FAQs for Debtors

  • DISCHARGE, What is the difference between a denial of discharge and a debt being non-dischargeable?

     Denial of a discharge applies to all debts of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate, while determination of non-dischargeability applies to a particular debt only. A request for denial of discharge is usually granted because the debtor has defrauded a creditor, concealed property of the estate, made a false oath, presented or used a false claim, refused to obey any lawful order of the court and other reasons contained in the Bankruptcy Code.

    On the other hand, non-dischargeability of a debt excepts a particular debt from the discharge. This means that if the debt is determined non-dischargeable the debtor is still obligated to that creditor.

  • DISCHARGE, What is the difference between a denial of discharge and a debt being non-dischargeable?

     Denial of a discharge applies to all debts of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate, while determination of non-dischargeability applies to a particular debt only. A request for denial of discharge is usually granted because the debtor has defrauded a creditor, concealed property of the estate, made a false oath, presented or used a false claim, refused to obey any lawful order of the court and other reasons contained in the Bankruptcy Code.

    On the other hand, non-dischargeability of a debt excepts a particular debt from the discharge. This means that if the debt is determined non-dischargeable the debtor is still obligated to that creditor.

  • Do I need an attorney to file a bankruptcy?

    Individuals are not required to have an attorney to file bankruptcy, although it is highly recommended. Corporations, partnerships and trusts must be represented by an attorney to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is an extremely technical area of law and many issues can be complicated such as what is considered exempt property, whether or not a debt can be discharged and whether or not the automatic stay applies. In addition, there are a substantial number of documents required to be filed to commence a case, many of which are also extremely technical in nature. An attorney can advise debtors on these issues. The staff at the Bankruptcy Clerk's office cannot give legal advice. If you have questions about filing for bankruptcy or preparing the bankruptcy paperwork, please seek the advice of counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, please contact one of the following resources: (1) the RI Bar Association, which provides information on finding a lawyer at (401) 421-7799,www.ribar.com; (2) RI Legal Services at (800) 662-5034 or (401) 274-2652; or (3)the Volunteer Lawyer Program at (401) 421-7758.

    Pre-petition credit counseling from an approved agency is a requirement for filing bankruptcy. The list of authorized agencies for the state of Rhode Island is listed on the home page of this website.

  • Do I need to send a copy of the petition to anyone else?

    No, unless you fail to include a required creditor on the mailing list. The Clerk's office will notify all the creditors you have listed on your creditor mailing list of your bankruptcy filing as well as your case trustee and the United States Trustee, by mailing a written notice to them described in the above answer. For this reason, it is very important that you provide complete addresses, including city, state and zip code, for each creditor on your creditor list. If you later determine that you have missed including a required creditor, you must file a motion to amend the creditor list and submit a new disk with only the added creditors names and addresses, include the requiredmiscellaneous fee (cash or money order) and serve a copy of the Court’s Section 341 Meeting Notice to Creditors on the added creditors.

  • EXEMPTIONS, What are exemptions?

     

    11 U.S.C. § 522(b) allows an individual debtor to exempt real, personal, or intangible property from the property of the estate. Exempt assets are protected by state law from distribution to your creditors. Typically, exempt assets include vehicles up to a certain dollar amount, the equity in your home up to a certain amount, and tools of the trade.

    Exemptions are claimed on Schedule C. As with all schedules, it is important to fully complete and provide all the information requested. If no one objects to the exemptions you have listed within the time frame specified by the bankruptcy court, these assets will not be a part of your bankruptcy estate and will not be used to pay creditors through your bankruptcy case.

    Deciding which assets are exempt and how and if you can protect these assets from your creditors can be one of the more important and difficult aspects of your bankruptcy case. It is extremely important to consult an attorney if you have any questions regarding the issue of exempt assets.

  • How are creditors notified of my bankruptcy filing?

    A notice entitled “Notice of Chapter ____ Bankruptcy Case, Meeting of Creditors and Deadlines” is issued by the Court to the creditors listed on your creditor mailing list within 7 days of the filing, informing them of your case number, date of filing, social security number, the date of the Section 341 (creditor) meeting, and particular case deadlines. This notice is usually received by the creditors within a week of the filing.

  • How can I get immediate proof of my filing?

    If you feel a more immediate notice of your bankruptcy must be given to a particular creditor, it is your responsibility to determine what type of notice is appropriate and give that notice to the creditor. A printed “Notice of Bankruptcy Filing” can be obtained from the Clerk’s office. This Notice has the Court seal, and the date and time of your filing.

  • How long does a bankruptcy stay on my 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
    1-877-322-8228

    You can also contact the credit reporting agencies directly at:

    Equifax - www.equifax.com / 1-800-685-1111
    Experian - www.experian.com / 1-888-397-3742
    TransUnion - www.transunion.com / 1-800-916-8800

  • 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 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). Creditor Mailing List on disk. 

    For Chapter 13 cases: 

    The original documents only (petition, schedules and statements, plan with certificate of service & any attachments). Creditor Mailing List on disk.

    For Chapter 11 cases:

    The original documents AND Four ( 4) complete copies of all documents (petition, all schedules and statements & attachments). Creditor Mailing List on disk.

    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 3.5" floppy diskette or a CD. Please refer to the Creditor List on Disk instructions available on our website. If you do not have access to a computer, you may complete the disk requirement in the Clerk’s office public area using court computers.

  • 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'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 is not allowed to give legal advice and can't tell you how these new requirements will affect you.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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