How to File an Emergency Bankruptcy Petition

If you need to file for bankruptcy quickly, you can file a bare-bones emergency petition and then file the rest of the documents later.

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Sometimes you need to file for bankruptcy in a hurry. If you don't have time to complete the lengthy bankruptcy paperwork, you can file a bare-bones petition, called an emergency bankruptcy or emergency petition. You then file the rest of the papers later.

This article describes the minimum documents you need to file an emergency bankruptcy petition, and the circumstances that might make such a petition necessary.

Emergency Circumstances

It is almost never a good idea to file an emergency bankruptcy if you can avoid it. Bankruptcies are paper-intensive and bankruptcy law requires you to fully, accurately, and honestly disclose all of your assets, debts, income, expense and various financial information. Filing a petition also triggers various deadlines and “next steps.” If you file a bankruptcy too hastily, you may make mistakes that could cause you difficulty later, including the dismissal of your case or a denial of your bankruptcy discharge. There are even criminal penalties if the court finds you were intentionally evasive or less-than-truthful in your statements and paperwork.

However, there may be circumstances where you have no choice but to file an emergency bankruptcy petition, usually as a way to prevent or stop the following:

  • the sale of your home through foreclosure
  • car repossessions
  • eviction
  • garnishments, and
  • lawsuits.

Basic Requirements for an Emergency Petition

Filing bankruptcy is not easy. An average bankruptcy filing can contain 50 or more pages of documents that list all of your assets, debts, income, expenses, and detailed statements concerning your financial history. Sometimes, however, you don't have the time that it normally takes to complete all of the necessary paperwork. Here is a basic breakdown of the minimum that you must complete, sign, and file to start your bankruptcy case.

Minimum Documents

The following documents are the minimum that you must file to start your case. This is often called the skeleton petition:

  • The bankruptcy petition (Form B-1). This is the first three pages of the petition. If you are filing on your own, must include your telephone number on the petition.

  • Creditor Matrix. This is a list of the names and addresses of all your known creditors. Some courts may let you file it a few days later.

  • Statement of Social Security Number (Form B-21).

  • Certificate of Credit Counseling. If you did not receive credit counseling prior to filing, then you must file a motion to explain any exigent circumstances that kept you from obtaining the counseling. If you believe that you do not have to participate in consumer credit counseling, then you must file a motion requesting that you be exempt from this requirement.

For a Chapter 13, you may also have to file a pay order that provides for estimated plan payments to your Chapter 13 trustee.

Some bankruptcy courts may also have additional requirements, such as written disclosure statements or CDs that contain electronic copies of your documents.

Since you are filing an emergency petition, the bankruptcy court clerk may not send notices to your creditors in time to stop an impending collection action. Therefore, you should immediately send notice of your bankruptcy filing directly to creditors that are, or might be, using collection actions against you.

Filing Fee

At the time that you file your skeleton petition, you must also pay the filing fee. In a Chapter 7, the filing fee is $335. The filing fee for a Chapter 13 is $310. If you cannot pay the fee, then you must file an Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments. If you believe you are exempt from paying the fee, then you must file an Application to Waive Filing Fee.

Filing the Rest of the Bankruptcy Forms and Documents

Within the next 14 days, you must file the remaining paperwork, including all schedules and statement of financial affairs, as well as certain financial documents.

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