Debtor Frequently Asked Questions


   1. Does your office provide the forms needed to file a bankruptcy petition? What about forms for motions, etc.? 
   2. Will you help me fill them out?
   3. Do I need credit counseling before I file my case?
   4. What is a Chapter 7 Means Test?
   5. What is a matrix (list of creditors)?
   6. What form of payment do you allow?
   7. Can I pay my filing fee in installments?
   8. Can my fee be waived?
   9. Do I have to have an attorney to file a bankruptcy case?
  10. What is the difference between Chapter 7, 11, and 13 cases?
  11. What is the automatic stay? When is it effective?
  12. How many copies of the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and matrix are necessary for me to file? How many copies are required for filing all other documents?
  13. What is a trustee?
  14. If I am a debtor, how do I report a change in my address to the Court?
  15. How can I obtain information about my case or get a hard copy of my bankruptcy papers?
  16. What is the wording for a “Certificate of Service?”
  17. What is a 341(a) meeting? Do I have to attend?
  18. Will I ever have to go before a judge?
  19. When will my case be closed?
  20. Why do you ship files to the Federal Records Center (FRC) in Fort Worth, Texas? How do I get my file from them if it has already been shipped?
  21. What are the consequences of filing for bankruptcy?
  22. How can I get my bankruptcy off of my credit report?
  23. When can I file bankruptcy again?
  24. I have a complaint about my attorney, who do I contact?

 

ANSWERS:

1. Does your office provide the forms needed to file a bankruptcy petition? What about forms for motions, etc.?  

Yes. Official bankruptcy forms are available from the Official Bankruptcy Forms section of this web site. Forms can also be purchased if you visit our one of our divisional offices. Forms for motions are not available, however, you should follow bankruptcy motion practice as stated in the Federal Bankruptcy Rules and Local Bankruptcy Rules.

2. Will you help me fill them out?

No. The bankruptcy petition forms are self-explanatory and 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 known as being Pro Se in latin, you will be responsible for all action on your behalf during the bankruptcy.

 
3. Do I need credit counseling before I file my case?

You must attend an approved credit counseling course prior to filing your bankruptcy petition if you are an individual (or spouse filing jointly) filing under Chapter 7, 11, 13, or your bankruptcy case may be dismissed.  Please see the U. S. Trustee’s List of Approved Credit Counseling Agencies.

 

4. What is a Chapter 7 Means Test?

As part of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 which became effective on October 17, 2005, a “means test” has been instituted to determine whether or not a debtor is entitled to a Chapter 7 Discharge, or whether such debtor must convert the case to one under another chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. The basic purpose of the means test is to compare monthly income and expenses to determine whether or not a Chapter 7 discharge would constitute an “abuse” of the provisions related to Chapter 7 in the Bankruptcy Code.

5. What is a matrix?

The term "matrix" can be used for the 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 your bankruptcy case. The list of creditors should be submitted at the time of the filing of your case. For more information click on the following: List of Creditors Specifications, List of Creditors Verification, and List of Creditors Sample.

 

6. What form of payment do you allow?

The debtor in a case may make payment for their initial filing fee, any subsequent filing fees, service requests, etc. by cash (if in person), money order, or cashier's check. No personal checks can be accepted on behalf of the debtor. Law firm checks or credit cards on behalf of the debtor are accepted.

 

7. Can I pay my filing fee in installments?
Bankruptcy Rule 1006 allows individual debtors the right to apply for permission to pay the filing fee in installments. The debtor must complete Form 3A Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments that states they are unable to pay the filing fee except in installments.  Fifty percent of the filing fee is due at the time the petition is filed (See Standing Order Related to Payment of Filing Fees in Installments [add link]), and the remainder of the filing fee must be paid within 120 days of the filing of the petition in four (or less) installment payments.

 

8. Can my fee be waived?

In lieu of paying the filing fee or filing an installment application, an individual chapter 7 debtor may file an application for waiver of the filing fee along with the bankruptcy petition. The application must conform substantially to Official Form 3B and be filed at the time of the petition.

 

9. Do I have to have an attorney to file a bankruptcy case?
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case, pro se, that is without the assistance of an attorney, it may be difficult to do so successfully. It is recommended that a person considering bankruptcy consult with a competent attorney prior to filing a case. For information on lawyer referrals contact the local bankruptcy bar association at State Bar of Texas.

 

10. What is the difference between Chapter 7, 11, and 13 cases?
See Bankruptcy Basics link.

11. What is the automatic stay? When is it effective?

The automatic stay protects the debtor from their creditors. It requires all collection efforts, any harassment, and all foreclosure actions be immediately stopped by creditors when the case is filed. It permits the debtor to attempt a repayment plan or simply to be relieved of the financial pressures that drove them into bankruptcy. The automatic stay also protects creditors. Without it, certain creditors would be able to pursue their own remedies against the debtor’s property. Those who acted first would obtain payment of the claims thus, making it impossible for other creditors to collect anything. Bankruptcy is designed to provide an orderly liquidation procedure under which all creditors with equal rights are treated equally. Parties who violate the automatic stay can, under certain circumstances, be held liable for damages and may be held in contempt of court.

 

12. How many copies of the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and matrix are necessary for me to file? How many copies are required for filing all other documents?

  See Filing Procedures for the correct number of copies.

 

13. What is a trustee?

A trustee is a person who works with the court to administer bankruptcy cases. In a Chapter 7 case, a trustee takes possession of the debtor's assets, sells them, and distributes the proceeds to the creditors. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee administers the debtor's plan of payment, collects the funds, and pays the creditors. For more information about trustees, go to the U.S. Trustee web site.

14. If I am a debtor, how do I report a change in my address to the Court?

It is the debtor’s responsibility to keep the Court updated of any change in address for noticing purposes. The debtor must file a Letter of Change of address stating your name and case number with the Court immediately upon change.
 

15. How can I obtain information about my case or get a hard copy of my bankruptcy papers?

If you file as a pro se (without an attorney) debtor, it is your responsibility to retain copies of your documents, however, should you need additional copies, you may contact the clerk’s office for assistance.

16. What is the wording for a “Certificate of Service?

A Certificate of Service is usually on the last page of any document that you are required to serve on parties in interest in your case. The standard Certificate of Service states:

      CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

      I certify that on (insert date) a true and correct copy of (insert name of documents you are serving) were served upon the following parties by regular first class mail (list names and addresses of parties on whom the documents are being served and be sure to include the case trustee and the U. S. Trustee).

      __________________________________________________________
      Signature of person doing the mailing Date served

17. What is a 341(a) meeting? Do I have to attend?

A 341(a) meeting is the first meeting with the debtor, trustee, and creditors. The U.S. Trustee or the appointed trustee will conduct the meeting allowing the debtor to be examined by their creditors. The creditor may inquire about the debtor’s financial status, conduct and financial affairs, and any other matters that are relevant to the administration of the debtor’s estate, including factors which bear on an individual debtor’s right to a discharge or to the dischargeability of any particular obligation, or the debtor’s claimed exemptions. The debtor(s) must attend this meeting.

18. Will I ever have to go before a judge?

Individual debtors are eligible to receive their chapter 7 discharge 60 days from the date set for the 341(a) meeting of creditors unless a party in interest objects to the discharge in a timely manner or the Court orders otherwise. A discharge will not be issued unless the debtor has filed with the Court a statement regarding completion of a course in personal financial management as required by Rule 1007(b) 7.

19. When will my case be closed?

Since all cases bear unique circumstances, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time that your case will be closed. Many Chapter 7 no asset cases are closed within 90-days from filing if no disputes have arisen. Chapter 7 asset cases require that the trustee liquidate the assets which sometimes can take up to a year or longer. Chapter 13 cases remain open as long as the plan payments are being made, generally for three to five years after the plan has been confirmed. Chapter 11 reorganization cases are more complicated and may remain open longer than three years even if a plan has been confirmed.

 

20. Why do you ship files to the Federal Records Center (FRC) in Fort Worth, Texas? How do I get my file from them if it has already been shipped?
Files are shipped to the FRC because of the limited physical space available at the clerk's office for storage. When cases are closed, they are sent to the FRC for storage. You may request that we retrieve the file with a $45 retrieval fee or you may deal directly with the FRC using the Request Form for Bankruptcy Case.

  21. What are the consequences of filing for bankruptcy?

Depending on a debtor’s financial condition and reasons for filing, the consequences of filing for bankruptcy protection may outweigh the benefits. Not all debts are dischargeable. The Bankruptcy Code imposes several time limitations during the course of a case. Failure to adhere to this deadlines may result in the dismissal of your case. Submission of fraudulent information or commission of certain acts by the debtor can be grounds for denial of discharge and can give rise to criminal charges.

22. How can I get my bankruptcy off of my credit report?

The bankruptcy clerk does not report to any credit office, however, the bankruptcy records, docket sheets, files, etc. are public record. Members of credit reporting agencies retrieve this public information through electronic services or with actual visits to the office. You may contact credit agencies to update your records if desired. Further, credit reporting agencies are governed by various state and federal non-bankruptcy laws regarding the accuracy of their information. You should contact an attorney concerning any problems as the clerk's office cannot provide legal advice.

 

23. When can I file bankruptcy again?

The court will deny a discharge in a later chapter 7 case if the debtor received a discharge under chapter 7 or chapter 11 in a case filed within eight years before the second petition is filed. The court will also deny a chapter 7 discharge if the debtor previously received a discharge in a chapter 12 or chapter 13 case filed within six years before the date of the filing of the second case unless (1) the debtor paid all "allowed unsecured" claims in the earlier case in full, or (2) the debtor made payments under the plan in the earlier case totaling at least 70 percent of the allowed unsecured claims and the debtor's plan was proposed in good faith and the payments represented the debtor's best effort. A debtor is ineligible for discharge under chapter 13 if he or she received a prior discharge in a chapter 7, 11, or 12 case filed four years before the current case or in a chapter 13 case filed two years before the current case. Each case is different and it is strongly suggested that you seek legal advice from a competent bankruptcy attorney on this matter.

24.  I have a complaint about my attorney, who do I contact?

The written rules of professional conduct for lawyers are contained in the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (for misconduct occurring on or after January 1, 1990), or the Code of Professional Responsibility (for misconduct occurring before January 1, 1990). If you have additional questions, you may contact the Office of the General Counsel, State Bar of Texas at 1-900-932-1900 or go to the State Bar of Texas web site.