General Information Before Filing a Bankruptcy Case


Filing Without The Assistance Of An Attorney:
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case “pro se”, that is, without the assistance of an attorney, it can be difficult to do so. The bankruptcy law is complicated and not easily described, and you should, if possible, seek the advice of an attorney. If you intend to proceed without representation of counsel, you should be prepared to assume all responsibility for the outcome of your case.

Legal Advice:
A bankruptcy case is a legal proceeding affecting the rights of debtors, creditors and other parties in interest. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 955, clerk’s office staff are prohibited from giving information which may be characterized as legal advice or assisting with the preparation of forms. Clerk’s office staff will not offer any opinion as to the probable disposition of any matter by the court. The information provided by clerk’s office staff is limited to explaining the filing requirements of the court.

Privacy Rules:
Redacting Personal Data Identifiers in All Documents. You are required by law* to leave out or remove from your petition certain personal identifier information. The responsibility of redacting personal identifiers rests solely with you, the filer. The Clerk’s office will not review documents for compliance with this rule or redact information on documents.

1. Social Security Numbers. If your social security number must be included in a pleading, including the voluntary petition, only the last four digits of that number should be used. You are required to submit Official Form B21, Statement of Social Security Number at the time of filing your bankruptcy petition. That form should contain the full social security number. Form 21 is not part of the public record and will not be available to the public

2. Names of Minor Children. If the involvement of a minor child must be mentioned, only the minor’s initials should be used.

3. Financial Account Numbers. If the financial account numbers are relevant, only the last four numbers of the account number should be used.

4. Dates of Birth. If an individual’s date of birth must be included in a pleading, only the year should be used.

Communication With The Court:
If you are having a problem with any of your creditors after the filing of your bankruptcy, it is NOT possible to communicate in person or by phone with the bankruptcy judge. If you need to seek relief from the court, you must file a written motion specifying the relief you seek. The matter may then be set for hearing before the judge. The clerk’s office cannot assist you with any problems you might have with any of your creditors. This office cannot act on your behalf in any dispute you might have with a creditor.

Credit Counseling Requirement:
The bankruptcy law requires that a debtor seek credit counseling prior to filing a bankruptcy petition. The Office of the United States Trustee has an approved list of credit counseling agencies for each state. Please see a link on our website for the current list. The certificate of completion must be filed with the bankruptcy petition.

Signatures:
When filing a joint case (husband and wife), both debtor and joint debtor are required to sign all documents and pleadings for filing. Pro se debtors should provide a daytime phone number under their signature.

Attendance at 341 Meeting:
The code requires the chapter 7 or 13 debtor(s) to attend a meeting of creditors which is held 20 to 60 days after filing. You will receive a notice from the court indicating the date, time and location of this meeting. At this meeting, you and any joint debtor are placed under oath. Both the trustee and creditors have the opportunity to ask you questions. You are required to answer questions regarding your financial affairs and property.

Financial Management Course:
After you have filed your bankruptcy case, you must complete a financial management course and file a certificate of completion. If the certificate of completion of the financial management course is not filed timely, your case can be closed without you receiving a discharge. In a chapter 7 case the certificate must be filed within 45 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. In a chapter 13 case, the debtor has until the date of the last scheduled plan payment. A list of providers of this course who are approved by the U.S. Trustee can be located on our website.

*In compliance with the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States and the E-Government Act of 2002, filing parties shall omit or, where inclusion is necessary, partially redact certain personal identifiers from all documents, pleadings and exhibits filed with the court, except with regard to Form 21, Statement of Social Security Number, unless otherwise ordered by the Court or required by statue, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure or the Official Bankruptcy Forms