Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to consolidate your debts and come up with a plan to pay them off over time while keeping your assets safe from creditors. It’s not always the right choice, but if it’s right for you, you can still benefit from having an experienced get help from a Chapter 13 lawyer on your side. Find out the top five things you should know about these lawyers before you hire one to represent you during your Chapter 13 proceedings by reading this short guide.

1. Chapter 13 Attorneys Have a Unique Role in Bankruptcy

Unlike other types of lawyers, Chapter 13 attorneys focus on debt restructuring rather than debt elimination. That means they can negotiate with your creditors directly and work out a payment plan that fits your budget and keeps you financially secure for the long run. If you’re considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy but want to avoid using a lawyer, you might be disappointed to learn that the government requires it of people who are filing under this chapter.

2. Most Lawyers Proceed Without Court Approval

Chapter 13 attorneys who file the paperwork on your behalf will show up at your bankruptcy hearing with those forms signed, but that’s about it. You won’t even get a chance to swear under oath that you filed your petition voluntarily or that the information in it is true. That’s because Chapter 13 attorneys are not required to obtain court approval to represent you, and they can be sanctioned if they knowingly filed a false petition.

3. The Courts Can Stop You

The most important thing you need to know about Chapter 13 attorneys is that they can be sanctioned by the court if they file a false petition. This means their client could face jail time, orders that could prevent her from getting a job in the future, and losing his or her home.

4. Most Lawyers Will Ask for Payment Upfront

Chapter 13 attorneys can be asked to provide proof of funds once they file your case, but you won’t have to prove anything upfront. Most lawyers will ask for payment upfront regardless of how much money you have and may go after it immediately if there’s not enough on hand.

5. They’ll Probably Try to Keep You Out of Court

Although attorneys under Chapter 13 can be sanctioned, most people don’t have to go to court at all. Instead, they’ll have their payments determined and approved by the trustee assigned to their case. They also shouldn’t have to appear in court to answer any questions about their petition, which means that unless you happened to know more about your rights than the trustee assigned your case and objected on those grounds, you shouldn’t hear from your Chapter 13 attorney again after the petition is filed.

When you need help with a bankruptcy filing, it may seem like an easy decision to just hire an attorney who promises low prices and high quality service. However, you should definitely talk to a few before signing any contracts. Chapter 13 attorneys will help you get through this process as smoothly as possible, but choosing one with the right experience for your situation can dramatically increase your chances of success.