Filing Without an Attorney, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Filing Without An Attorney (Pro-Se Debtor)



Can I view bankruptcy documents on the court's website?

Complete case information is immediately available to attorneys, parties and the general public through PACER. This includes the ability to view the full text of all filed documents and the case information. Please see the PACER website for subscription information.

Can the public access CM/ECF to electronically file documents?

No. Full access is given to attorneys and limited access is available to certain other professionals (creditors, trustee staff, etc.). All have completed CM/ECF training and as registered participants, have been given a login and password to file in CM/ECF.

How do I get the Bankruptcy removed from my credit report?

The bankruptcy court has no jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 6 U.S.C. Section 605, is the law that controls credit reporting agencies.

The law states that credit reporting agencies may not report a bankruptcy case on a person's credit report after ten years from the date the bankruptcy case is filed. Other bad credit information is removed after seven years. The larger credit reporting agencies belong to an organization called the Associated Credit Bureaus. The policy of the Associated Credit Bureaus is to remove chapter 11 and chapter 13 cases from the credit report after seven years to encourage debtors to file under these chapters.

You may contact the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Education Division, Washington, D.C. 20580. The telephone number is (202) 326-2222. That office can provide further information on reestablishing credit and addressing credit problems. For information on credit practices, contact (202) 326-3224.

The three major credit reporting information services are:

Equifax (800) 997-2493

Experian (888) 397-3742

Trans Union (800) 888-4213

When filing paper documents with the court, how many copies do I need?

Only the original copy is required. If you wish to have a conformed copy returned to you, an additional copy is required. If you are mailing your documents to the court, you must include a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope of the appropriate size to hold the conformed copy.

Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

Local rule 3-9(b) requires, "A corporation, unincorporated association, partnership or other entity may appear only through a member of the bar of this court."

While it is possible to file an individual or joint (husband and wife) bankruptcy case 'pro se,' that is, without the assistance of an attorney, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully. Hiring a competent attorney is highly recommended. For information about referral programs, contact your local bar association.

Do I need to send a copy of the petition to anyone else?

It is your responsibility to proceed with what you think is necessary to notify the appropriate people. The Clerk's Office will notify the creditors that are listed in the initial petition of the bankruptcy by means of a notice within five business days, provided that you have listed complete street addresses, city, state and zip code of all creditors.

What are the minimum documents that I need to file for an individual emergency petition?

- Voluntary Petition

- Statement of Social Security Number

- Certificate of Credit Counseling

- List of Creditors

What if I have an emergency paper filing after regular business hours?

The court is open to the public between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Federal holidays. To file an emergency petition after regular business hours, a pre-approved appointment must be arranged. Please contact the appropriate Intake office to arrange for an emergency filing:

San Francisco: (415) 268-2300

San Jose: (408) 278-7500

Oakland: (510) 879-3600

Santa Rosa: (707) 525-8539

Where can I obtain bankruptcy forms?

Forms are available at most office supply stores, businesses that sell legal forms or from sites on the Internet, including the California Northern Bankruptcy Court's website and the U.S. Courts website. The Bankruptcy Court Clerk's office does not stock forms.

Where do I file in paper?

The court has four divisional offices located throughout the Northern District. Divisional Offices are located in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Santa Rosa. The specific location for filing or reviewing bankruptcy petitions is determined by the debtor's county of residence.

How can I apply for a waiver of the filing fee?

Federal law, 28 U.S.C. §1930, requires a fee to file a bankruptcy petition. If you cannot pay the full fee at the time of filing, you may submit an Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments. If your application to pay in installments is approved, you will be permitted to complete paying the fee over the course of four months. See Fed.R.Bankr.P. 1006.

If the Chapter 7 debtor's income is less than 150% of the poverty level (as defined in the Bankruptcy Code), and the debtor is unable to pay the chapter 7 fees even in installments, the court may waive the requirement that the fees be paid. 28 U.S.C. § 1930(f). The form, Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee, which is available from the US Court's website , must be completed to make that application. If the Court denies the request, the debtor will be required to pay the fee in full or with installments.

Can Debtors pay their filing fee by personal check, credit or debit card?

No. The only acceptable forms for paying fees are money orders, cashiers' checks, or cash.