Yes, you can. But it is highly unadvisable. Representing yourself in any legal action (even if you are an attorney) is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Why? Because there are just too many pitfalls into which you can sink, and you won’t even be aware of the reason. There are just too many twists and turns that require an expert’s knowledge and skill. This isn’t to suggest that you haven’t the intelligence to do the type of work that an attorney does. You might a genius. But either you know which forms need to be filed, or you don’t. You either are aware of the deadlines imposed by the courts to have things filed, or you don’t. Unless you have the necessary training and experience, you are risking quite a bit.
For instance, when you file a St. Louis Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a St. Louis Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there are certain schedules that need to be filed with the court. These schedules indicate things like your ownership on real property, personal property, co-debt ownership, leases and/or contracts, monthly income, and monthly expenses. This may seem like a straightforward process of simply filling in the blanks (and to be sure, some of it is), but there are certain things that you almost certainly do not know about that can cause big problems. For example, if after you fill in your income and expenses, there is disposable income left over of greater than $100.00, the US Trustee will surely object to the Chapter 7 by way of a 707(b) challenge. What is a 707(b) challenge? What is an acceptable amount of DMI after Schedules I and J are filed? What is the best way to cure such a discrepancy post-petition? How do you properly response to a 707(b) challenge? All of these are great questions, but unless you have the experience in dealing with Missouri Chapter 7s, you are going to be swimming upstream.
Or if you file a bankruptcy in which you list an asset (like a car) that has a great deal of equity, but do not apply any exemptions to it. And now the Trustee is wanting to take it from you so that he can liquidate it. How do you amend your schedules to include exemptions? Which exemptions are available for such an asset, and for your particular situation? What is the best way to approach the Trustee in terms of a negotiation? Great questions. But my guess is that you wouldn’t have the first clue as to handling any of it.
I could obviously give a great many more examples (and I haven’t even begun to touch upon the Means Test, which is by far the most difficult and important aspect of a bankruptcy there is), but hopefully the point is clear: Filing a bankruptcy on your own is certainly something that you have a right to do. But it could turn out to be the worst mistake you ever make. The St. Louis bankruptcy attorneys at The Law Office of Jennifer Alter-Rieken have been practicing in the very specialized area of bankruptcy law for over ten years. Our lawyers and staff are prepared to help guide you toward a better financial future, and get you the fresh start / clean slate that you deserve.