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Should I use a Document Preparer to assist me in filing bankruptcy?
There are agencies and individuals who run businesses which assist individuals in preparing legal documents for a fee. These agencies will help debtors by taking information supplied by the debtor(s) and creating the forms necessary for filing a bankruptcy case. They may be helpful to you in explaining general procedures. They are not attorneys and are not allowed to give legal advice as part of their services. They cannot represent debtors in court. Any fee paid to such entities must be reported to the court and cannot exceed a certain amount (Appendix IV) without court approval. If the services of a Bankruptcy Petition Preparer are used, the Preparer must complete Form B19; this form must be filed with the bankruptcy petition and schedules.
My ex-spouse has filed bankruptcy. He/she has listed me as a co-signer on a scheduled debt. What can I do? Does my divorce decree protect me?
If liable with a former spouse/debtor on a debt, the non-debtor former spouse should seek competent legal advice for a thorough explanation of his or her rights and obligations in this area as soon as he or she learns that the ex-spouse has filed a bankruptcy petition.
My case was dismissed, what does that mean?
A dismissal order ends the case and removes it from bankruptcy jurisdiction. When the court dismisses a case, the ‘automatic stay’ is no longer in effect and creditors may start to collect on their debts again. Some types of dismissals – such as one for cause (failing to file required schedules and statements) may contain a 180-day bar to refiling. Unless the debtor appeals the dismissal or moves for reconsideration within 14 days of the order, the case will be automatically closed.
My case has been closed, but I need to file further documents – what do I do?
In order to file additional documents after your case is closed, you must first file a Motion to Reopen the case and pay the applicable re-opening fee. The Motion to Reopen must specifically state why the case is being sought to be re-opened. Additionally, if any creditors will be affected by the re-opening (such as adding new creditors), the debtor must also serve them with a copy of the Motion to Reopen. If the Court grants the Motion to Reopen, the debtor may then file the necessary documents.
Is there a fee to file a bankruptcy case?
Yes. There is a filing fee to commence a bankruptcy case which varies by the chapter of case filed, as well as various miscellaneous fees that may apply for filing certain documents or services requested. Because filing fees change frequently, it is recommended that you visit the filing fee page of our website for the most up to date fee information.
Is bankruptcy information public information? Can anyone look at it?
The information contained in documents filed in bankruptcy cases are a matter of public record, and can be reviewed by members of the general public. The documents can be reviewed by members of the public in the Clerk's office during regular business hours or, for attorneys and parties who have access to PACER, over the Internet 24 hours a day.
Access to pleadings and papers filed in bankruptcy cases is not restricted unless there is some good basis for "sealing" information that is contained in them. To have a document filed "Under Seal" or "In Camera," a motion must be filed explaining the need to protect the information in that document from public view.
If you are a debtor, you should be aware that the filing of bankruptcy may affect your credit rating. Several reporting agencies report bankruptcy information and statistics to the public, and credit reporting agencies also regularly collect bankruptcy information.
Because bankruptcy information is public, complete social security or account numbers should never appear on documents in their entirety. Where required, include only the last four digits.
I've heard I can only file a case under Chapter 13. Is this true?
In 2005, the United States Congress passed bankruptcy legislation which includes new income and expense considerations when filing for bankruptcy, and may require debtors with income above a certain amount to file under Chapter 13 instead of under Chapter 7, depending on their income and expenses. This however is a very individual determination based on each person’s income, household expenses and debts. To properly understand which chapter would be right for you, it is strongly recommended that you contact a qualified bankruptcy attorney. The Clerk's office does not give legal advice and cannot tell you how these new requirements will affect you.
I'm filing for bankruptcy protection but have discovered a lien against my property. What should I do?
A bankruptcy discharge will wipe out most unsecured debts, but does not remove liens which may exist against your property. Certain types of liens, such as judgment liens, may be set aside under certain circumstances based on provisions contained in the Bankruptcy Code. In order to seek to remove an eligible lien, you must file a Motion to Avoid Lien with the Court, stating the factual and legal basis supporting your motion and you must serve a copy of the motion on the creditor whose lien you are attempting to set aside as well as on the case trustee. A court order granting the motion is required to have it removed. Advice of counsel for actions to avoid liens is highly recommended.
I am a creditor in a converted case. Do I need to file another Proof of Claim?
No, once you have filed a proof of claim form with the court, you need not refile the claim after conversion.
I am a creditor in a chapter 7 asset case. How long before I can expect a dividend payment?
There is no simple answer to that question. The length of time before a dividend is received depends on the circumstances of the individual case because assets must be liquidated and claims evaluated prior to distribution. Creditors should contact the chapter 7 trustee and inquire when he or she expects to issue checks to creditors. The chapter 7 trustee's name and telephone number are on the notice of the section 341 meeting of creditors.
I am a child support creditor. How can I determine whether my child support debt is non-dischargeable?
Certain child support debts are excepted from discharge. If you and the debtor disagree, you may, by filing an appropriate Adversary Proceeding Complaint, ask the Court to determine whether your debt is non-dischargeable. It is strongly suggested that you obtain legal assistance to do this.
How many copies of court documents do I need to file with the Clerk’s office?
For Chapter 7 cases: The original documents only (petition, schedules and statements, any attachments) and the Creditor Mailing List.
For Chapter 13 cases: The original documents only (petition, schedules and statements, plan with certificate of service & any attachments) and the Creditor Mailing List.
For Chapter 11 cases: The original documents AND Four ( 4) complete copies of all documents (petition, all schedules and statements & attachments) and the Creditor Mailing List.
NOTE: Ch 11 Corporate and Partnership debtors must be represented by an attorney. An Application to Employ Counsel should be filed with the petition. While individuals filing Chapter 11 are not required to have an attorney, it is highly recommended that they do to assist with their bankruptcy. Chapter 7 Corporate and Partnership filers must also be represented by an attorney.
Creditor Mailing List Required for all Chapters: The Creditor Mailing List (list of creditors and their addresses) must either be filed on a usb key or a CD. Please refer to the Creditor List Form A instructions available on our website. If you do not have access to a computer, you may complete the requirement in the Clerk’s Office public area using court computers.
How long does it take to complete the bankruptcy process and receive a discharge of debts?
Each case is different, but a general rule of thumb is that in a Chapter 7 case a debtor's discharge is usually entered between 90 to 120 days after the case was filed provided no objections to discharge are filed. Once the discharge is entered, the case is generally closed shortly thereafter. The entry of a discharge may take longer if a debtor's entitlement to the discharge is contested by the case trustee, creditors or other parties in interest. In a Chapter 13 case, a discharge is entered upon the successful completion of the repayment plan, usually between 36 to 60 months following bankruptcy. In Chapter 11, corporations and partnerships do not obtain a discharge but instead seek court approval of their plan of reorganization, which is known as plan confirmation. Once the confirmed plan is substantially consummated, a final decree will issue completing the bankruptcy process. This process may take several years to complete.
How long does a bankruptcy filing stay on a credit report?
A bankruptcy generally affects a persons credit rating for 7 to 10 years. However, this depends entirely on the individual credit reporting agency. The Bankruptcy Court has no influence on the type of information the credit bureaus report, nor on how long they keep it in their records. If you wish to review your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
Under a new federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Each agency's report on your credit may contain information from different creditors. To receive a free annual credit report, you can call or send a written request to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
You can also contact the credit reporting agencies directly at: