Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?
Individuals are not required to have an attorney to file bankruptcy, although it is highly recommended. Corporations, partnerships, and trusts must be represented by an attorney to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is an extremely technical area of law, and many issues can be complicated, such as what is considered exempt property, whether or not a debt can be discharged and whether or not the automatic stay applies. Also, there are a substantial number of documents required to be filed to commence a case, many of which are also extremely technical. An attorney can advise debtors on these issues. The staff at the Bankruptcy Clerk’s office cannot give legal advice. If you have questions about filing for bankruptcy or preparing the bankruptcy paperwork, please seek the advice of counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, please contact one of the following resources: (1) CT Statewide Legal Services at (860)344-0380; or (2) complete a ProBono Application for free representation if your case would be filed in the New Haven or Bridgeport divisions.
What should I bring to an initial consultation with a Bankruptcy Attorney?
In order to make your first appointment the most productive, please bring as many of the following documents as you might have:
Prior year’s tax return
One month of paystubs for all workers living in your household
List of all regular monthly expenses
List of all debt (credit card, unpaid medical bills, unpaid taxes, etc)
Most current bank statements on all accounts
If you have a mortgage and car loan, bring the most current statement showing the monthly payment amount and the payoff amount
Any paperwork you may have received indicating that creditors have taken legal action against you because of unpaid debt
Is there a fee to file a bankruptcy case?
Yes. There is a filing fee to commence a bankruptcy case which varies by the chapter of the case filed, as well as various miscellaneous fees that may apply for filing certain documents or services requested. Because filing fees change frequently, it is recommended that you visit the Filing Fees page on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s website for the most up to date fee information. See Filing Fees by Clicking Here
Can the case filing fee be waived?
Only in a very limited circumstance and with court approval can the case filing fee be waived. For chapter 7 individual cases only, there is a procedure for proceeding In Forma Pauperis if the debtor’s income is less than 150 percent of the official poverty line applicable to your family size and you are unable to pay the fee in installments. If you cannot afford to pay the fee either in full at the time of filing or in payments, then you may request a waiver of the filing fee.
What is the difference between Chapters 7,11 and 13?
Chapter 7: Often called “liquidation” Chapter 7 is used by individuals, partnerships, or corporations who have no hope for repairing their financial situation. In Chapter 7, the debtor’s estate is liquidated under the rules of the Bankruptcy Code. Liquidation is the process through which the debtor’s non-exempt property is sold for cash by a case trustee and the cash is distributed to creditors. At the conclusion of this process, individual debtors receive a discharge of their dischargeable debts.
Chapter 11: Often called “reorganization” Chapter 11 allows corporations, partnerships, and individuals to reorganize their debts, without having to liquidate all their assets. In a Chapter 11 case, the debtor presents a plan to creditors which, if accepted by the creditors and approved by the Court, will allow the debtor to reorganize personal, financial or business affairs and again become financially productive.
Chapter 13: An individual with regular income who is overcome, but believes they cab repay their debts within a reasonable period of time, may file under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 13 permits the debtor to file a plan in which the debtor agrees to pay a certain percentage of future income to the Bankruptcy Court for payment to creditors. If the Court approves the plan, the debtor will be under the Court’s protection while repaying such debts.
What is the Bankruptcy Code?
First enacted in 1978 and substantially revised in 2005, the Bankruptcy Code contains the statutes (laws) that grant legal forgiveness of debt for businesses or individuals in financial difficulty. There are two primary types of bankruptcy relief available under the Code: liquidation (Chapter 7) or reorganization (Chapters 11, 12 and 13). These options are best discussed with a qualified attorney. The Bankruptcy Code is available at your local law library.
What is the Automatic Stay?
The filing of a bankruptcy petition automatically stays (stops) most actions, including collections, foreclosures, and repossessions, against the debtor or the debtor’s property. It is called “automatic” because the stay begins automatically at the time the bankruptcy case is filed with the Clerk’s office. Once the stay is in place, creditors are prohibited from taking certain actions against a debtor without court permission. Some creditors, particularly those involved with repossessions or foreclosures, may immediately file pleadings with the court to go forward with foreclosure or repossessions actions. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a bankruptcy attorney to verify that the automatic stay is applicable to your specific circumstances.
Will the automatic stay stop creditors from calling my home and work?
Yes, it should. After you file your bankruptcy petition with the court commencing a case, the Clerk’s office will send a written notice of your bankruptcy filing to all of your creditors at the addresses you list on your creditor mailing list. Although this notice goes out within one to two days of case filing, it may take up to a week or longer for creditors to receive this notice. If a creditor calls after you have filed your petition, simply tell them you have filed for bankruptcy, give them the case number and the district (the state in which you filed), and indicate that the will receive notice of this in the mail. If the creditor was not listed on your mailing list, you may amend your bankruptcy schedules so that future notices about your bankruptcy can be sent to that creditor. Adding a creditor, later on, requires a fee. It is important to make sure you list all your creditors on your initial creditor list because if a creditor doesn’t get notice of your bankruptcy, that debt might not be discharged in your bankruptcy, and adding them, later on, will cost you more money.
Once a creditor receives notice of your bankruptcy filing, they may not attempt collection of a debt from you unless they follow certain actions, such as obtaining relief from stay, if allowed by the court. Then, if a creditor continues to try to collect a debt from you after being notified of your bankruptcy, you should contact an attorney immediately for advice.
How many copies of court documents do I need to file with the Clerk’s office?
None. You may bring an extra copy to be time-stamped for your records
Can I get a copy of my Bankruptcy Petition when I file it?
If you would like to have a conformed (file-stamped) copy of bankruptcy documents you file with the Clerk’s office, you must make one extra copy of these documents for yourself. The Clerk will file stamp the extra copies and return them to you. If you are mailing your documents to the Clerk’s office, you must include an extra copy and provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope with enough postage to cover return postage for these documents.
You should keep copies of all legal documents, including your bankruptcy petition and discharge order, if granted, in a safe place as you may need them in the future to secure mortgages, loans, and/or to dispute credit reports.