If you lay awake at night because of financial stress, it's definitely time to think about your options. The situation doesn't have to be that extreme to educate yourself about the potential advantages and disadvantages of filing bankruptcy though.
If you are managing your minimum payments on credit cards each month but are not able to pay more than minimum payments, it is a good idea to investigate alternatives. It pays to be proactive rather than reactive in this situation because it only takes one incident (a visit to the emergency room, loss of a job, separation of a marriage, etc.) to send a person into a whirlwind of financial stress that leads to feeling that there is no way out. If you know what bankruptcy can and cannot do for you before that incident occurs, you will be better prepared to handle the situation without going through unnecessary stress that comes from uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation, so you really have nothing to lose by taking that first step. If you have friends, co-workers or family members who you know have been through a bankruptcy, it can be helpful to obtain a referral to an attorney they had a good experience with. If you don't feel comfortable discussing your situation with those you know, research websites and take advantage of the free consultations offered to you. Treat the consultation like an interview. Make sure the attorney you choose listens to your situation, answers your questions, and is clear about the process and the fees involved. Feel free to ask about other alternatives to bankruptcy. Maybe you're not ready to take that step but you're curious about what else is out there. An experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you devise a plan even if it doesn't involve bankruptcy. Sometimes the plan involves bankruptcy being the last resort if all other options do not work for you.
Remember that bankruptcy is a tool that, while it shouldn't be abused, exists for a reason. Don't be afraid to ask questions about how it may help you achieve peace of mind. While it may or may not be the best choice given your specific circumstances, it doesn't hurt to know your options.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Denise K. Aguilar is a local attorney whose bankruptcy practice focuses in consumer and small business bankruptcy. Reach her at (480) 455-1881 or visit www.aguilarlawonline.com for more information on the Aguilar Law Firm, P.C.