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, emergency petition, or skeleton filing. You'll submit the rest of the papers later.

This article describes the bankruptcy forms you'll need to file an emergency bankruptcy petition and the circumstances that might make such a petition necessary.

What is an Emergency Bankruptcy?

It is rarely 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 deadlines you'll be required to meet. If you file a bankruptcy too hastily, you might 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, you might not be able to avoid filing an emergency bankruptcy petition. An emergency petition can help prevent the following:

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

Here's how it works.

When you file for bankruptcy, the court puts in place the "automatic stay." The automatic stay is an order that prevents most creditors from moving forward with collection actions against you.

Keep in mind that the stay will be temporary when it comes to foreclosure, repossession, and evictions in Chapter 7. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn't have a mechanism to fix those problems. In Chapter 13, you can catch up on delinquent mortgage and car payments if you can afford it. You might be able to fix an eviction if you can bring your payments current in a reasonable period (which is shorter than most people need).

Learn when a creditor can lift the automatic stay.

Filing Requirements for an Emergency Petition

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 you don't have the time 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.

Emergency Bankruptcy Forms You Must File

The following documents are the minimum that you must file to start your Chapter 7 case (often called the skeleton petition):

  • The bankruptcy petition. The first document includes identifying information and tells the court which bankruptcy chapter you intend to file. Learn about the Chapter 7 petition.
  • Creditor matrix or mailing list. You'll include a list of the names and addresses of all your known creditors. Some courts might let you file it a few days later. Your local bankruptcy court dictates the format of this form. Look for details on your court's website or call the court clerk. You can find your court's website using the Federal Court Finder tool.
  • Statement of Social Security Number. You'll provide your Social Security number on a separate form that the court will not make public.
  • Certificate of credit counseling. You're required to receive credit counseling during the 180 days before filing, with few exceptions.

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

Emergency or Skeleton Filing Fee

At the time that you file your skeleton petition, you must either pay the filing fee or request an alternative fee schedule. If you don't qualify for a fee waiver, or if you need more time to pay, you can pay the fee in up to four installments. Be aware that most courts require payment of the fee in full when filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Notifying Creditors About the Emergency Bankruptcy

You likely need to stop a collection proceeding if you're using this process. You can't depend on the court to alert your creditors. Why? It the court clerk about a week to send out a notice of bankruptcy.

Here's what you do: You or your attorney should immediately send notice of your bankruptcy filing directly to the creditor if you need to stop a foreclosure, repossession, wage garnishment, lawsuit proceeding, or some other action. Be sure to include the court in which you filed, your case number, and the filing date.

Filing the Remaining Bankruptcy Forms

You must file the remaining paperwork within the next 14 days, including all schedules and required forms. If you don't file within the period, the court will dismiss the bankruptcy case without prejudice (you can file again immediately).

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