U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

Bankruptcy Frequent Questions

Should I file bankruptcy? <back to top of page>
Whether or not you should file bankruptcy depends on your particular circumstances. It may be that after consultation with an accountant and attorney, you resolve your financial difficulties through other means. In some cases, declaring bankruptcy may be necessary. The decision to file for bankruptcy is a serious one.

How long will my bankruptcy show on my credit record? <back to top of page>
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 6 U.S.C. Section 605, is the law that controls credit reporting. 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 Bureau is to remove Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 cases from the credit report after seven years to encourage debtors to file under these chapters. The bankruptcy court has no influence over these reporting policies.

Do I need to have an attorney? <back to top of page>  
If you are an individual filing bankruptcy, you may represent yourself. This is referred to as being Pro Se. The decision to go forward as a pro se litigant should only be taken after serious consideration. Individuals may file without an attorney and represent themselves. Corporations cannot file without an attorney.

What is a Pro Se Debtor? <back to top of page>
If you are representing yourself without the benefit of an attorney, you are known as a pro se litigant. "Pro Se" is a Latin term meaning "for yourself." As a pro se litigant, you enjoy every right entitled to you under the law. Pro se litigants are expected to follow and abide by the rules that govern the practice of law in the Federal Courts. Pro se litigants should be familiar with the United States Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Local Rules of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

What is the difference between Chapter 7, 11 & 13 cases? <back to top of page>
Chapter 7 - Liquidation: This chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code provides for an orderly court-supervised means of selling certain assets to pay your creditors. In a Chapter 7 case, a trustee is appointed to take charge of your "estate" consisting of all your assets. The law may allow you to keep some of your property. The trustee will sell the rest to pay your creditors. Unless someone objects, some or all of your debts will be discharged within a few months after the bankruptcy petition is filed.

Chapter 11 - Reorganization: This Chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code is available to individuals, businesses and other entities, but is primarily intended to allow an ongoing business to restructure its debts. Successful reorganization is dependent on the debtor filing what is called a "reorganization plan" and obtaining the acceptance of creditors and approval by the court for such a plan.

Chapter 13 - Adjustment of Debts for an Individual with Regular Income: This Chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code provides a court-supervised method for a debtor to pay back creditors over a period of time of up to five years. The debtor files a plan for repayment with the bankruptcy petition or soon thereafter. Payments must begin within thirty days after the case has begun. The payments are made to a trustee who will begin paying the creditors after the plan has been approved by the court.

What information do I need to file a bankruptcy? <back to top of page>

  • Home address
  • Social Security Number
  • Employer's name and address
  • Salary and wage information
  • A list of all those to whom you legally owe money
  • A list of all your major property (for example: real estate, automobiles, boats, furniture, etc.)
  • A list of all your personal sources of income
  • A list of all your financial accounts (for example: checking and savings accounts, savings bonds, etc.)
  • A list of all your monthly expenses (for example: rent, food, child support, transportation, etc.)
  • A copy of your federal and state tax returns for the past two years.

When am I under bankruptcy protection? <back to top of page>
You are under bankruptcy protection when and after your petition is filed and a case number is assigned. The moment a petition is filed there exists an automatic stay, or suspension, of virtually all litigation and other action by creditors against the debtor or the debtor's property. In other words, once a petition has been filed, creditors cannot commence or continue most legal actions, such as foreclosure of liens, execution on judgments, trials, (garnishments), or any action to repossess property in the hands of the debtor. Creditors can, however, seek to have the court allow them to pursue or continue legal collection actions.

Will filing bankruptcy stop my wages from being garnished? <back to top of page>
 Yes, once you file bankruptcy, you are under protection of the court from most creditors. You should immediately notify the garnishing creditor and sheriff that you have filed a bankruptcy petition.

Is my bankruptcy case public information? <back to top of page>
Yes, bankruptcies are considered public record. Anyone may call the court and verify if you have filed bankruptcy or may come into our offices and review the file.

How can I file before or after hours? <back to top of page>
All pleadings must be filed electronically (click here for more information on electronic filing). Support on electronic filing is available Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. by calling our help line at (504) 589-7878. The only pleadings considered an emergency are petitions to stop a sheriff's sale or seizure. To arrange for the filing of an emergency petition, please contact the Clerk's Office between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Where can I get the forms to file bankruptcy? <back to top of page>
Forms can be purchased in some legal stationery stores or business supply stores. Check your local area yellow pages. Forms can also be downloaded from www.uscourts.gov.

What is a matrix? <back to top of page>
A matrix is a list of all creditors in a bankruptcy case, including the names and addresses of each creditor. The list is used for electronic noticing required during the course of your bankruptcy case. The matrix should be submitted at the time of the filing of your case.

Can I pay my filing fee in installments? <back to top of page>
Yes, if you are an individual in a voluntary case, Bankruptcy Rule 1006 allows the debtor the right to apply for permission to pay the filing fee in installments. The debtor must complete and sign the Application to Pay Filing Fees in Installments. The application must state the proposed terms of the installment payments. The entire filing fee must be paid within 120 days of the filing of the petition in four or fewer installment payments. Failure to pay filing fee installments on time may result in dismissal of your case. If your case is dismissed before all the installment payments have been paid, you are required to pay these fees that are due and owing to the Court.

What forms of payment are accepted? <back to top of page>
Pro se debtors may pay with cash, cashier's check, or money order. The Clerk's Office does not accept two-party checks or personal checks from the debtor in bankruptcy.

What is a Meeting of Creditors? Do I have to attend? <back to top of page>
The first meeting of creditors is required under Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code and the debtor is required to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to enable the appointed trustee to examine the debtor under oath regarding the information that has been filed with the Court. The trustee or a creditor may inquire about the debtor's financial status, conduct and financial affairs, and any other matters that are relevant to the administration of the debtor's estate, including factors which bear on an individual debtor's right to a discharge or to the dischargeability of any particular obligation, or the debtor's claimed exemptions. If a creditor wishes to do an in-depth examination, he or she should request a Rule 2004 examination from the Court. Failure of the debtor to attend this meeting may result in dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Individual debtors must provide picture identification and proof of social security number to the trustee to whom the case is assigned at the meeting of creditors. Failure to do so may result in your case being dismissed.

Will I ever have to go before a judge? <back to top of page>
All contested matters will be heard by the judge if one of the parties files a motion or a response or objection to that motion. As a pro se debtor, you will be notified of any hearings and will be expected to attend.

What is a trustee? <back to top of page>
A trustee is a person who works with the court to administer bankruptcy cases. The trustee does not represent the debtor or any individual creditor and cannot give legal advice. Rather, the trustee has independent rights and duties that are set forth in the Bankruptcy Code sections 323, 327, 341, 343, 345, 363, 364, 365, 704 (chapter 7 cases) and 1302 (chapter 13 cases). In a chapter 7 case, the trustee may take possession of the debtor's assets, sell them, and distribute the proceeds to creditors. In a chapter 13 case, the trustee administers the debtor's plan of payment, collects the funds, and pays the creditors. The trustee will also oversee the first meeting of creditors.

Are all of my debts canceled by the Bankruptcy Court? <back to top of page>
No, certain debts are not canceled by the US Bankruptcy Court. Examples include taxes, school loans, debts resulting from fraud, alimony and child support payments. Other debts are canceled only if your petition is approved by the US Bankruptcy Court.

Specific questions you have should be directed to an attorney or financial advisor. The Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court can answer questions about court procedures for you but is prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

When will I get my discharge? <back to top of page>
Individual debtors are eligible to receive their Chapter 7 discharge 60 days from the date set for the 341 meeting, unless a creditor objects in a timely manner or the court orders otherwise. In the normal case where no complaint objecting to the discharge is filed, the debtor will receive a discharge within five working days after the 60 days has passed.

Will all of my creditors be notified of my discharge? <back to top of page>
All creditors who were listed on your mailing matrix or who entered an appearance in your case will be notified.

When will my case be closed? <back to top of page>
Since all cases bear unique circumstances, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time that your case will be closed. Many chapter 7 no asset cases are closed within 90 days from filing if no disputes have arisen. Chapter 7 asset cases require that the trustee liquidate the assets which often takes several years. Chapter 13 cases remain open as long as the plan payments are being made, generally for three to five years after the plan has been confirmed. Chapter 11 reorganization cases are more complicated and may remain open longer than three years even if a plan has been confirmed.

How do I get a copy of my discharge? <back to top of page>
You will receive a copy of your discharge in the mail after it is entered. However, if some time has passed and you have not received your discharge or you need another copy please call the Clerk's Office (504-589-7878).

**After filing, it is very important that the debtors retain his/her bankruptcy papers for future reference. Sometimes the information may be needed for a future home purchase or other business transactions that will require proof of filing and discharge.**

How can I get copies of my bankruptcy? <back to top of page>
If an attorney files a case on your behalf, the attorney is responsible for supplying you with a copy of the petition and all other documents pursuant to the declaration of electronic filing. If you file as a pro se debtor, it is your responsibility to retain copies of your documents. However, should you need additional copies, you may contact the Clerk’s Office for assistance in obtaining copies.

What is an adversary complaint? <back to top of page>
An adversary complaint is a "case within a case." It is civil litigation, usually involving funds or property which may have an impact on the bankruptcy estate.

When I am filling out Schedule C - Property Claimed as Exempt, how do I know what property is exempt? <back to top of page>
Under state and federal laws, debtors are entitled to keep certain exempt property. The Clerk's Office cannot give legal advice. You can, however, research the Louisiana statutes for more information on allowable exemptions.