Debt and Bankruptcy
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: GET A LEGAL CHECK-UP
A Legal Check-Up is an interactive online interview created by the California Consumer Justice Coalition that gives you practical tips about how to deal with certain legal issues and gives you referrals to free and low cost legal services. The online Legal Check-Ups cannot replace the information and advice you get from discussing your situation with an attorney and are only meant to help you better understand the legal context surrounding the issue(s), as well as to help you understand steps you may take either immediately or in the future. At the end of the Legal Check-Up, you will have a chance to get an emailed copy of the questions, your answers and all the information we provide to you. You will need the most recent version of Adobe Reader to read what we send you.
If you need legal assistance urgently, go to our Legal Clinic Calendar for dates, times and locations of legal clinics that address bankruptcy, debtors’ rights and identity theft. Income eligibility restrictions may apply to some clinics.
Bankruptcy is not the best option for everyone. Before you start this Legal Check-Up, we recommend you do our Debtors' Rights Legal Check-Up, which helps you explore alternatives to bankruptcy that could protect you from abusive debt collection practices, protect the information that appears on your credit report, and even protect some of your property if someone sues you to collect a debt.
Bankruptcy is a legal process that can help you either eliminate your past debts or repay them under the protection of the bankruptcy court. Filing bankruptcy usually stops your creditors from collecting those past debts from you. All bankruptcy cases are handled in federal court. Most people who file for bankruptcy choose either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. The names refer to parts of the federal bankruptcy code.
If a bankruptcy results in a discharge, then you are no longer personally responsible for repaying the debts covered by the discharge. This means that the creditor cannot collect on the debt by seizing your wages or bank account. But, a lender can still take back certain property from you after bankruptcy if you stop making payments on the loan that secures that property. Bankruptcy should not be used for the sole purpose of delaying or stopping a foreclosure.
Dealing with debt can be stressful. It can be hard to know what to do - whether to file for bankruptcy, how to respond to aggressive or abusive debt collectors, how to deal with negative or inaccurate information on your credit report, and what to do if a creditor files a lawsuit or gets a money judgment against you. It can also be hard to know how whatever you decide to do will affect your ability to rebuild your life and your financial future. Whatever option you are considering (including bankruptcy), start by getting information about your legal rights and options.
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or permission to obtain money, property, or other goods or services. Personal information includes things like your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and other identifying information. Protecting your personal information from identity theft is important. Find out what you can do to defend your personal information. If you have had someone steal your identity, find out what you can do to repair the damage.