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I Just Can’t Bring Myself To File….

blue background white card that says i can't with scissors cutting through card

As a consumer Bankruptcy attorney, I cannot recount how many times over my career I have heard these words, even though the need for Bankruptcy relief is compelling – if not overwhelming. We have routinely seen individuals with a massive debt burdens that will not be satisfied in this lifetime simply refuse to take the leap. The emotional barrier to filing for Bankruptcy Relief can be very high, and one of our larger challenges in this type of practice is to attempt to put it all in perspective.

First and foremost, a prospective debtor should know that a reputable bankruptcy professional will not try to “talk you into” filing. Ultimately this has to be the personal decision of every potential debtor as to what is or is not best in his or her life. What we can do is explain fully the reality of filing as opposed to the perceptions (or misperceptions) that people often possess. That is perhaps the easy part because rarely is the actual life impact anywhere near as traumatic as people suspect.

The harder part admittedly is understanding and addressing the emotional element. Many of us were raised with the idea that filing for bankruptcy is a despicable and horrible thing and an affront to all things good and decent. I can explain for hours on end why those notions are neither appropriate nor accurate, but sometimes these feelings are deeply rooted. Others perceive a bankruptcy filing as such a large personal failure that they are reticent to the extreme to accept the reality of their personal situation, which may well be dire.

I will frankly state that bankruptcy professionals including attorneys, trustees and judges all too often lose sight of this emotional component and how awful so many people feel about the being in this situation. Like any other profession, the simple fact that we are inundated with these type of cases and issues day in and day out tend to alter (or jade) our perception as to how stressful the process can be. Therefore, it in incumbent upon bankruptcy professionals to learn and express a greater degree of empathy than we probably do on a daily basis.

Unless the emotional component is adequately addressed, it may preclude individuals from doing what is necessary to save themselves. Quite simply, too many people refuse to file because of these types of internal barriers – and thus make their lives far far worse in the process. The purposes of the Bankruptcy Code are to protect Debtors from Creditors and offer them a fresh start. It is most often in the end an exceedingly positive step forward and new beginning in one’s life – not an end. Our unique obligation is to find a way to present these issues honestly and factually without any attempt at “selling”- yet still understanding one’s inherent reluctance to proceed.