Pro se litigants are expected to follow the rules that govern procedures in the federal courts and should be familiar with the following:

Before You File

Before you file a petition, there are a series of things you must do. The rules are very technical, and a misstep may affect a debtor’s rights. Please review the information below to ensure that your bankruptcy case meets all requirements.

Evaluate consequences of filing for bankruptcy

Depending on a debtor's financial situation and reasons for filing, the consequences of filing for bankruptcy protection may outweigh the benefits. Those considering bankruptcy should be aware of the following:

  • Filing for bankruptcy protection is not free. Please refer to the Fee Schedule.
  • Not all debts are dischargeable.
    Example: Secured creditors retain some rights which may permit them to seize property, even after a discharge is granted. Spousal and child support obligations and most tax debts are not dischargeable.
  • Within 14 days of the filing of a bankruptcy petition, schedules of the debtor's assets and liabilities must be filed. Failure to timely file the appropriate schedules may result in dismissal of the bankruptcy and the barring of the debtor from filing again for 180 days (six months). 11 U.S.C. § 521 mandates that a chapter 7 or chapter 13 case “shall be automatically dismissed effective on the 46th day after the date of filing of the petition” if the debtor fails to file “all information required by 11 U.S.C. 521(a)(1)” within 45 days of filing.
  • If a case is not dismissed and a discharge is entered by the court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted another discharge in chapters 7 and 11 within six years.
  • Fraudulent information or acts by the debtor are grounds for denial of a discharge and may be punishable as a criminal offense.

Obtain necessary credit counseling

Individual debtors are required to obtain credit counseling from an approved provider within 180 days before filing the petition and submit the Certificate of Credit Counseling with their petition. Failure to do so could cause your case to be dismissed.

Complete Means Testing

Most individual debtors filing for bankruptcy are required to provide Official Form 122A - Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income or Official Form 122C Chapter 13 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income and Calculation of Commitment Period when they file the petition or within 14 days after filing the petition. Calculate Means Testing (external link) via the U.S. Trustee Program website.

Obtain the correct forms

Filing Forms

Ensure you have the correct forms prior to beginning your bankruptcy. Petition forms may be downloaded at no charge from the Bankruptcy Forms section of this website. A package of the forms required for filing may also be purchased from any legal stationery store.

To identify the forms you’ll need, review the Required Lists, Schedules, Statements and Fees or visit our Filing Requirements page relative to the bankruptcy chapter type you are filing (i.e. Chapter 7, Chapter 11, etc.).

Tax Returns

Be sure to also have a transcript of your IRS tax return. You may request a copy of your tax return from the IRS website (external link). The IRS website provides information about how to request copies of tax return information along with necessary forms for download. Upon filing for bankruptcy, the Trustee assigned to your case will request a copy of your most recent tax return(s) and you will need it for your 341(a) Meeting.

Understand Fees

Payment from debtors may be in the form of a bank cashier's check or a U.S. Postal money order. The Clerk's office does not accept cash. Personal checks and credit cards will not be accepted from individual debtors or debtors in possession. To identify the fees related to your bankruptcy type, review the Required Lists, Schedules, Statements and Fees.