Last week I introduced a topic that we’ll cover in coming weeks: how to file bankruptcy pro se. My last post discussed what needs to be filed. This week I’ll talk about how to complete the petition. But we start with the consumer credit counseling course that everyone filing bankruptcy must take. This course is mandated by the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (“BAPCPA”). Before a person can file under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code she must complete this course and obtain a certificate of completion from the provider. The certificate must be dated within 180 days prior to filing. Here is a list of all approved providers in the state of Utah. The course takes about 45 minutes to an hour, is done online and costs about $20. If you’re filing jointly (husband and wife), each of you must take the course and obtain a certificate.
Once you have the course certificate, you are ready to complete the various documents that must be filed. The first of these is the petition. A petition is what actually starts the bankruptcy. Each of the documents that must be filed has an official name and number. The petition is Form b101. Here is a link to the official form. It’s strongly recommended that you open this link as you read the instructions in this and all subsequent posts on how to complete the form.
Debtor 1 and Debtor 2. This is only for married couples. Whether you are married depends on whether the law of the state where you live considers you married or not. Separated couples whose divorce is not final are considered married. If your marriage has been terminated for any reason, divorce, annulment, dissolution or whatever, you are not married and cannot file jointly. It doesn’t matter who is Debtor 1 and who is Debtor 2; just be consistent throughout the petition and other documents.
Boxes 1-5 are self-explanatory, so we won’t cover how to complete them.
Box 6: This asks why you are choosing this district in which to file. You will ordinarily file in the district where you currently live. However, if you have lived in that district for less than three months, you might file in the district from which you moved. The correct district is determined by the district where you lived for the longest period of time in the past 180 days. So, for example, if you moved to Utah two months ago and before that lived in California, you would have to file in California or wait another month until you have lived in Utah for more of the past six months than you lived in California.
Boxes 7-11. These give information about your case. Box 7 is where you tell the court which chapter of the Bankruptcy Code you are filing under. It will generally be either Chapter 7 or 13. Box 8 indicates whether you will pay the entire feel when you file (currently $335 for Chapter 7 and $310 for Chapter 13); whether you will ask to pay it in installments; or whether you will ask for a fee waiver because you can’t afford the filing fee. Box 9 requires you to disclose any prior bankruptcies in the past 8 years. If you have filed bankruptcy and received a discharge in the past 8 years, it might affect your ability to file again. Box 10 asks if any bankruptcy cases involving you are currently pending in any district anywhere in the United States. Box 11 asks if you rent your residence and, if so, whether your landlord has obtained a judgment of eviction against you. If you are under a judgment of eviction, your bankruptcy will not delay eviction proceedings.
Boxes 12-14. These ask about any businesses that you operate as a sole proprietor. If you operate a business that is incorporated or is a limited liability company (LLC), you will disclose information about that elsewhere. Box 15 asks if any property that you own poses an environmental hazard, such as a gas station that might have leaking underground tanks. This is so the trustee knows that he has to deal with such problems immediately.
Box 15 asks about the consumer credit counseling course. You should be able to check the first box, that you have taken a class and received a certificate. If you can’t, you might still be able to file but unless you can produce a certificate showing the class was taken before you filed within two days of actually filing, your case will be dismissed.
Box 16 requires you to classify your debts as consumer or non-consumer. This is critical because, if your debts are primarily non-consumer debts, you are not subject to the requirements of the Means Test. A consumer debt is a debt that is for personal or household purposes, such as a home loan, most credit cards, medical bills, car loans, RV and other vehicle loans, and the like. A non-consumer debt is one that is not for personal or household purposes. If you took out a second mortgage on your house but used the money in your business, that debt would be non-consumer. If you have a credit card that you use for business only, that credit card would be non-consumer. Classify your debts as consumer or non-consumer and add up each category. Whichever category is bigger determines whether your debts are “primarily” consumer or non-consumer.
Boxes 17-20. These are self-explanatory.
Part 7. Here you sign your name and date below each signature. Following your signature page is a place for your attorney to sign. If you’re filing pro se, you won’t include that page in your petition.
Notification Page. The last page is a notice to you about the consequences of filing bankruptcy. If you are filing pro se, you must complete and sign this page.