Once you've determined that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is for you, filling out the extensive bundle of forms, called a "petition," will be the most time-consuming part of this undertaking. For most cases it isn't difficult, but the forms are very detailed, and it is crucial to be accurate. If you work on the petition a little each day, you can expect to be done in about two weeks.
Make sure you have your most recent tax return and your wage stubs for the last 60 days on hand. Not only will you need to include these when you file, but you will need to refer to the information in them as you fill out the bankruptcy petition.
Attend a credit counseling class within the 180 days before filing. This is mandatory, and the counseling must be from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee Office (see Resources). You can take this class online, by phone or in person. Be sure you receive your certificate from the agency; you will need to include this in your petition.
Download the official Chapter 7 Bankruptcy forms from the Federal U.S. Courts website (see Resources). You can use a typewriter or fill the forms out online and print them out; either way, do not write by hand.
Go to your local bankruptcy court or its website (see Resources) to download any additional forms that your local court may require. For example, each court has different forms to attach to your wage stubs.
Be sure to answer every question truthfully. If a question does not apply to you or your answer is "none" or "0," simply write "N/A" in the space provided. Remember to fill out the court name ("Central District of California", for example) and the debtor name (your name) on every form in the space provided.
Every form and schedule comes with instructions for filling it out. Read it carefully and fill out all the paperwork. Depending on your individual case, there will be about 22 separate forms. When you are ready to file, put the forms are in the correct order, attach them in the preferred manner (paper clip or stapled) and sign and date each one.
Go to your local bankruptcy courthouse to file your petition. The cost is currently $299 and aside from the wait time until they call your number, it should only take five minutes or so. Bring the required number of copies (usually two), plus one additional copy for your own records that the court will stamp.
- Be absolutely thorough. The smallest error, even accidental, may cause your case to be denied.
- If you need help or further explanation, see a local bankruptcy lawyer or a bankruptcy petition preparer.
- If you need help but cannot afford a lawyer, purchase the DIY book "How To File For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy," which includes all necessary forms and detailed step-by-step instructions.
- How To File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; Stephen Elias, Albin Renauer & Robin Leonard; 2009