The voluntary petition (Official Bankruptcy Form 1) provides the court with basic information about you, where you live, and your bankruptcy case. You must complete the petition in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.
Warning: Although debtors filing under other bankruptcy Chapters must also complete the voluntary petition, this article only discusses how to complete this form if you are filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Read on to learn more about what information you must provide on the petition, and what issues might arise in answering certain questions on the petition.
How to Get the Voluntary Petition
You can find the most recent version of Form 1, Voluntary Petition on the U.S. Court’s website at www.uscourts.gov. To learn more about getting the official and other forms, see The Bankruptcy Forms: Getting Started.
Filling Out the Voluntary Petition
The U.S. Court’s website provides instructions on how to fill out the Voluntary Petition. They do not discuss legal issues to consider when answering the questions, but they do explain what information is requested in each section. They are a good place to start when filling out the form.
Here’s an outline of the information you’ll need to provide and some legal issues that might arise under various sections of the form.
Name of Debtor and Joint Debtor, Addresses, and Social Security Numbers. This part of the form is fairly self-explanatory. If you are married, you’ll need to decide if you and your spouse are filing a joint petition or filing individually. If you and your spouse are the same sex, you’ll also need to figure out how your district treats same-sex married couples. To learn more, see Filing Considerations for Married Couples.
Type of Debtor. If you own a small business as a sole proprietor, you are filing as an “individual.”
Nature of Debts. You must let the court know if your debts are primarily consumer or business debts. Keep in mind that mortgages on personal residences are considered consumer debts, so homeowners will have primarily consumer debts. On the other hand, tax debts are considered business debts, so if you owe a lot of back taxes and don’t have a mortgage, your debts may be primarily business debts. (To learn more, see Consumer v. Nonconsumer Debts.)
Filing Fee. You tell the court whether you are attaching the full filing fee, asking for a fee waiver, or asking to pay the fee in installments. To learn more about these options, see Bankruptcy Filing Fees & Costs.
Statistical/Administrative Information. The first set of boxes tells the trustee whether you think there will be assets available to be sold for the benefit of your unsecured creditors (in Chapter 7) or whether you’ll have to repay at least a portion of what you owe your nonpriority unsecured creditors (in Chapter 13). The purpose is to let creditors know whether they should bother filing a Proof of Claim or not. Whether you will have assets available for creditors depends in large part on how much of your property is exempt. To learn more see, Bankruptcy Exemptions. It may be easier to determine which box to check after you’ve completed Schedules A, B, and C.
The second set of boxes asks you to estimate how many creditors you have as well as your total assets and debts. Again, it might be easier to fill in these boxes once you’ve completed the other bankruptcy forms.
All Prior Bankruptcy Cases Within the Last 8 Years. You are required to disclose all prior bankruptcy cases filed by you (or your spouse if you’re filing jointly) within the last eight years. You must also disclose any pending cases filed by your spouse. There are limitations on how often you can file for bankruptcy. (To learn more, see Multiple Bankruptcy Filings.)
Exhibit A. This is only for people filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Exhibit B. If you have an attorney, he or she will sign this.
Exhibit C. You only need to complete and attach Exhibit C if you own property that might be dangerous to public health or safety.
Exhibit D. You must complete and attach Exhibit D. This lets the court know if you have completed the prebankruptcy credit counseling requirement. To learn more see, Completing Exhibit D to the Bankruptcy Petition.
Information Regarding the Debtor – Venue. Here you let the court know the legal reason that allows you to file in that particular district. Generally, you should file in the district where you have lived or had a principal place of business within the previous 180 days.
Certification by a Debtor Who Resides as a Tenant of Residential Property. You only complete this section if you are a tenant, you are behind in your rent, and your landlord obtained a judgment for possession against you before you filed for bankruptcy.
Certain evictions are allowed to proceed after you file for bankruptcy, despite the automatic stay. The questions in this section are designed to figure out whether your landlord has already gotten a judgment for possession (eviction order) and whether you might be able to postpone the eviction.
To learn more, see Evictions and the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy.
Signature Page. On the final page of the Voluntary Petition, you declare under penalty of perjury that the information in the petition is true and correct. You also certify that you are aware of the other types of bankruptcy available to you. Your attorney must provide you with this information, or, if you are not represented by an attorney you must state that you read Form 201A – Notice to Consumer Debtors Under § 342 of the Bankruptcy Code. You can find that notice on the U.S. Court’s website at www.uscourts.gov.
If you have legal counsel, your attorney must sign the petition. And if you used a bankruptcy petition preparer, that person must sign the petition.
For information about completing the other official bankruptcy forms, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.
This article provides general information only. There are many legal issues involved and important decisions to be made when filing for bankruptcy. You must understand the entire bankruptcy process, learn about the applicable federal and state laws, and determine how those laws will affect your particular situation before you complete the bankruptcy forms. If you want to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, use a good do-it-yourself book like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to ensure you make well informed decisions about your bankruptcy case.