Here are some of the basics about consumer bankruptcy regarding the law. The primary source of the law is Title 11, known generally as “The Bankruptcy Code,” organized in odd and even chapters. Some versions of The Code are condensed, some are annotated, and some also contain the bankruptcy rules like the little-known version offered at awhfy.com. Ten or so Title 18 provisions of the “criminal code” are also relevant at times, especially regarding tax returns. Debtors need to provide pay stubs and other documentation regarding their income, which is problematic if omitted.
Procedure is governed by the federal rules of bankruptcy procedure, and then the Massachusetts local rules of bankruptcy procedure. This is available also at the clerk’s office, which in Barnstable County would be provided to a Cape Cod Bankruptcy Attorney, e.g.: www.mabankruptcylawyers.com/Massachusetts-chapter-13/ The local rules are very important and very specific on a number of subjects. Details, such as motions for relief from stay, the bankruptcy schedules, and representing the client are even covered by Massachusetts local rules.
The relevant bankruptcy court depends on where the debtor lives in Massachusetts. There is only one district of Massachusetts, but there are three divisions; eastern, central and western. These divisions were recently changed, however and it is a good idea to review these frequently. Middlesex County, for example is split between Central and Western now. This would determine whether you would meet in Worcester or Boston.
In Eastern Massachusetts everything happens at 5 Post Office Square. Anyone going for a meeting should go early because there is a line. In Worcester the location is at the federal building located at 695 Main Street, where all the hearings will be. The creditors meetings are across the street. A client in Barnstable or Plymouth counties will have a meeting in Brockton. This also goes for Dukes and Nantucket counties. There is a brand new courthouse in Springfield, where all of those meetings will take place.
Keep in mind if the 341 meeting is in Brockton, the hearings on the case (if any) will be in Hyannis. Cape Cod is a nice place to visit, but it should be noted that during the summer extra time will be needed. Chapter 13 cases or 341 meetings are not in Brockton but in Boston though the Court hearings are in Barnstable.
In terms of sources for the law, there are several resources. Westlaw is one service, LexisNexis is another, and Casemaker is another. Using the trial court library is free, so it is possible to go here to Shepardize cases. Colliers is the leading treatise on bankruptcy, which is a great resource that is annotated by the Code’s own sections. Norton is another treatise of equal authority. There are a whole host of other online organizations that offer forms, whether you use Westlaw, Best Case or some other legal research service. There is usually an upfront cost and maintenance fees, but that is expected in any field. Though you will pay for these, the upside is that much time can be saved e.g. when completing the petition electronically with the benefit of prepopulated duplicate fields.
The American Bankruptcy Institute has additional resources, as does the U.S. Trustee Office, as well as the NACBA (National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys). Recently a good one to pop up is a blogger named Morgan King. He’s really suave and anyone can sign up for the newsletter for insight on his intelligence, which comes approximately every 3 weeks.
Every single bankruptcy practice in this State, at the very outset of the practice, needs to file with Massachusetts Secretary of State to form an S corporation or LLC. While no attorney expects to make a mistake, human nature dictates that they do occur. Figure an up-front cost of about $2-$3000 whatever the choice of your entity, for this limited liability protection. That amount covers the business attorney’s fee and your State filing for a year or so. More information on the necessity for business formation is available at: www.cape-law.com/2012/what-is-an-s-corporation-massachusetts/
While entering the field of bankruptcy can be daunting, having the right support measures in place ensures you have a running start when the business gets going. Knowing the rules, familiarizing oneself with the code, and putting in place some legal protections will go a long way towards enhancing your success.