Questions to Ask a Bankruptcy Attorney Before Hiring

Choosing a Columbus bankruptcy attorney to help you through the bankruptcy process may seem intimidating, but it’s a lot easier if you come to an interview prepared.  Many attorneys offer a free consultation where they will explain the bankruptcy basics and answer questions you might have.


The experienced and compassionate Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer, Cousino, Weinzimmer understand that financial problems can happen to the most hard-working and well-intentioned people.  We offer a free consultation to examine your individual financial situation, your debts and your goals.  Should bankruptcy be your best option, we will help you get on the path to financial solvency, answer your questions, and explain the bankruptcy process and what it can do to make your life better.  Contact us online or call our offices today to set up your free consultation.

The following are some questions to ask bankruptcy attorneys before making a hiring decision:

Why File for Bankruptcy?

If you find yourself drowning in debt, unable to meet your payments, and being harassed and threatened by creditors, filing for bankruptcy can be a major relief. Once you complete your court-ordered bankruptcy plan, many of your debts will be eliminated, and you will have a fresh financial start without the burden of unmanageable debt. You will no longer live with the threat of repossessions, foreclosure, wage garnishment or bank account levies, and you may be able to wind up keeping your home, your car, and most, if not all, of your possessions.

What are the Types of Bankruptcy and Which is Right for Me?

The United States Bankruptcy Code provides five types of bankruptcy, each with a different purpose.  The most common types of personal bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

·      Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as a “liquidation” bankruptcy, enables you to discharge (eliminate) most or all consumer and/or business debts, and it is over in a few months, so you can begin rebuilding credit quickly. If your income is too low to pay credit card bills, medical bills, utilities, payday loans or personal loans, if there are no cosigners involved, or if you are facing court action by creditors, Chapter 7 may be your best option.

·      Chapter 13 bankruptcy is best for those who don’t qualify for Chapter 7 and who have a steady income, financial problems that are temporary, and a desire to repay some of their debt in order to keep an asset such as a car or a house.  Under Chapter 13, the Court will approve a plan that allows you to repay some or all of your debt affordably over a three- to five-year period while you are protected from actions by creditors. If you successfully complete the court-approved payment plan, the remaining debts covered by the plan are discharged.

What Can I Keep After Bankruptcy?

Ohio bankruptcy law provides lists of exemptions -- types of property that you can set aside and cannot be sold in bankruptcy. Exemptions include your homestead, a certain amount of money, pension plans, a percentage of your wages, clothing, cars, equipment used for work (like tools), and household furnishings.

For Chapter 7, which is a liquidation plan of nonexempt assets, you can automatically keep property that is protected by Ohio’s bankruptcy exemptions. If your assets are less than the exemptions allowed, you may be able to keep them all.

For Chapter 13, which is a reorganization and repayment plan, your bankruptcy exemptions will affect how much you pay to creditors through the plan.  You may get to keep the vast majority of your assets if you make the agreed-upon payments

If you are married and filing jointly for bankruptcy, you can double the Ohio exemptions allowed.

What is the Automatic Stay?

The moment you file for bankruptcy in Ohio, a powerful injunction called an automatic stay goes into effect.  Once this is in place, you can no longer be barraged with harassing letters and telephone calls from creditors attempting to collect what is owed.  Creditors will not be able to repossess, foreclose, sue, or pursue you for collection in any way and must go through the bankruptcy court and abide by their decisions.

What Happens to My Credit Score?

After bankruptcy, your credit score will go down and the bankruptcy can remain on your record for seven to 10 years.  Still, there are steps you can take to rebuild your credit and increase your FICO score; and if you can get your credit score to 650 or above, you will probably be eligible to apply for credit for vital purchases. While some credit card companies may reject your application due to a recent bankruptcy, many will accept you because the bankruptcy wiped out your medical bills, credit card debt, and other unsecured debt, and because they know your risk of filing for bankruptcy again is low.

What is Your Firm Like and is it Affordable?

It’s important to ask questions to get information about the firm to see if it is a good fit for you.  The firm should be affordable, but also should not cut corners or hand off your case to paralegals or petition preparers. Your attorney and backup staff should be knowledgeable, experienced and confident, and should answer your questions and concerns. The staff should consider your individual needs and explain the bankruptcy process to you, including all costs and fees. The location of the office should be convenient.