Employees of the United States Bankruptcy Court are not permitted to recommend or refer you to a lawyer nor are they permitted to provide legal advice, including how to complete the bankruptcy forms or which forms may be required in your bankruptcy case. Debtors are encouraged to obtain the services of a competent lawyer. However, an individual debtor who is unable to afford an attorney may qualify for pro bono (no cost) or reduced fee legal representation.
No-Cost or Low Cost Services
There are various legal aid services and local bar associations in Maryland that may provide no cost or low cost legal help to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. While many legal aid offices only help people with very low income, some offices have more flexible income rules.
Friends or Bankruptcy Petition Preparers
The court often encounters debtors who cannot afford to pay a lawyer to help them prepare bankruptcy forms. Sometimes a debtor pays a "friend" to help file for bankruptcy and guide them through the process. Unfortunately, they may not be properly informed in the bankruptcy process resulting in your case being dismissed. Also beware of petition preparers who do not comply with all legal requirements. The role of non-attorney petition preparers is solely to type information on bankruptcy forms. Petition preparers are barred by law from providing legal advice. They cannot explain or answer legal questions or assist in bankruptcy court. Petition preparers must sign all documents they prepare; print their name, address, and social security number on such documents; and furnish copies to the debtor. They cannot sign a document on the debtor’s behalf or receive payment from the debtor for court fees.
Bankruptcy Petition preparers are required to provide you with the Official Bankruptcy Form 119, “Bankruptcy Petition Preparer’s Notice, Declaration and Signature”.