What Is a Bankruptcy Petition?

A bankruptcy petition is the official form you'll file to start a bankruptcy case and one of many required bankruptcy forms and schedules.

By , Attorney University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Updated 4/18/2024

When you file for bankruptcy, you must disclose your financial information on official bankruptcy forms. The bankruptcy petition is the first of many forms you'll need to complete (although the entire packet is often called the "petition"). This article explains how to choose the proper petition form, what's included in the petition's contents, where to find bankruptcy petition forms, and more.

The Four Bankruptcy Petition Types

  • Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy. This form is for individuals filing a case on their behalf. Most filers use it.
  • Voluntary Petition for Non-Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy. Business entities, such as corporations, partnerships, and municipalities that want to file for bankruptcy (a voluntary case) will use this form.
  • Involuntary Petition Against an Individual. In some cases, a creditor, rather than the debtor who owes a debt, will force a debtor into bankruptcy. This is the involuntary bankruptcy form that a group of creditors would use to file a bankruptcy case against an individual.
  • Involuntary Petition Against a Non-Individual. This form gets used when a group of creditors forces a corporation, partnership, or another entity that is not an individual into bankruptcy.

What You'll Put In the Bankruptcy Petition

As with most forms, the filer will give the bankruptcy court basic information about the debtor. For instance, a petition for an individual filing a voluntary case—the most common type—will disclose the following:

  • the debtor's name (including aliases, prior names used, and names under which the debtor does business)
  • the chapter filed
  • the debtor's address
  • any bankruptcy cases pending for a spouse or related business
  • the status of any eviction actions against an individual debtor
  • estimates of the amount of debt, number of creditors, and value of assets
  • whether the debtor has primarily consumer or business debt, and
  • whether the debtor has nonexempt assets (property the debtor can't keep in bankruptcy).

Why You Must Complete the Bankruptcy Petition Accurately

It might be tempting to lower your income for Chapter 7 qualification requirements or "forget" to include cash or other assets in your property disclosures. However, omissions are never worth the risk.

Transparently completing bankruptcy paperwork is crucial because an individual debtor or an official representative of a non-individual filer must sign the petition under penalty of perjury. By signing, the debtor also acknowledges the consequences of lying to the court, concealing property, or committing bankruptcy fraud. The penalty for perjury can be up to a fine of $250,000, imprisonment for up to 20 years, or both.

Other Bankruptcy Forms You Must File

You'll need to file many other forms in the bankruptcy case. The remaining forms detail the debtor's income, assets, debts, expenses, and other aspects of the debtor's financial circumstances.

The Chapter 7 forms and the forms filed in Chapter 13 are similar but slightly different. Learn more about completing bankruptcy forms.

When You Need to File the Bankruptcy Petition Quickly

Filing out all forms needed in bankruptcy is a time-consuming process. Although most people file all forms with the petition, if you're in a hurry, you can file a smaller set of forms in what's known as an "emergency bankruptcy filing" or a "skeleton filing."

Keep in mind that you can't choose the forms you file, but you must complete specific forms required for an emergency filing. The remaining forms must be filed no later than 14 days afterward, or the bankruptcy court will dismiss your case.

Where to Find the Petition and Other Bankruptcy Forms

The official bankruptcy forms can be completed and downloaded for free from the forms page of the U.S. Courts website.

Need More Bankruptcy Help?

Did you know Nolo has made the law easy for over fifty years? It's true, and we want to ensure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!

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Helpful Bankruptcy Sites

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We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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