Over the years, I have donated hours to helping people fill out their bankruptcy paperwork. I have spoken to a lot of people about the process after filing without an attorney. People file bankruptcy without assistance for any number of reasons. I understand it may just seem like paperwork and your case may be simple.
Understanding the simplicity, however, does not mean a person is not taking a big risk with paperwork. The only way to know is to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who understands the big picture and what the paperwork means. All bankruptcy paperwork is filed under oath and without understanding the rules and documents, a person can get themselves into legal hot water without realizing.
This is what happened to Rogelio Franco. He successfully filed bankruptcy in 2011 and obtained a Chapter 7 Discharge. A few years later he believed he should file bankruptcy again. He assumed that since he already took the credit counseling class in his prior bankruptcy, he could use the same certificate as before.
He failed to read the bankruptcy paperwork, or if he did read it, he failed to understand the gravity of the rules and requirements.
After filing for bankruptcy, his case hits some bumps which eventually lead the United States Trustee to file an 11 USC 707(a) Motion to Dismiss against the Debtor. Additionally, due to the lack of following the rules, the United States Trustee asked the bankruptcy court to enter an order that would not allow the Debtor back into bankruptcy court for one year.
Most of this trouble was avoidable. In part, if he took the class a second time as required, it would have solved a number of problems for him. He also failed to properly disclose his prior filings. If the Debtor understood his duties under the bankruptcy code and properly responded, he could have avoided a lot of headache including a failed appeal which is attached.
Bankruptcy is serious business and Debtors need to be ready for the process. In the end, on appeal, the bankruptcy court’s ruling was upheld and Mr. Franco could not come back to Court for one year due to his improper documents and false statements.
Based upon the language of the case, Mr. Franco did not believe he made a mistake. He thought he did the right thing, he just did not understand his legal circumstance. Most of his trouble could have been avoided with proper legal advice. Now, if an employer checks, they may potentially see this court order and it may affect his ability to find work. He is banned from coming to bankruptcy court no matter the issue. It is not worth the risk.
Hopefully we can all learn from Mr. Franco and do it right the first time and not be the cause of our own self destruction.