What are the Risks of Filing Bankruptcy Pro Se?

pro se bankruptcyWhat does it mean to file bankruptcy “pro se”?

Pro se, which is short for the Latin phrase propria persona means “for one’s own self” or “on one’s own behalf.” A pro se case means an individual is without attorney representation.

The US legal system allows anyone to represent themselves. However, just because it’s an option and one that might seem beneficial at first glance, it isn’t right for everyone.

This is especially true when it comes to filing for bankruptcy.

What’s the Risk of Filing Bankruptcy Pro Se?

Bankruptcy laws are complex. Even the simplest of cases can be confusing to people unfamiliar with the process.

Having an attorney to work with means you don’t need to worry about mistakes and misunderstandings delaying your case. Working with an attorney ensures the greatest protection of your exemptible assets and reduces the risk of the court denying your case.

The last thing you need is an unexpected mistake tripping you up when you decide to file. Working with an experienced attorney means you’ll have someone on your side there to protect your rights and explain the laws affecting your case.

Why It’s Important to Trust Your Attorney

Deciding to file for bankruptcy is one of the biggest commitments of your life. This is why it’s so important to work with an attorney you trust to represent you. Before moving forward with your case, invest the time needed to find an attorney you believe can best represent you and provide the protection you need.

There’s no denying an experienced attorney knows more about bankruptcy laws than the average person. But for some people, this isn’t enough. It’s also important to trust your attorney and feel confident they are providing you with the best guidance.

What can go wrong if you don’t trust your attorney?

Consider what happened to Joshua and Amanda Jones.

The Joneses hired an attorney to represent them in their bankruptcy case that involved a lien against their home by their homeowners’ association. The Joneses believed their attorney had misrepresented them and claimed that filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy would have served them better than the Chapter 13 their attorney recommended and filed. The dispute escalated and the Jones’ attorney ultimately withdrew from representing them.

As a result of the dispute, the Joneses filed a claim against their former attorney. The court ruled the claim baseless, upheld the original bankruptcy arrangement, and awarded Jones’s former attorney nearly $5000.

Bankruptcy Produre

Of note is the fact that defendants, regardless of whether they are pros se or not, are subject to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. This includes Rule 9011, which is intended “to deter baseless filings . . . and thus, … streamline the administration and procedure of the federal courts.”

Explained Judge Hopkins, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Ohio, in the Joneses’ case:

“[W]hen litigants cross the line and their conduct during the litigation becomes abusive, courts cannot remain idle bystanders. Judges are obligated to address that behavior lest the judiciary, our Third Branch of government, risk[ ] devolving into just another place where individuals can act out their aggressions and frustrations unbound by respect for the rule of law, common etiquette and proper decorum. The bankruptcy court, like any federal court, is a forum for peaceful resolution of financial disputes and where mutual respect among parties and attorneys should be exhibited at all times.”

What’s the lesson here?

Chances are your bankruptcy attorney understands the laws regarding your case better than you. But this doesn’t mean you should blindly follow whatever any attorney recommends you do.

A Partnership is Better than Pro Se

Ideally, you’ll establish trust with your attorney early on. You’ll both commit to an agreed-upon approach to your case, and you won’t need to raise questions later on because you know you are being guided by an experienced professional you trust.

It’s not going to do you any good to question your attorney’s judgment. A solid partnership that allows your attorney to defend you against your creditors is far more beneficial than questioning the ability or judgment of your attorney. Doing so only helps your creditors. And there are few things creditors and trustees look forward to more than a pro se debtor because they know how much that helps their case.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing your concerns with your bankruptcy attorney. And there’s nothing wrong with being your own advocate in your bankruptcy case. But turning against your attorney or deciding that you don’t need an attorney and filing your bankruptcy pro se is a dangerous risk you don’t want to take.

If you’d like to speak to someone about how a bankruptcy attorney can help you or you’re considering filing your bankruptcy case pro se and you aren’t sure that’s the best option, we can help. Contact R. Flay Cabiness, II, P.C. at (912) 417-5041 (Brunswick, GA); (912) 809-2141 (Hazlehurst, GA) or; (912) 324-3176 (Jesup, GA) to schedule a consultation.

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