Bankruptcy lawyer Kevin Gipson’s piece entitled Your Lawyer is Your Friend only scratched the surface of the relationship between a client and a bankruptcy lawyer. His point was that the client has to share the struggle to get a bankruptcy case on file and obtain a fresh start. The first job of the client is to show up. The lawyer can’t do it without an involved client.
Filing bankruptcy under the BAPCPA amendments to the bankruptcy code requires a substantial amount of information. None of it is esoteric; all of it was at one time in the debtor’s possession.
Calling for gobs of only marginally relevant information was one strategy that creditors included in the bankruptcy “reform” legislation to deter people who needed bankruptcy relief from getting it. They claimed it was to deter fraud; in reality, they counted on the debt ridden to be disorganized, stressed, and discouraged.
My office has encountered a rash of clients lately who can’t seem to get the last little bit of information to us, or who neglected to tell us about the second job or the rent paying roommate. As Charlie Brown in Peanuts said, Arghhhhhhh!
To file a successful bankruptcy, the client has to tell the bankruptcy attorney everything about their income, their household, and all of their financial doings. The reason you hire a lawyer is to guide you through the bankruptcy maze. Even the most experienced lawyer can’t do that without the complete picture.
I tell clients that the only fact that can hurt them in bankruptcy is the one they kept from me.
If a client discloses something that puts the success of the case at risk, I will stop and discuss the issue with the client. Perhaps we wait to file, file a different chapter, or only one spouse files. Only rarely does some single fact make filing bankruptcy unwise. But if I file a case without all the facts, it’s like playing cards with only a portion of the deck.
Treat your bankruptcy lawyer like your confessor: put it all out there and let a professional find the way to bankruptcy relief.