Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

Learn about the procedures to file an emergency bankruptcy in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

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If you want to file a bankruptcy petition there are a number of forms that you are required to file with the bankruptcy court.  Assembling all of the information and filling out the forms can take a lot of time. If you are facing an emergency, such as a wage garnishment or home foreclosure, you can file just a few of those forms to get the case started – this is often referred to as an emergency bankruptcy filing. 

Read on to learn the procedures in an emergency bankruptcy filing.

Why File an Emergency Bankruptcy?

When you file for bankruptcy, the automatic stay kicks in. The automatic stay prohibits most creditors from continuing collection actions against you. For example, if you are behind on your car payments  or mortgage payments and you file for bankruptcy, the car loan lender won’t be able to repossess your vehicle and your mortgage company will not be able to foreclose, at least temporarily. There are exceptions and limits to the automatic stay. To learn more, see Bankruptcy’s Automatic Stay.

When you file the minimum forms required in an emergency bankruptcy, the automatic stay kicks in right away. That way, your property is protected and you have more time to complete and file the rest of the forms. Here’s what you need to do.

Chapter 7 Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

Here’s how to proceed in a Chapter 7 emergency filing.

Before You File the Emergency Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy requires you to take a court-approved credit counseling class unless you are disabled, physically impaired to the extent that you cannot take a class or in an active combat zone.  This class is generally available online and in most cases over the telephone or in person.  After you take the class and pass a short quiz, you will receive a certificate of credit counseling that must be dated at least a day before the date of your bankruptcy filing.  (To learn more, see What Happens During Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling?)

You should also look at the means test guidelines to see if you are likely to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (To learn more, see The Means Test & Chapter 7 Eligibility.)

Forms Required for an Emergency Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Filing

In order to start your case and get the benefit of the automatic stay, you must file, at a minimum, the following documents: voluntary petition, creditor matrix with verification, and certificate of credit counseling, if applicable, and Exhibit D. You will also have to pay a filing fee of $335.

Voluntary Petition. This is a three page document that contains your personal information and a summary of the information in your case, such as the approximate amount of your debt and the number of creditors. (To learn more, see I will link to soon to be published article on the petition.)

Creditor matrix. This is a list of all of your creditors and any other party that you have to notify about your bankruptcy. Look at your bankruptcy court’s local rules to see what other parties you must notify, and to see if there’s a required format for the matrix.

Exhibit D. On this form, you tell the court that you understand the credit counseling requirement. You must either attach a certificate of credit counseling or tell the court why you are not required to take the course.

Filing the Rest of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Forms

After you file the initial forms, you have 14 days to complete and file the remaining bankruptcy forms. To learn what forms you must file, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms

If you have not filed the remaining forms after 14 days, you can file a request for more time with the bankruptcy court.  If the court approves this, you will receive a new deadline.  If you miss the first deadline without asking for more time or you miss the second deadline, the court will dismiss your bankruptcy case.

Chapter 13 Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

Here’s how to proceed in a Chapter 13 emergency bankruptcy:

Before You File the Emergency Bankruptcy Petition

You have the same credit counseling requirement as in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  You do not have to verify whether your income qualifies but you may want to make sure that your income is regular enough to allow you to make monthly plan payments to the Chapter 13 trustee.

Forms Required for an Emergency Bankruptcy Filing

You have to file the same forms as required in an emergency Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, your filing fee will be $310.

Filing the Rest of the Bankruptcy Forms

Just like in a Chapter 7 emergency filing, you have 14 days to file the rest of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy forms, including your Chapter 13 repayment plan. (To learn about those forms, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms. To learn more about the repayment plan, see The Chapter 13 Repayment Plan.

You must make your first plan payment to the Chapter 13 trustee within 30 days of your initial emergency bankruptcy filing, even if you get extensions to file your other forms. If the first payment is not received in time, the Chapter 13 trustee can ask the bankruptcy court to dismiss your bankruptcy case.

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