FAQs: Before Filing Bankruptcy

  • File Documents, Who Is Authorized To File Electronically?

    The court uses a system called “CM/ECF” for attorneys (and some other organizations that file lots of documents) to electronically file, view and copy bankruptcy case documents. Only attorneys who have registered with a court and been provided with a CM/ECF password are entitled to file documents electronically.

    To Register for CM/ECF.

    To review CM/ECF filing requirements and procedures, see the Court Manual.


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  • Filing Fee, What If I Cannot Afford To File For Bankruptcy?

    In some situations, the court may approve a filing fee to be paid in installments or waived completely. Note that if an installment payment plan is approved, the payment schedule must be complied with or the bankruptcy case may be dismissed without the debtor obtaining a discharge of debts.

    Chapter 13 Petition Package – In chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, it is generally not allowed to have a filing fee waived or to pay in installments. The purpose of chapter 13 is to keep current with payments, and therefore if the filing fee is not affordable, the court will question a debtor's ability to succeed in a chapter 13 case.

    Chapter 11 Petition Package – In chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, fee waivers or installment payments usually are not allowed.

    Chapter 7 Petition Package - If a debtor files a chapter 7 bankruptcy case and the debtor's income is less than 150% above the federal H.H.S Poverty Guidelines (which varies depending on your family size), the court may waive the filing fee completely or approve payments in installments. The debtor must make a written request to the court and submit the request at the Clerk's Office intake window at the time the bankruptcy petition is filed. The intake staff will contact the judge to whom the bankruptcy case is assigned, and the judge will make a decision as soon as is possible. This may require the debtor to wait at the courthouse for a few hours if the judge is not available right away, or the debtor may have to return on the next day that the court is open. Even if the court does not waive the filing fee, the court may allow a debtor to pay the filing fee in installments.

    Download Form: Fee Installments and Waiver Application

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  • New Law, Can I Still File For Bankruptcy?

    The new bankruptcy laws went into effect on October 17, 2005. These laws do not prevent a debtor from filing bankruptcy, though the new bankruptcy laws contain some differences.

    The main procedural difference is in the information that a debtor must provide to the bankruptcy court in order to open a bankruptcy case and to obtain a discharge.

    Other differences include:

    1. how long an individual must wait to obtain a discharge if the debtor had a prior bankruptcy;
    2. the income level required in order to obtain a discharge in a chapter 7 case;
    3. how long the Automatic Stay lasts; or
    4. the procedure for reaffirming a debt on an automobile or a credit card.


    It is highly recommended that an individual or business owner consult with a bankruptcy attorney to learn how the changes in bankruptcy laws may impact the particular financial situation.

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  • Personal Financial Management Certificate, Do I Need To File This?

    Form B23 + Number of the Personal Financial Management Course Certificate - Within 60 days after the first 341(a) Meeting of Creditors, individuals must file a mandatory court form (Form 23/B23). It is not necessary to file the Certificate of Completion. Instead, the debtor is required to insert the certificate number on Form B23, and a joint debtor must fill out and file a separate Form B23 with a separate certificate number. If an individual delays in doing this, the bankruptcy case will likely be closed (not dismissed) without a discharge of debts being granted. If the case is closed, an individual debtor will have to file a motion to reopen the bankruptcy case (and pay a substantial filing fee) and to extend the time to have Form B23 placed on the court docket and a discharge order entered. Important rules are Bankruptcy Code Sections 727(a)(11), 1141(d)(3), and 1328(g). 

    Mandatory Court Form: Debtor’s Certification of Completion of Postpetition Instructional Course Concerning Personal Financial Management (B23)

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  • Personal Identification, How Can I Protect Mine In Bankruptcy

     A) General Privacy Policy - The Judicial Conference privacy policy addresses the protection of individual privacy in the context of access to electronic case files. Effective December 1, 2003, the policy requires that personal identifiers, such as Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, dates of birth, and names of minor children be redacted. A debtor and others who file documents with the court are responsible for redacting personal identifiers from documents filed with the court. Neither the clerk's office nor bankruptcy judges are responsible for this.

    The privacy policy applies to all documents filed with the court, whether submitted by electronic means or by paper copy. The policy is not retroactive.

    B) Excluding a Debtor's Personal Identifiers from Petition Packages - In compliance with the Judicial Conference privacy policy, effective December, 1, 2003, filers should redact certain personal or sensitive information from documents filed with the Court. "Personal identifiers" are the following:

    1. Social Security Numbers: All 9 digits of the SSN - A debtor is required to submit a Statement of Social Security Number(s) (Form B21) containing the full nine-digit SSN at the time a petition is filed. The bankruptcy court clerk's office staff will use the information to open a bankruptcy case docket, but the actual Form B21 will not become part of the docket that is viewable by the public. Last 4 digits only – For all other documents in which an individual's SSN must be included, ONLY insert the last four digits of the SSN. If a debtor needs to amend a social security number, 3 forms must be filed. Download form below.
    2. Financial Account Numbers: If financial account numbers are relevant, only the last four digits of these numbers should be used.
    3. Dates of Birth: If an individual's date of birth must be included in a document, only the year should be used.

    C) Excluding Names of Minor Children -- If the name of a minor child must be mentioned in a document, only the initials of that child should be used.

    Download Form: Amended Statement of Social Security Number(s) or ITIN Number

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  • Reaffirmation Agreement, Can I Choose To Keep Property By Entering Into One?

    An individual debtor can choose to keep certain personal property (such as an automobile) by entering into a Reaffirmation Agreement and having the Reaffirmation Agreement approved by the court. A Reaffirmation Agreement turns a debt that would be discharged into a debt that will not be discharged. This is a decision that should rarely be made and should only be done if the creditor is giving up something in exchange, such as a reduction in loan amount or interest. The Reaffirmation Agreement can be entered into after the bankruptcy case is filed, and there are very detailed and specific requirements which must be complied with.

    Court Hearing Not Required – It is not necessary for the bankruptcy judge to approve a Reaffirmation Agreement if a debtor is represented by an attorney during negotiations for the Reaffirmation Agreement and the attorney signs all appropriate sections of the Reaffirmation Agreement.

    Court Hearing Required – A bankruptcy judge must review a Reaffirmation Agreement during a court hearing if the debtor is not represented by an attorney during negotiations for the Reaffirmation Agreement. The debtor must attend the court hearing so that the bankruptcy judge can ask questions of the debtor and examine the Reaffirmation Agreement and make sure that it is in the best interest of the debtor to approve the Reaffirmation Agreement. The judge may decide to disapprove the Reaffirmation Agreement even if the debtor has signed it.

    See Reaffirmation Agreement Cover Sheet

    See Reaffirmation Agreement Form

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