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What chapter is right for me?
Your decision whether to file bankruptcy and under which chapter to file depends on your particular circumstances. In general, Chapter 7 is appropriate when the Debtor has insufficient income to pay a portion of his/her debts, and the Debtor is not seeking to keep non-exempt property. Otherwise, if the Debtor has an income or property and can afford to repay at least some of his/her debts, Chapter 11, 12 or 13 may be appropriate, depending on whether the Debtor is an individual, partnership, corporation, or a family farmer. The decision whether to file a bankruptcy case and under which chapter is an extremely important decision and has tremendous financial impact. This decision should be made after obtaining expert advice from a bankruptcy attorney.
Who can be a debtor in a bankruptcy case?
An individual, a partnership or a corporation (defined as including a qualifying business trust) may file a bankruptcy petition. For more information, see section 109 of the Bankruptcy Code.
What is a Pro Se Debtor?
A pro se debtor is an individual who files a bankruptcy case without an attorney. A pro se debtor is responsible for all proceedings of his/her case. It is recommended that all debtors seek legal advice before filing bankruptcy
Where can I obtain bankruptcy forms?
Official Bankruptcy Forms are available under the Bankruptcy section of the United States Court’s website. Copies of the complete chapter 7 form package also are available in the Clerk’s office. You should review and follow bankruptcy motion practice as stated in the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Local Bankruptcy Rules.
Will you help me fill out the forms?
No. You or your attorney must complete them. The bankruptcy clerk’s staff is prohibited from giving legal advice, which includes instruction on how to complete the forms. If you are acting as your own attorney, which is also known as being pro se, you will be responsible for all actions on your behalf during the bankruptcy case. For all legal advice that you might need, you should speak to an attorney.
Do I need an attorney to represent me in my bankruptcy case?
No. Any debtor filing an individual bankruptcy has a right to represent him or herself (pro se debtor). However, the use of an attorney is strongly recommended. Ignorance of the law may cost an individual far more than an attorney’s fee.
Do I need an attorney to represent my business in a bankruptcy case?
If your business is a sole proprietorship (not a corporation, partnership, LLP or LLC), you have the right to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney. However, by law, a corporation, partnership, LLP or LLC is required to have an attorney.
What if I cannot afford to hire an attorney?
Paying for an attorney may appear unaffordable for some, but the benefits of having a competent bankruptcy attorney represent you in your case often more than justifies the cost. In a chapter 7 case, attorney fees are usually paid by the debtor before the case is filed. In a chapter 13 case, fees may be paid through the debtor’s repayment plan. Local bar associations often provide lawyer referral services. For debtors who meet certain income and asset guidelines, there also are legal service organizations that may be able to provide representation.
What services can a bankruptcy petition preparer provide?
A "bankruptcy petition preparer" is a person or firm not authorized to act as an attorney, but who fills out your bankruptcy petition and related forms for a fee. They may not give you legal advice. Their services are subject to restrictions and limitations under the Bankruptcy Code.
Bankruptcy petition preparers sign all documents they prepare for you, but they are not authorized to sign any document on your behalf. Therefore, you must also sign all documents yourself if they require your signature.
Bankruptcy petition preparers are prohibited by law from collecting or receiving any Court fees connected with your case. Consequently, if you use a petition preparer you are required to pay all Court fees directly to the Court, including the filing fee and any other fees that may become due. You should immediately notify the United States Trustee and any trustee appointed in your case if you think a bankruptcy petition preparer fails to comply with the law.
Can the filing fee be waived?
Yes, but only in chapter 7 cases filed by individuals. To qualify for a filing fee waiver in a chapter 7 case, the debtor must meet certain income and expense guidelines. The application must conform substantially with Official Form B103B and must be filed at the time of the petition.
Can I pay my filing fee in installments?
Yes. If a debtor is unable to pay the filing fee except in installments, the court may grant the debtor permission to pay the filing fee in installments. The debtor must complete and sign an Application and Order to Pay Filing Fee in Installments using Official Form B103A. The entire filing fee must be paid within 120 days of the filing of the petition in four (or less) installment payments.
What is Credit Counseling?
Credit counseling generally refers to the "individual or group briefing" from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. There are exceptions to the requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling.
The U.S. Trustee’s office provides a list of Approved Credit Counseling Providers.
What is financial management?
An individual debtor in chapters 7 and 13 must complete an "instructional course in personal financial management” before a discharge is entered. There are certain exceptions to the requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling. Please refer to the U.S. Trustee’s office list of Approved Financial Management Course Providers which may be found on this court’s website.
What does it mean if my case is dismissed?
A dismissal order ends the bankruptcy case before a discharge order is entered. When the Court dismisses the case, creditors may start to collect debts again. An order of dismissal does not free the debtor from any debt.
If my case gets dismissed, can I file another?
Maybe. It depends on the reason why the case was dismissed. The court’s dismissal order may impose restrictions on a debtor’s right to file another case. Also, if section 109(g) of the Bankruptcy Code is applicable, the debtor is barred from filing another case for a period of time.
Can I speak directly to the Judge about my case.
No. The bankruptcy judge, the judge’s staff and the Clerk’s officer are prohibited from giving any legal advice. More significantly, any communication with the judge without the presence of other parties is not permitted. To speak to a judge about your case, you must file a motion.
What is the chapter 7 means test?
The “means test” is used to determine whether or not a debtor is entitled to file a case under chapter 7 or whether such debtor must convert the case to another chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Generally, under the means test, the court compares the debtor’s monthly income and expenses in order to determine whether or not granting a chapter 7 discharge would constitute an “abuse” of the Bankruptcy Code.
What is a “matrix?”
A matrix is a list of all creditors in a bankruptcy case, including the names and addresses of each creditor. This list is used for electronic noticing required during the course of a bankruptcy case. The matrix should be submitted at the time of the filing of your case. Please see the Court’s Matrix Requirements, which may be found on the court’s website by following the “Court Info” link.
What is a 341 hearing?
A “341 meeting” is the required “meeting of creditors”under section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. All creditors are notified of the meeting so that they may attend, but their attendance is not mandatory. Debtors must appear, testify under oath and answer questions from the trustee and any creditors who appear.
This meeting is held within 50 days after the petition is filed. Debtors are required to provide the trustee with photo identification and proof of social security number. A debtor’s failure to appear may result in dismissal of the case.
What are exemptions?
Debtors are permitted to keep certain property in bankruptcy and such exempt property cannot be used to pay creditors. For more information on exemptions. See section 522 of the Bankruptcy Code.