The Bankruptcy Process

Step 1: Scheduling an Appointment

To make an appointment with our attorneys please call our office at (408) 297-8750 Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.

When you call to schedule the free consultation, the secretary will ask you for some basic information about your problems in order to assist the attorney in preparing for your appointment. The more information we receive from you prior to your first appointment, the better we will be able to advise you.  Some of the questions you will be asked while scheduling your free appointment are:

  • What sources of income do you currently have?
  • Are you single, married, or divorced?
  • Do you own a home, rent/lease, or are you living with someone else for free?
  • Do you have credit card debts?
  • Do you owe income taxes?

If there is something that is causing you a lot of concern or is an immediate danger, please notify the secretary. There are some situations that may mean the filing process should be expedited. These are a few examples of urgent scenarios:

  • Your wages are being garnished.
  • You own a house and you have received a Notice of Default or Notice of Trustee’s Sale regarding an upcoming foreclosure sale.
  • You are being sued.
  • You are behind on your car payment (that means the lender could repossess your car!)

Generally, there are four appointment times each day (9:00am, 10:30am, 1:45pm, 3:30pm), though we may be able to alter the times slightly to accommodate your timing if necessary. On Friday, appointments are only available in the morning, except for absolute emergencies. Before calling to make an appointment, please think about whether mornings or afternoons are better for you or if there are specific days of the week that are easier.

Step 2: Knowing What to Bring to Your Appointment

While scheduling the first appointment, the secretary will give you a list of documents for you to try to bring with you. Even if you know all about your finances, it is still important to bring as many papers as possible.  Because the attorney’s analysis of your situation is so detail-oriented and complicated, it is important for our staff to have plenty of documentation. If you cannot find all of these papers, don’t be worried. Just bring in as much as you can find.

Below is a list of what we would like you to bring with you to the appointment:

  • Recent bills, collections letters, mortgage statements, car loan/lease billing statements, and tax notices.
  • Any court papers (if someone is suing you or if you are suing someone else).
  • If your wages are being garnished, please try to get the garnishment order from your payroll office.
  • If you have a car loan, please try to bring in your purchase contract (if you can find it) and a recent billing statement.
  • Your most recent paycheck stubs (as many as you can find) and evidence of income (like Social Security and pension benefits)
  • Tax returns for the last year or two.

Step 3: Locating Our Office

Whether you’re a returning client or visiting us for the first time, this page will help you get to our office.

Our office is located at:
1570 The Alameda #223
San Jose, CA 95126
Ph: 408-297-8750

View of the office complex from The Alameda (southbound):

Our office is located on the 2nd floor of building 1570:

View of building 1570 as approached from the east parking lot:

Step 4: Your Free Consultation

1) A secretary will greet you and give you a form to fill out with some basic information (name, phone number, address, etc).

2) When you have finished filling out this form, Norma Hammes will meet with you. We don’t just have you speak with a paralegal; you’ll actually sit down with Norma. Everyone on our staff is very qualified and can answer common questions. They each have their role in preparing, filing, and maintaining your case. However, the analysis of your options and risks can only be done by an attorney. This is why we have you meet with Norma from the very beginning.

3) During the meeting, Norma will go through your full financial situation, including reviewing any car loansmortgage loans (active and/or foreclosed), taxes owed, and so on. It is very important for you to bring all the papers you think might relate to your property and your debts. If you have any questions about whether to bring something or not — bring it. This first appointment usually takes an hour or more, depending on how complicated your situation is.

Once in a while, a person comes to the appointment with absolutely no information or documents about their financial situation – nothing at all.  Please understand that we ask you to bring these papers to your appointment so we can give you advice that is specific to your situation. They say that they just “want to ask some questions” about bankruptcy. This situation makes it very difficult — and sometimes impossible — for us to give them any useful advice. Unfortunately, it is completely pointless for us to answer “some questions about bankruptcy” because bankruptcy is extremely complicated and alternative solutions are driven by the specific state of your circumstances. Please understand that this first meeting will be about the details of your specific situation, not a general discussion of bankruptcy.

4) In most situations, we will have a suggestion about how and whether bankruptcy can help you by the end of the meeting. Often we will calculate a Chapter 13 plan which demonstrates the kind of relief you could receive in your bankruptcy case. It will also include an explanation of the expected fees and costs. We will give you a copy to take home with you to consider.

5) We may or may not make copies of many of your documents at the first appointment. However, it is very important to bring them because we need to review them and use them in analyzing your situation. At the end of the first appointment, we may photocopy more of the documents you brought in. We will give you a list of documents to bring back with you (some of which you may already have) if you decide to come back and file bankruptcy with us.

6) We don’t send you away with a stack of forms to fill out and bring back, and we don’t tell you to go online and fill out the forms there. Filling out the bankruptcy forms from the information Norma discusses with you is part of our job. The questions on some of the official bankruptcy forms may look simple and easy to understand, but many of the questions are much more complicated than they seem. How you answer the questions will directly affect how much debt you can wipe out and how much you will have to pay your creditors or the trustee after you file a bankruptcy case. Every single answer to every single question will be reviewed by technicians or attorneys for your bankruptcy trustee, or at the Office of the United States Trustee (which is a part of the United States Department of Justice).

Many questions in the ordinary bankruptcy forms have answers which must be consistent with answers to other questions on other forms. If the forms have conflicting answers, the bankruptcy trustee will probably have questions at your meeting. In order to answer these questions, you may need to provide the trustee with additional documents such as additional bank statements, pay stubs, or income tax returns. Because we have experience in filling out the forms and presenting a complete, consistent, and accurate picture of your situation to the trustee, confusion, and disputes usually can be avoided.

Step 5: Your Second Appointment

1) If you have decided that you want to file a case, and you have all of the documents (billing statements, pay stubs, tax returns, etc), you can call our office and tell the secretary that you are calling to make a second appointment.

2) When you come in for your second appointment a secretary will greet you and let Norma know you have arrived. Whoever you met with at the first appointment will most likely also see you for your second appointment.

3) At the second appointment, we will make copies of the documents you bring. We will also fill out a few more worksheets, which include making a list of your monthly expenses, and a list of your assets (including information about what kind of condition they are in). You do not need to make these lists ahead of time. You may, however, want to think about your monthly budget and check the mileage on your cars.

4) At the end of the second appointment, if we have all the papers from you we need, we will schedule your signing appointment.

Step 6: Your Signing Appointment

1) When you come in for your signing appointment, the secretary will set you up on the computer in our conference room where you will do the government-required credit counseling session. The credit counseling is not very difficult, and our secretaries are happy to help you with the computer.

2) When you finish the credit counseling session, we will explain the bankruptcy papers and give them to you to read through and sign. Please feel free to ask any questions.

3) When you have finished signing the paperwork, we will talk with you about what the next procedures are.

4) Jim Gold will be at the trustee meeting that is held about five to seven weeks after your signing appointment. Jim will try to meet with you at the signing appointment, as well.

Regional Application

This information is only applicable to people who live in Santa Clara County, California, USA. In the USA, the bankruptcy law is a federal law that applies in all states. The property that can be protected (“exempted”) by people who file bankruptcy is prescribed by state law, however. Bankruptcy, property, and exemption law is further affected by court decisions that apply in certain geographic areas. If you live in the USA, but are outside of Santa Clara County, please consult an attorney in your own area.

General Information

The information contained in this web site is general in nature. Bankruptcy law is extremely complex and it is easy to misunderstand how a general description might or might not apply to you personally. In order to find out how this information applies to you personally, you will need to discuss it in detail with one of our attorneys.

Debt Relief Agency

Federal law states that attorneys who represent people in bankruptcy cases are “debt relief agencies.” Gold and Hammes represents people (and small businesses) in bankruptcy – in fact, that is the only type of law we practice. Therefore, Gold and Hammes is a debt relief agency.