last update
6/01/2014

Frequently Asked Questions:



What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a way for people or businesses who owe more money than they can pay right now (a "debtor"), to either work out a plan to repay the money over time, under Chapter 11, 12 or 13, or for most of the bills to be wiped out ("discharged"), as in a chapter 7 case. While the debtor is either working out a plan or the trustee is gathering the available assets to sell, the Bankruptcy Code provides that creditors must stop all collection efforts against the debtor.


Who can file a bankruptcy?

Any person, partnership, corporation or business trust may file a bankruptcy. If the person or entity who owes the money, referred to as the debtor, starts the bankruptcy, it is called a voluntary bankruptcy. The people or entities that are owed money, referred to as the creditors, can also file a petition against a person or an entity who owes them money, and that is called an involuntary bankruptcy. In an involuntary case, the debtor gets a chance to contest the petition and contend it should not be in bankruptcy.


What is a joint petition?

A joint petition is the filing of a single bankruptcy petition by an individual and the individual's spouse. Only people who are married on the date they file may file a joint petition. Unmarried persons, corporations and partnerships must each file a separate case. If you are an individual and have a business, you may not file a single petition for yourself and your business; each must be a separate bankruptcy case.

What are the different "chapters" in bankruptcy?

Chapter 7 is the liquidation chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 cases are commonly referred to as "straight bankruptcy" or "liquidation" cases, and may be filed by an individual, corporation, or partnership. Under chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors. In the case of an individual, the debtor is allowed to claim certain property exempt. In exchange for this, the debtor gets a discharge, which means that the debtor does not have to pay certain types of debts. Corporations and partnerships do not receive discharges. Consequently, any individuals legally liable for the partnership's or corporation's debts will remain liable. Therefore, individual bankruptcies may be required as well as the corporation or partnership bankruptcy.

Chapter 9 is only for municipalities and governmental units, such as schools, water districts, and so on.

Chapter 12 offers bankruptcy relief to those who qualify as family farmers or family fishermen. There are debt limitations for chapter 12, and a certain portion of the debtor's income must come from the operation of a farming or fishing business. Family farmers or fishermen must propose a plan to repay their creditors over a period of time from future income and it must be approved by the court. Plan payments are made through a chapter 12 trustee who also monitors the debtor's farming or fishing operations while the case is pending.

Chapter 11 is the reorganization chapter available to businesses and individuals who have substantial assets and/or income to restructure and repay their debts. Creditors vote on whether to accept or reject a plan of reorganization, which must also be approved by the court. In addition to the filing fee paid to the Clerk, a quarterly fee is paid to the U.S. Trustee in all chapter 11 cases.

There is no debt limit under Chapter 11. However, only a chapter 11 debtor that qualifies as a small business may request expedited treatment under chapter 11. To qualify as a "small business," the debtor must be engaged in commercial or business activities, other than the ownership of real property, and the total of its secured plus unsecured debts must be less than $2,343,300. Due to the expense and complexity of chapter 11, the decision to file a chapter 11 petition should be made in consultation with an attorney.

Chapter 13 is the debt repayment chapter for individuals with regular income whose debts do not exceed $1,441,875 ($360,475 in unsecured debts and $1,081,400 in secured debts), including individuals who operate businesses as sole proprietorships. It is not available to corporations or partnerships. Chapter 13 generally permits individuals to keep their property by repaying creditors out of their future income. Each chapter 13 debtor proposes a repayment plan which must be approved by the court. The amounts set forth in the plan must be paid to the chapter 13 trustee who distributes the funds for a small fee. Many debts that cannot be discharged can still be paid over time in a chapter 13 plan. After completion of payments under the plan, chapter 13 debtors receive a discharge of most debts.

What chapter is right for me?

You have a choice in deciding which chapter of the Bankruptcy Code will best suit your needs. The decision whether to file a bankruptcy and under which chapter to file depends on the particular circumstances of the debtor. There is no way that a simple statement can spell out all the different things to be considered. Also, considering your personal facts, comparing them to each chapter's requirements, and deciding which chapter to select, would be giving you legal advice. The Clerk's Office staff and bankruptcy petition preparers, including typing services and paralegals, are prohibited from giving you legal advice. Only a lawyer can give you legal advice.

The decision whether to file a bankruptcy and under what chapter is an extremely important decision and should be made only with competent legal advice from an experienced bankruptcy attorney after a review of all of the relevant facts of the debtor's case.


What services can a bankruptcy petition preparer provide?

Bankruptcy petition preparers are permitted to provide services limited to the typing of forms. They may not advise you in any way. Their services are subject to various statutory requirements and limitations.

Please note that although bankruptcy preparers are required to sign all documents prepared for filing, they are not authorized to sign any document on your behalf. Therefore, you and your spouse, and if filing a joint petition, must also sign all documents. Copies of all prepared documents should be furnished to you by the bankruptcy petition preparer at the time they are presented to you for signature. Likewise, bankruptcy petition preparers are prohibited by law from collecting or receiving any court fees connected with the filing of your case. Consequently, all court fees connected with the filing of your case, including the filing fee and miscellaneous administrative fee, should be paid directly by you to the court. The failure of any bankruptcy petition preparer to comply with the law should immediately be brought to the attention of any trustee appointed in your case and the local Office of the United States Trustee.

What does the Clerk's Office do?

The Clerk's Office provides a variety of services to the bankruptcy judges, attorneys and the public. Clerk's Office staff provides clerical and administrative support to the court by filing and maintaining case-related papers, signing ministerial orders, collecting authorized fees, sending notices, entering judgments and orders, and setting hearings. The services provided by the Clerk's Office to attorneys and the public include responding to requests for information and making copies of papers in bankruptcy court files.

Although Clerk's Office staff cannot give you legal advice, the U.S. Bankruptcy court is a source for many forms and local rules which you will need to file your bankruptcy petition and related documents.

What documents do I need to file a bankruptcy?

  • Form 1--Voluntary Petition (3 pages)
  • Exhibit D
  • Form B22A, B or C, depending on chapter - Statement of Current Monthly Income and Means Test Calculation
  • Form 6--Summary of Schedules
  • Schedules A through J, and Declaration
  • Statistical Summary
  • Form 7--Statement of Financial Affairs
  • Form 8--Statement of Intention
  • Creditor Matrix (list of people you owe money to)
  • Verification of Creditor Matrix
  • Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments (if applicable).

These are the forms required for either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing, however, if you are filing a Chapter 13, the Chapter 13 Plan is a required document as well. You must also submit certification that you have received credit counseling from an approved credit counseling provider.

The filing fee for a Chapter 7 case is $335.00 and the filing fee for a Chapter 13 case is $310.00, payable in either cash, money order or certified bank check. Current fees can be found on the Fees Page of this Web Site. Please be advised that this office does not accept personal checks.

If you need to start your case quickly, you can file only Form 1--Voluntary Petition and your Creditor Matrix with the accompanying Verification. You have an additional 14 days to file the certificate of credit counseling, statement of current monthly income and means test calculation, and the rest of your bankruptcy papers. Your failure to timely file these additional required documents or seek an extension of time to do so will result in the dismissal of your case, denial of discharge, or the imposition of sanctions.

Official Bankruptcy Forms may be obtained at the public counters of the Bankruptcy Court. One set of forms is provided and these may be photocopied. You can also find them on the Forms Page of this web site.

Make sure you put a response to every question. If your answer is "none" or "not applicable", make sure you indicate that in writing. Use continuation pages if you run out of room. Make sure you sign each form where required as this is very important. Also, if you are filing a joint case, make sure that your spouse signs as well. When filling out the Means Test form for a chapter 7, be sure to check the appropriate box on the front of the form to indicate whether a presumption of abuse arises.

Prepare your creditor matrix (a mailing list of your creditors) according to the matrix format instructions. You can find this under the Creditor Matrix section of this web page. The Clerk's Office uses an Optical Character Reader to scan matrices and if you do not follow the instructions exactly, the scanner will not be able to read the matrix properly.

How do I know if a debt is secured, unsecured, priority or administrative so I can fill out my schedules correctly?

A Secured Debt

A secured debt is a debt that is backed by property. A creditor whose debt is"secured" has a right to take property to satisfy a "secured debt." For example, most homes are burdened by a "secured
debt." This means that the lender has the right to take the home if the borrower fails to make payments on the loan. Most people who buy new cars give the lender a "security interest" in the car. This means that the debt is a "secured debt" and that the lender can take the car if the borrower fails to make payments on the car loan.

B. Unsecured Debt

A debt is unsecured if you have simply promised to pay someone a sum of money at a particular time, and you have not pledged any real or personal property as collateral for that debt.

C. Priority Debt

A priority debt is a debt entitled to priority in payment, ahead of most other debts, in a bankruptcy case. A listing of priority debts is given, in general terms, in 11 U.S.C. § 507 of the Bankruptcy Code. Examples of priority debts are claims for domestic support obligations, some taxes, and wage claims of employees. If you have questions deciding which of your debts are entitled to priority status, you should consult an attorney.

D. Administrative Debt

An administrative debt is also a priority debt and is one created when someone provides goods or services to your bankruptcy estate. The best example of an administrative debt is the fees generated by attorneys and other authorized professionals in representing the bankruptcy estate.

What are exemptions?

11 U.S.C. § 522(b) allows an individual debtor to exempt real, personal, or intangible property from the property of the estate. Exempt assets are protected by state law from distribution to your creditors. Typically, exempt assets include vehicles up to a certain dollar amount, the equity in your home up to a certain amount, and tools of the trade.

Exemptions are claimed on Schedule C. As with all schedules, it is important to fully complete and provide all the information requested. If no one objects to the exemptions you have listed within the time frame specified by the bankruptcy court, these assets will not be a part of your bankruptcy estate and will not be used to pay creditors through your bankruptcy case.

Deciding which assets are exempt and how and if you can protect these assets from your creditors can be one of the more important and difficult aspects of your bankruptcy case. It is extremely important to consult an attorney if you have any questions regarding the issue of exempt assets.

Where do I file my bankruptcy case?

The bankruptcy court is a federal court. The District of Maine has two court locations where you may file, depending on the county in which you live.

How do I "file" a document with the court?

Effective January 1, 2004, all attorneys must file electronically. For non-electronic filers, bankruptcy petitions, pleadings and other papers may be submitted for filing by mail or in person at the Clerk's Office public counters.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, all documents must be submitted for filing by mail or at a Clerk's Office public counter during business hours. When extraordinary, compelling circumstances require delivery of a document to the Clerk's Office after hours, an emergency filing can be arranged by contacting the appropriate Clerk's Office during business hours. The Clerk's Office does not currently accept documents for filing by facsimile.

After completing your bankruptcy papers, mail or deliver them to the appropriate divisional Clerk's Office accompanied by the filing fee payment or a completed application to pay fees in installments.
If you want a file stamped copy of your petition, you must bring or mail a copy and the Clerk's Office will file stamp and return it to you. If your petition is mailed, you must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope of sufficient size to obtain your file stamped copy.

How much are the court fees to file a bankruptcy?

The Fees Page of this site states the current fees charged.

What if I can't pay the filing fee?

An individual chapter 7 debtor may file an application for waiver of the filing fee along with the bankruptcy petition. The application must conform substantially to Official Form 3B. The Court may waive the chapter 7 filing fee for an individual debtor who: (a) has income less than 150 percent of the poverty guidelines last published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services based on family size; and (b) is unable to pay that fee in installments. You will have to justify your request to waive the filing fee, and the Court will make a determination. If the Court denies the fee waiver application, you will be ordered to pay the fee in installments, and a schedule will be included in the order.

Must I pay all at once?

Installment payments may be approved under certain circumstances, and are governed by Fed R Bankr P 1006. They are limited to individual debtors. An application to pay in installments must be submitted to the Clerk's office for approval by the Court. Fees paid pursuant to an approved installment application must be paid in four equal installments.

What happens after I file bankruptcy?

Upon filing the original petition with the Clerk's Office, the "automatic stay" immediately takes effect and prohibits all creditors from taking any collection action against the debtor or the debtor's property. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 includes several limitations on the imposition of the automatic stay, especially for repeat filers, so you may want to check with an attorney before assuming that all your debts are stayed. Although the stay is automatic, creditors need to be advised of the stay. Using the creditor matrix provided by the debtor, the court issues a notice to all creditors advising them of the filing of the bankruptcy, the case number, the automatic stay, the name of the trustee assigned to the case (if filed under chapter 7, 12, or 13), the date set for the meeting of creditors (called the "341 meeting"), the deadline, if any, set for filing objections to the discharge of the debtor and/or the dischargeability of specific debts, and whether and where to file claims. The exact information in the notice differs depending on the chapter under which the case is filed.

In a chapter 7 case involving an individual debtor, the creditors generally have sixty (60) days from the first date set for the meeting of creditors to object to the discharge of the debtor and/or the dischargeability of a specific debt. If the deadline passes without any objections to the debtor's discharge being filed, the court will issue the discharge order. If any objections to the dischargeability of specific debts are filed, they will be heard by the court, but will not delay the granting of a discharge with respect to other debts. An objection to discharge or to the dischargeability of certain debts is considered a separate lawsuit (an adversary proceeding) within the bankruptcy and may result in a trial before the judge assigned to the case. Corporate and partnership chapter 7 debtors do not receive discharges. If there are no assets from which creditors can be paid, the trustee will prepare a report of no distribution and the case will be closed. If there are assets that are not exempt, funds will be available for distribution to creditors. The court will set claims deadlines and notify all creditors to file their claims. The trustee will proceed to collect the assets, liquidate them and distribute the proceeds to creditors. When the assets have been completely administered, the court will close the case.

In a chapter 13 case, creditors are given an opportunity to object to the plan. If no objection is filed by creditors or the trustee, the plan may be confirmed as filed. Once the plan is confirmed, the trustee will distribute the proceeds of the debtor's plan payments to creditors until the debtor completes the plan or the court dismisses or converts the case. Upon completion of the chapter 13 plan, the court will issue a discharge order, the trustee will prepare a final report, and the case will be closed.

In a chapter 12 case, the confirmation hearing must be concluded within forty-five (45) days of filing the plan. The court may consider dismissal of the case if a plan is not confirmed.

In a chapter 11 case, a debtor's conference is held with the United States trustee's staff before the creditors' meeting. At the debtor's conference, the united States Trustee will go over the responsibilities and restrictions on the debtor-in-possession, explain the quarterly fees and monthly operating reports, and generally discuss the financial situation of the debtor and the scope of the anticipated plan of reorganization. A disclosure statement must be filed with the plan and approved by the court before votes for and against the plan can be solicited. After the estate has been fully administered, the court enters a final decree closing the case. A chapter 11 estate may be considered fully administered and closed before the payments required by the plan have been completed.

What is a bankruptcy trustee? Who is the United States Trustee? What is the difference?

In all chapter 7, 12, 13 and in some chapter 11 cases, a case trustee is assigned. In chapter 7 cases they are called "Panel Trustees." In chapter 12 and 13 cases they are called "Standing Trustees." The trustee's job is to administer the bankruptcy estate, to make sure creditors get as much money as possible, and to run the first meeting of creditors, (also called the "341 meeting", because 11 U.S.C. § 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires that the meeting be held). The trustee either collects and sells non-exempt estate property, as in the case of a chapter 7, or collects and pays out money on a repayment plan, as in the case of a chapter 12 or chapter 13. The trustee can require that you provide, under penalty of perjury, information and documents, either before, after, or at the meeting. You must also bring positive identification and verification of your social security number to the meeting. You should always cooperate with the trustee, since failure to cooperate with the trustee could be grounds to have your discharge denied. Trustees are not necessarily lawyers, and they are not paid by the court. They are appointed by the United States Trustee. The trustees report to the court, but their fees come out of the bankruptcy filing fees or as a percentage of the money distributed to creditors in the bankruptcy.

The United States Trustee's Office is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, and is separate from the court. The United States Trustee's Office is a watchdog agency, charged with monitoring all bankruptcies, appointing and supervising all trustees, and identifying fraud in bankruptcy cases. The United States Trustee's Office cannot give you legal advice, but they can give you information about the status of a case, and you can contact them if you are having a problem with a trustee, or if you have evidence of any fraudulent activity. In monitoring cases, the United States Trustee reviews all bankruptcy petitions and pleadings filed in cases, and participates in many proceedings affecting the case, but they do not administer the case themselves. They can bring motions in the bankruptcy, such as ones to dismiss the case, or to deny the debtor's discharge. The United States Trustee is the agency which certifies credit counseling and debt education providers.

What is the creditor's meeting? What can I expect will happen there?

A "meeting of creditors" is the single event that ALL debtors must attend in any bankruptcy proceeding. It is held outside the presence of the judge and usually occurs between twenty (20) and forty (40) days from the date the original petition is filed with the court. In chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases the trustee assigned by the court on behalf of the United States Trustee conducts the meeting. In chapter 11 cases where the debtor is in possession and no trustee is assigned a representative of the United States Trustee's office conducts the hearing.

The meeting permits the trustee or representative of the United States Trustee's Office to review the debtor's petition and schedules with the debtor face-to-face. The debtor is required to answer questions under penalty of perjury concerning the debtor's acts, conduct, property, liabilities, financial condition and any matter that may affect administration of the estate or the debtor's right to discharge. This information enables the trustee or representative of the United States trustee's Office to understand the debtor's circumstances and facilitates efficient administration of the case. Additionally, the trustee or representative of the united States Trustee's Office will ask questions to ensure that the debtor understand the positive and negative aspects of filing for bankruptcy.

The meeting is referred to as the "meeting of creditors" because creditors are notified that they may attend and question the debtor about the location and disposition of assets and any other matter relevant to the administration of the case. However, creditors are not required to attend these meetings and, in general, are not considered to have waived any of their rights by failing to appear. The meeting usually lasts only a few minutes and may be continued if the trustee or representative of the United States Trustee's Office is not satisfied with the information provided by the debtor. If the debtor fails to appear and provide the information requested at the meeting, the trustee or representative of the United states Trustee's Office may request that the bankruptcy case be dismissed or that the debtor be ordered by the court to cooperate or be held in contempt of court for willful failure to cooperate.

What is a discharge?

The discharge order is issued by the court and permanently prohibits creditors from taking action to collect dischargeable debts against the debtor personally; this does not prevent secured creditors from seizing collateral if payments are not kept up, or other creditors from pursuing property of the estate.

Some debts are not dischargeable, and others may be found to be non-dischargeable depending on particular circumstances.

In a chapter 7 case, the bankruptcy court will order that the debtor be discharged of all dischargeable debts once the time for filing complaints objecting to discharge has expired unless:
a. the debtor is not an individual;
b. a complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge has been filed; or
c. the debtor failed to complete an instructional course concerning personal financial management;
d. the debtor has a previous discharge within the past 8 years;
e. the debtor has filed a waiver of discharge.

In chapter 11 cases, if the debtor is an individual, a discharge must be granted by the Court after all payments are complete, or, at least, the amounts paid are not less than the amount that would have been paid under a chapter 7 liquidation; otherwise, the confirmation of a plan of reorganization discharges the debtor from dischargeable debts that arose before the date of the order of relief unless:
a. the plan or order confirming plan provides otherwise; or
b. the plan is a liquidating plan and the debtor would be denied a discharge in a chapter 7 case under 11 U.S.C. 727

In chapter 12 and chapter 13 cases, the court will order that the debtor is discharged of dischargeable debts after the debtor has completed all payments under the plan, or prior to plan completion, after notice and hearing, if the requirements of 11 U.S.C. §§ 1228(b) or 1328(b) have been met.

The granting of a discharge does not automatically result in the closing of a case. All contested matters, adversary proceedings, and appeals must be resolved and the appointed trustee or debtor-in-possession must file a final report and account and request entry of a final decree before the Clerk's Office will close the case.

Do I have to do anything else to receive my discharge?

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 includes several new bars to the granting of a discharge. For example, all individual debtors must complete an instructional course concerning personal financial managements, and submit a certification of completion. Chapter 13 debtors must certify that any domestic support obligations are current. In some circumstances, a case may be closed without the discharge being granted. If that happens, the debtor will have to pay a fee to reopen the case and file the missing documents to get the discharge.

What debts are dischargeable?

11 U.S.C. § 523 lists exceptions to discharge. In general, all other debts are dischargeable.

Some debts listed in 11 U.S.C. § 523, such as those based on fraudulent conduct, embezzlement or willful and malicious injury to another, are discharged unless a complaint to deny discharge of that debt is timely filed with the bankruptcy court. Ordinarily, these complaints must be filed within sixty (60) days of the first date set for the meeting of creditors.

Additionally, debts that were not listed on your bankruptcy schedules or that were incurred after you filed bankruptcy are generally not discharged.

What is the difference between a denial of discharge and a debt being non-dischargeable?

Denial of a discharge goes to the debtor's entire proceeding, while determination of non-dischargeability goes to a particular debt only. A request for denial of discharge is usually granted because the debtor has defrauded a creditor, concealed property of the estate, made a false oath, presented or used a false claim, refused to obey any lawful order of the court and other reasons contained in the Bankruptcy Code.

On the other hand, non-dischargeability of a debt excepts a particular debt from the discharge. This means that if the debt is determined non-dischargeable the debtor is still obligated to that creditor.

What does it mean if a case is dismissed?

A dismissal order ends the case. Upon dismissal the "automatic stay" ends and creditors may start to collect debts, unless a discharge is entered before the dismissal and is not revoked. An order of dismissal itself will not free the debtor from any debt. Often, a case is dismissed when the debtor fails to do something he/she must do (such as show up for the creditors' meeting, answer the trustee's questions honestly, produce books and records the trustee requests), or if it is in the best interests of the creditors. Unless the debtor appeals the order or seeks reconsideration of the order within fourteen (14) days after entry of the order, the Clerk will automatically close the case.

What is a reaffirmation agreement?

A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement by which a bankruptcy debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of an otherwise dischargeable debt. Such an agreement must generally be filed within sixty (60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors.

An original and executed reaffirmation agreement filed with the Clerk no later than sixty(60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors is enforceable without hearing or court order, if the agreement is accompanied by a declaration or an affidavit of the debtor's attorney. The reaffirmation agreement must be filed on form B240A along with the reaffirmation agreement cover sheet form B27. If a reaffirmation agreement is filed without an attorney's declaration or affidavit, or creates a presumption of undue hardship, a hearing is required. You must appear in person at the hearing. The judge will ask you questions to determine whether the reaffirmation agreement imposes an undue burden on you or your dependents and whether it is in your best interests. Since reaffirmed debts are not discharged, the bankruptcy court will normally only reaffirm secured debts where the collateral is important to your daily activities.

Reaffirmation agreements are strictly voluntary. They are not required by the Bankruptcy Code or other state or federal law. You can voluntarily repay any debt instead of signing a reaffirmation agreement, but there may be valid reasons for wanting to reaffirm a particular debt.

Since a reaffirmation agreement takes away some of the effectiveness of your discharge, legal counsel is advisable before agreeing to a reaffirmation. Even if you sign a reaffirmation agreement, you have a minimum of sixty (60) days after the agreement is filed with the court to change your mind. If your discharge date is more than sixty (60) days after the agreement is filed with the court, you have until your discharge date to change your mind. If you reaffirm a debt and fail to make the payments as agreed, the creditor can take action against you to recover any property that was given as security for the loan and you may remain personally liable for any remaining debt.

What is redemption?

Redemption allows an individual debtor (not a partnership or a corporation) to keep tangible, personal property intended primarily for personal, family, or household use by paying the holder of a lien on the property the amount of the allowed secured claim on the property, which typically means the value of the property. Otherwise, in order to retain the property, the debtor would have to pay the entire amount of the secured creditor's debt, do a reaffirmation agreement and become legally obligated on the debt again. The property redeemed must be claimed as exempt or abandoned.

With redemption, a debtor can often get liens released on personal household possessions for much less than the underlying debt on those secured possessions. Unless the creditor consents to periodic payments, redemption must generally be made in one lump sum payment to the creditor.

What are claims and claims objections? How are claims filed?

A. Claims

In the broadest sense, a claim is any right to payment held by a person or company against you and your bankruptcy estate. A claim does not have to be a past due amount but can include an
anticipated sum of money which will come due in the future. In filling out your Schedules, you should include any past, present or future debts as potential claims.

B. Claims Objections

You may be entitled to object to any claim filed in your bankruptcy case if you believe the debt is not owed or if you believe the claim misrepresents the amount or kind of debt (e.g. secured or priority) which you owe. In some circumstances, an objection to claim can be initiated by filing a motion in the bankruptcy court; in other circumstances, it must be initiated by filing an adversary proceeding (like a lawsuit in your bankruptcy case). If you anticipate objecting to claims, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible since the objection process can be complicated and time sensitive.

C. Filing of Claims

The written statement filed in a bankruptcy case setting forth a creditor's claim is called a proof of claim. The proof of claim should include a copy of the obligation giving rise to the claim as well as evidence of the secured status of the debt if the debt is secured. Under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, with limited exceptions, claims filed by creditors, except governmental units, in chapter 7, 12 and 13 cases must be filed within ninety (90) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. If a creditor files a claim after the specified deadline, you may object to the claim as being untimely filed.

For purposes of obtaining your discharge, it may be important for you to file a claim on behalf of a creditor if that creditor should fail to do so. Under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, you (or in chapter 7 and some 11 cases, the trustee) may file a proof of claim on behalf of a creditor within thirty (30) days after the last day for filing claims.

What can I do if a creditor keeps trying to collect money after I have filed bankruptcy?

If a creditor continues to attempt to collect a debt after the bankruptcy is filed in violation of the automatic stay, you should immediately notify the creditor in writing that you have filed
bankruptcy, and provide them with either the case name, number and filing date, or a copy of the petition that shows it was filed. If the creditor still continues to try to collect, the debtor may be entitled to take legal action against the creditor to obtain a specific order from the court prohibiting the creditor from taking further collection action and, if the creditor is willfully violating the automatic stay, the court can hold the creditor in contempt of court and punish the creditor. Any such legal action brought against the creditor will be complex and will normally require representation by a qualified bankruptcy attorney.

How do I change or correct information in the petition, schedules and statements I have already filed with the Clerk's Office?

The information contained in your petition, schedules, and statement of affairs is submitted under penalty of perjury. Therefore, you must be certain that it is correct when you sign these documents. If, however, you later discover that something is inaccurate, the documents may be corrected by the filing of an amendment with the Clerk's Office. New schedules or statements must be filed showing the corrected information along with an amended Summary of Schedules. A fee of $30.00 must be paid to amend schedules of creditors or lists of creditors after notice to creditors. All amendments must be served upon the United States Trustee and case trustee, and certain amendments must be served upon the creditors affected by the amendment.

What should I do if I cannot make my chapter 13 payment?

If the debtor cannot make a chapter 13 payment on time according to the terms of the confirmed plan, the debtor should contact the trustee by phone and by letter advising the trustee of the problem and whether it is temporary or permanent. If it is a temporary problem and the payments can be made up, the debtor should advise the trustee of the time and manner in which the debtor will make up the payments. Significant changes in the debtor's circumstances may require that the plan be formally modified. If the problem is permanent and the debtor is no longer able to make payments to the plan, the trustee will request that the case be dismissed or converted to another chapter. The determination of whether to modify, dismiss or convert a case requires the same kind of analysis as is needed for the initial decision whether to file bankruptcy and under what chapter. Therefore, the debtor should seek counsel from a qualified bankruptcy attorney before attempting to make such a decision. If the debtor delays making a voluntary decision and cannot make the plan payments, the court may dismiss the case.

My ex-spouse has filed bankruptcy. He/she has listed me as a co-signer on a scheduled debt. What can I do? Does my divorce decree protect me?

If you are a co-obligor with your ex-spouse on a debt, you should seek legal advice for a thorough explanation of your rights and obligations in this area as soon as you find out that your ex-spouse has filed a bankruptcy.

How many years will a bankruptcy show on my credit report? How long will it take before I can get credit?

The fact that an individual filed a bankruptcy can remain on the credit report no longer than 10 years under provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If a chapter 13 bankruptcy is successfully completed, the credit reporting industry retains the information for only seven years rather than the ten years allowed by law, according to the Associated Credit Bureaus, Inc. The decision whether to grant you credit in the future is strictly up to the creditor and varies from creditor to creditor depending on the type of credit requested. There is no law which prevents anyone from extending credit to you immediately after the filing of a bankruptcy nor will a creditor be required to extend credit to you.

How can I get information about a case?

Case information may be obtained by telephone, through the mail, or in person at the Clerk's Office public counters.

A. Obtaining Case Information By Telephone or the Internet

To permit you around-the-clock access to case information, the Clerk's Office has installed two automated case information systems. The Voice Case Information System, or VCIS, uses a computer-generated synthesized voice device to read case summary information directly from the court's computer in response to touch-tone telephone inquiries. VCIS is provided free of charge. Go to our VCIS web page.

PACER stands for Public Access to Court Electronic Records and it's a system that allows the public to access the Court's documents electronically. This is information only access. A PACER account does
not allow a person to electronically file pleadings (See CM /ECF Info).

Access the USBC, District of Maine PACER site at: https://ecf.meb.uscourts.gov

The charge for web access is $.10 per page. For complete information and instructions on how to get a PACER account, we suggest that you go to the Pacer Service Center site at: http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/index.html

If you have any questions regarding the PACER system, please call the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856.

Basic case information that you are unable to access using an automated case information system may be obtained free of charge by calling the Clerk's Office.

You may also send an email directly from the home page.

B. Obtaining Case Information By Mail

To obtain case information by mail, send a written request containing the case number, the case name, the information you request, your name, address, a telephone number where you can be reached during business hours and the best time to call, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Written requests for information requiring a physical search of the court's records should be accompanied by a cashier's check, certified check, or money order sufficient to cover the applicable search fee.

C. Obtaining Case Information In Person

As a general rule, all documents in the court's case files and all court dockets are public record and available to the public for inspection. Files and dockets may be reviewed at the Clerk's Office public counters during business hours through our public terminals. All case data back to 1986 is currently on-line.

Due to limited storage space, closed case files are archived by periodically shipping them to the Federal Records Center in Waltham, Massachusetts for storage. Files and dockets stored at the Federal Records Center may be recalled to the Clerk's Office and reviewed in the Clerk's Office file review area. A $53.00 fee will be charged for each record retrieved from the Federal Records Center by the Clerk's Office. This fee must be paid before the Clerk's Office will recall a record.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY YOU REMOVE FILES FROM THE FILE REVIEW AREA OR REMOVE DOCUMENTS FROM FILES. All files must be returned in proper order. The Clerk's Office is the keeper of the court's records and is responsible for maintaining their accuracy and integrity. Removal of files from the file review area, removal of documents from files or failure to return files in proper order will be deemed sufficient grounds to refuse to provide you with additional files.

Alternatively, you may travel to the Federal Records Center in Waltham to review the archived file or docket. (All personal visits to the Federal Records Center are by appointment only. Appointments are scheduled 7:00 am. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and must be requested by telephone at least 24 hours in advance. You must obtain the file or docket location, box, and accession numbers from the Clerk's Office and provide it to the Federal Records Center in order to review the file there.)

For more information about the Federal Records Center in Waltham, visit the National Archives and Records Administration website at: http://www.archives.gov/northeast/boston/index.html.

The Clerk's Office will not certify copies made by you. To obtain certified copies in person, you will be charged a $.50 per page photocopy fee plus a $11.00 per document certification fee.

Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

While it is possible to file an individual 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.

What are the minimum required documents that can be submitted to the Court when filing a petition?

A petition containing the absolute minimum required documents consists of a voluntary petition, signature page, creditor matrix, certification of creditor matrix, and filing fee, application to pay filing fee in installments, or an in forma pauperis application.

What is the time requirement for submitting schedules after filing an incomplete/emergency petition?

Schedules and other documents, including the Means Test form and credit counseling certificate must be filed within fourteen (14) days after the filing of a petition or appropriate action will be taken to dismiss the case for failure to file required documents.

Can creditors be added after the discharge is issued?

Yes, creditors can be added at anytime during the pendency of the case and must be accompanied by a $30.00 fee.

Can creditors be added after the case is closed?

An attorney experienced in the bankruptcy law should be consulted because the answer depends on the specific facts of the case. However, in general, a debtor may file a motion to reopen the case and then may file a motion to amend the appropiate schedules and the creditor matrix. It will be the debtor's responsibility to serve the added creditor(s), in addition to all others, the United States Trustee, and any trustee appointd to the case, with notice of the motion to reopen the case.

What is a Disclosure Statement?

The Disclosure Statement is a document which provides a profile of the corporation, financial information and an overview of the proposed Plan of Reorganization. This information is useful to creditors in deciding whether to accept or reject the proposed Plan of Reorganization.

What is a Plan of Reorganization?

The Plan of Reorganization is a document that sets out how a debtor-in-possession will repay creditors. The plan divides creditors into classes. It specifies the treatment of claims for each class of creditor and provides a means for the plan's implementation. The debtor-in-possession has the exclusive right to file a plan for up to 120 days after the filing of the petition. After this exclusivity period has expired, creditors may file a plan.

I am a creditor in a Chapter 11 case and the Plan of Reorganization has been approved. Can the Clerk's Office explain to me why I have not as yet received any payments and when will payments commence?

All questions regarding payments under a confirmed plan should be directed to the Attorney for the Debtor-in-Possession.

I am a creditor in an asset case. How long before I can expect a dividend payment?

The Court cannot answer this question. It is dependent upon the length of time it takes the trustee to liquidate the assets in a case. There are times when liquidation involves lengthy and complex litigation.

I have received a Notice and Summary of the Trustee's Final Report and Account. How long will it be before I receive payment on my claim?

Once the Notice and Summary of the Trustee's Final Report and Account has been sent to all creditors, it takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the money is distributed to creditors. If opposition is filed to the final report and account, a hearing is scheduled. Should this occur, the monies in a case cannot be distributed until the matter has been resolved.

I am a creditor in a case that has converted to another chapter. Is it necessary for me to file another Proof of Claim?

No, once you have filed a Proof of Claim with the Court, it is recorded on a claims register and is considered part of the case regardless of conversion to another chapter.

How do I file for Relief from the Automatic Stay?

In order for a party to continue a proceeding against the debtor that has been stayed because of the filing of the bankruptcy and the automatic stay, he/she must file with the Bankruptcy Court a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay, or a Stipulation for Relief from the Automatic Stay.

The filing fee for a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay is $176.00.

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.

What is a Motion?

A motion is a written formal statement in which the party who is requesting an action, the movant, sets forth his grounds for the action requested. The party against whom the action is requested is the respondent.

I am a Child Support Creditor. How can I determine whether my child support debt is non-dischargeable? Do I have to pay a fee for this?

Certain child support debts are excepted from discharge. By filing the appropriate form with the Clerk's office you do not need to pay a fee for the Court to make this determination. You can find this form on the Forms Page of this web site.

Which amendments require fees?

The fee should be assessed per filing. Thus, if an amendment is filed which contains more than one change to the schedule of creditors or list of creditors, only one $30 fee should be charged. Examples of amendments which require a fee include: adding creditors, deleting creditors, changing the amount specified as being owed to a creditor, or changing the classification of a debt. A fee should not be charged, however, when the nature of the amendment is simply to change the address of a listed creditor. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 2002(g) provides that creditors may request that notices be sent to them at any address they may direct. Moreover, the only document that would need amending in such circumstances is the mailing list or matrix; there is no need to amend a schedule when the only change is an updated address. Additionally, no fee should be charged if the amendment adds the name and address of an attorney for a creditor listed on the original schedules so that the attorney can receive copies of all notices. The attorney is not being added as a creditor.