If you're trying to figure out if you should file, your credit is probably already damaged. A Chapter 7 filing will stay on your credit report for ten years, while a Chapter 13 will remain there for seven. Any creditors you solicit for debt (a loan, credit card, line of credit, or mortgage) will see the discharge on your report, which will prevent you from getting any credit.
Bankruptcy offers an individual or business a chance to start fresh by forgiving debts that simply cannot be paid while offering creditors a chance to obtain some measure of repayment based on the individual's or business's assets available for liquidation. In theory, the ability to file for bankruptcy can benefit an overall economy by giving persons and businesses a second chance to gain access to consumer credit and by providing creditors with a measure of debt repayment. Upon the successful completion of bankruptcy proceedings, the debtor is relieved of the debt obligations incurred prior to filing for bankruptcy.
After the bankruptcy is annulled or the bankrupt has been automatically discharged, the bankrupt's credit report status is shown as "discharged bankrupt" for some years. The maximum number of years this information can be held is subject to the retention limits under the Privacy Act. How long such information is on a credit report may be shorter, depending on the issuing company, but the report must cease to record that information based on the criteria in the Privacy Act.
A good way to approach the decision of whether to hire a lawyer is to buy (and read) Nolo's book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It will give you a good idea of what issues may arise when you file, and flags specific situations when a lawyer's help is called for. It will also give you a good idea of whether the filing process seems to complicated for you.
Bankruptcy is the legal proceeding involving a person or business that is unable to repay outstanding debts. The bankruptcy process begins with a petition filed by the debtor, which is most common, or on behalf of creditors, which is less common. All of the debtor's assets are measured and evaluated, and the assets may be used to repay a portion of outstanding debt.
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