1. Complete a credit counseling course
You have to get credit counseling within 180 days before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can find a list of federally approved credit counseling agencies on the US Trustee's website. You may take the course in person, over the phone, or online.
Once you finish the counseling, get a certificate to show you completed it, and make a copy for the court. You will promise to the court that you have completed the counseling course when completing the Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy in Step 3.
3. Gather your information
You will need to give the court information about the following:
- Real estate you own
- Personal property, like cash, clothing, household goods or cars
- Recent payments made to creditors
- Large gifts or donations to friends, family members or charities
Make several copies of the following, because you will need to give copies to the court and to any creditor who requests the information:
- The last 60 days worth of pay stubs
- Your most recent income tax return
4. Fill out your initial bankruptcy forms
Fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make 3 copies of each form.
- Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy: Use this form to begin the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- Your Statement About Your Social Security Numbers: Use this form to tell the bankruptcy court what your social security number is.
- Your Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy: Use this form to tell the court about your recent financial activities.
- Notice Required for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy: Read and sign this form to tell the court that you understand your options for filing for bankruptcy.
- A copy of the Certificate of Counseling and a copy of the payment plan: Along with the Voluntary Petition, you must file a copy of the certificate and the payment plan from your counseling course.
If you do not have money to pay the court fees, you should also fill out one of the following applications:
- Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments: Asks the court to let you pay the filing fee in installments instead of all at once.
- Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived: Asks the court to waive the filing fee completely.
5. File your bankruptcy forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, take the following actions:
- File the forms with the bankruptcy clerk at the closest bankruptcy court where you live. You can find your closest bankruptcy court using the court locator.
- Pay the court filing fee, pay in installments, or get a fee waiver. There are fees to file your bankruptcy forms. If you don't have the money to pay the fees, file the Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments or the Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived that you filled out in Step 4. The court will review your application and decide whether you have to pay the court fees.
All forms are are available on the US Courts website.
6. Complete schedules, summary, and declaration
Complete the following forms with the information you've gathered:
- Schedule A/B: Property: Tells the court about the property you own.
- Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt: Tells the court about the property you will claim as exempt from bankruptcy proceedings.
- Schedule D: Creditors Who Hold Claims Secured by Property: Tells the court about any secured creditors.
- Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Have Unsecured Claims: Tells the court about any priority unsecured and general unsecured creditors.
- Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases: Tells the court about any outstanding contractual obligations or leases.
- Schedule H: Your Codebtors: Tells the court about other people who might be liable for your debts, such as cosigners.
- Schedule I: Your Income: Tells the court about your income.
- Schedule J: Your Expenses: Tells the court about your expenses.
- Schedule J2: Expenses of Separate Household of Debtor 2: if you are filing for joint bankruptcy, use this form to tell the court about the expenses of the other debtor, but only if the other debtor lives in a different household than you.
Use the above schedules to complete the following forms:
- A Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information: complete this form after you fill out Schedules A-J (above). Use the information from Schedules A-J to fill out this form.
- Declaration About an Individual Debtor's Schedules: fill out and file this form anytime you file Schedules (above) or amended Schedules.
7. File your schedules, summary, and declaration with the court
You must complete and file all the necessary forms within 14 days of filing your Voluntary Petition. If you don't, your case could be dismissed.
- Schedules A-J
- The summary and the declaration
- Any evidence of payment from employers received 60 days before filing, such as pay stubs
- A statement of monthly net income, and any increases in income or expenses that you expect to happen after filing, if any
- A copy of your tax return or transcripts for the most recent tax year
8. Fill out and file your Statement of Intention
If you have a secured debt, you must file the following form within 30 days of filing:
- Statement of Intention for Individuals Filing Under Chapter 7: Tells the court what you want to do with certain secured debt properties. Use information from Schedule D to help you complete this form.
Mail the Statement of Intention to all secured creditors. You do not have to send the Voluntary Petition, just the Statement of Intention.
If you do not do this, you lose the protection of the automatic stay, and secured creditors can take back the property. After you mail the Statement of Intention, file a Certificate of Service with the court saying that you have done so.