Basic Difference Between Bankruptcy Lawyer and Debt Settlement Attorney
While it's common that a bankruptcy attorney is also well-qualified to act as a debt settlement attorney, you should understand an important distinction between the two legal means of resolving debts.
A debt settlement attorney will represent you with your creditors to negotiate a workable payment plan, and perhaps even negotiate a reduction in the total amount you owe. However, the debt settlement attorney will work separately with each creditor. In addition, the creditors aren't obligated to sit down at the table with your debt settlement attorney.
In contrast, if you file for bankruptcy, your bankruptcy lawyer represents your interests before the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court does have the power to compel your creditors to participate in the proceeding. You've now centralized all claims against you into a single proceeding. Your bankruptcy lawyer will still be negotiating with your creditors, but now under the supervision of the bankruptcy court.
A challenge to filing for bankruptcy is that it can have legal implications beyond the bankruptcy proceeding itself and is a matter of public record. You may find it preferable for a debt settlement attorney to help you resolve your debt issues privately, especially if you have only one or two major creditors.
A bankruptcy attorney can help advise you whether filing for bankruptcy or working privately is the right option for you.
Sources of Bankruptcy Law
The main bankruptcy laws in the United States are federal laws. If you do file for bankruptcy, you'll be filing in a federal bankruptcy court. A bankruptcy attorney must be admitted to practice in the federal court district where you're located in order to represent you in the bankruptcy court.
In addition, each state does have its own laws that can impact your case, such as homestead exemption laws that determine how you can protect your home during the bankruptcy process.
Basic Bankruptcy Law
The Bankruptcy Code is commonly known by its various chapters, such as Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Simply put, the chapter under which your bankruptcy lawyer will recommend you file will depend on whether you're filing as an individual or a legal entity. The chapter selection will also depend on whether you want to liquidate your assets to pay off your debts or reorganize your debts into a single payment plan.
Each chapter has its own requirements, so you might only be eligible for one type of bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy lawyer will help determine which chapters are available to you.
The goal of the bankruptcy proceeding is to offer you a fresh start once it's over. This doesn't mean you can avoid paying your debts through bankruptcy, only that your bankruptcy attorney will help you negotiate a manageable resolution.