Sometimes you need to stop a creditor’s action fast. Filing for bankruptcy can help. When you open a case, the court puts an automatic stay in place that prohibits most creditors from continuing collection actions against you (exceptions exist).
But, completing all the bankruptcy forms isn’t a quick process. If time is running short, you can file an abbreviated version known as an emergency bankruptcy filing (or skeleton filing), get the automatic stay in place, and submit the remaining documents later.
Read How to Fill Out Bankruptcy Forms to learn about common bankruptcy forms.
The average bankruptcy petition can easily consist of upwards of fifty pages once completed. But when you’re facing a foreclosure auction, repossession, wage garnishment, collection lawsuit, or another time-sensitive situation, getting all of the paperwork done might not be feasible. Instead, you can start the case by filing the following forms:
Be prepared to pay a filing fee, or to submit a request for a fee waiver or a request to pay the fee in installments.
If you don’t file the additional documents within 14 days, your bankruptcy case will be dismissed. Also, be aware that some courts require additional forms. You’ll find the requirements in the local rules posted on your court’s website.
For an emergency filing, you’ll want to follow these steps:
Step 1: Check with the court clerk or the court’s website to find out exactly what forms you must submit for an emergency filing.
Step 2: Fill in the Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy.
Step 3: On the list of creditors, you’ll include the names and addresses of everyone you owe money to, as well as collection agencies, sheriffs, attorneys, and others who are seeking to collect debts from you. You’ll want to use the address on the most recent billing statement or court filing.
Step 4: Fill in the Your Statement About Your Social Security Numbers form.
Step 5: Complete any other papers the court requires (for instance, in some jurisdictions you must file a cover sheet and an order of dismissal that will be executed if you fail to submit the remaining documents).
Step 6: File the originals and the required number of copies with the court clerk, accompanied by your fee, a fee waiver application, or a request to pay the fee in installments, along a self-addressed envelope. Keep copies for your records.
Step 7: File the remaining required forms within 14 days to avoid dismissal of your case.
For a complete list of the forms required in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, see Forms You Must File in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. To learn more about each of those forms, including general information on completing the forms, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.