A: How long do items stay on your credit report? Your credit report follows you for a long time; that is why you must be careful with your loan and credit card payments. If you are more than 30 days late on a payment, it will stay on your credit report for up to seven years and reflect negatively on your credit score. If you declare bankruptcy, it stays on your credit report for 10 years, but it could follow you for a much longer period of time, perhaps forever. Even after a long 10 years when the bankruptcy has been erased from your credit report, you can still be asked about it when you apply for new credit years later. It is not unusual when applying for a home loan to be asked: Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
We are not lawyers and you need smart legal counsel before deciding to take the bankruptcy route, but if you can avoid it, do so. Sometimes there is no way around a massive debt, but if there is, take it, with the counsel of a legal professional, of course.
Bankruptcy Chapters for Consumers
According to the Department of Justice, the two chapters of the Bankruptcy Code that most consumers file under are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Here are the Department of Justice’s descriptions of each.
“Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation proceeding available to consumers and businesses. Those assets of a debtor that are not exempt from creditors are collected and liquidated (reduced to money), and the proceeds are distributed to creditors. A consumer debtor receives a complete discharge from debt under Chapter 7, except for certain debts that are prohibited from discharge by the Bankruptcy Code.”
“Chapter 13, often called wage-earner bankruptcy, is used primarily by individual consumers to reorganize their financial affairs under a repayment plan that must be completed within three or five years. To be eligible for Chapter 13 relief, a consumer must have regular income and may not have more than a certain amount of debt, as set forth in the Bankruptcy Code.”
Can You File for Bankruptcy without a Lawyer?
The www.uscourts.gov website has a section on it titled “Filing Without an Attorney.” According to the website, “Individuals can file bankruptcy without an attorney, which is called filing pro se. However, seeking the advice of a qualified attorney is strongly recommended because bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal outcomes.”
Let us remind you of an old saying:
“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
The website goes on to say that “filing personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 takes careful preparation and understanding of legal issues. Misunderstandings of the law or making mistakes in the process can affect your rights. Court employees and bankruptcy judges are prohibited by law from offering legal advice.”
There are so many ways that a good bankruptcy lawyer can help you through these difficult times:
Advise you on whether to file a bankruptcy petition.
Advise you under which chapter to file.
Advise you on whether your debts can be discharged.
Advise you on whether or not you will be able to keep your home, car, or other property after you file.
Advise you of the tax consequences of filing.
Advise you on whether you should continue to pay creditors.
Explain bankruptcy law and procedures to you.
Help you complete and file forms.
Assist you with most aspects of your bankruptcy case.
Get legal help here:
American Bar Association’s Legal Help