultation with the Seneca Law Group. We are professional bankruptcy attorneys in San Diego and can help you every step of the way. Call us today at (619) 630-8LAW (8529) for that FREE CONSULTATION.