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Filing for Bankruptcy with Electronic Self-Representation (ESR)

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In a Nutshell

This article provides an overview of Electronic Self-Representation and how you can use it to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by yourself without the help of an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, but don't want to go through the process on your own, Upsolve may be able to help!

Written by Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad
Updated July 22, 2020

Thanks to the internet, you can now file for bankruptcy online without the need for an attorney. There are many to file for bankruptcy without an attorney. For instance, you can use paid commercial bankruptcy software or take advantage of the services of free non-profits like .

Some states, such as California, are pioneering a new way for people to file for bankruptcy without an attorney called Electronic Self-Representation or eSR. Electronic Self-Representation is a free, step by step process that helps guide individuals who want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

This article will provide an overview about electronic self-representatives. You will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using eSR to file for bankruptcy.

If you are , consider using Electronic Self-Representation.

What is eSR?

Electronic Self-Representation or is an online tool designed to help individuals complete a bankruptcy petition without the help of an attorney.

Electronic Self-Representation is only available to individuals who want to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Right now there is no eSR available for people wanting to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or for businesses looking to file for bankruptcy. Fortunately, Chapter 7 is the most common form of bankruptcy for individuals, that means most individuals who want to file for bankruptcy can take advantage of eSR.

You should keep in mind the difference between being able to file for bankruptcy electronically, and Electronic Self-Representation.

Many states, such as Maryland, let individuals file for bankruptcy . Filing for bankruptcy electronically means you have to complete your bankruptcy petition by yourself and without any help then file online. This is often used as a method by attorneys who have prepared bankruptcy petitions for their clients.

In contrast, Electronic Self-Representation is a special program designed to guide people through the bankruptcy process. Not every state makes use of eSR, but if it is available where you live then you can use eSR to help you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Even if you do not live in a place that has Electronic-Self Representation, you can still look at the checklist forms and guides they provide to help you get an idea of what you need to do to file for bankruptcy.

You can see if you can use the Central District Court of California’s Electronic Self-Representation program for bankruptcy by finding out what . You should also keep an eye out in case your state decides to implement its own Electronic Self-Representation program.

Benefits of Electronic Self-Representation

There are three main benefits to filing for bankruptcy by using Electronic Self-Representation. Using eSR is free, using eSR helps guide you through the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and using eSR allows you to be flexible in when you work on your bankruptcy petition.

First, using eSR is free. There is no cost or software to purchase required before you use eSR to file for bankruptcy. However, you will still have to pay the court a fee in order to file for bankruptcy unless you petition the court for a fee waiver.

Second, Electronic Self-Representation has a guided step by step process that gives you up to 45 days to complete and you can access it at anytime. If you feel like filing for bankruptcy seems daunting then eSR may help ease the process for you. California’s Electronic Self-Representation program will help you along at every step of the process so you can successfully file for bankruptcy.

If you need additional help, there are available online, as well as a hotline to get assistance with eSR. You can also call the Court’s hotline where they can help you with your specific questions. In summation, eSR is designed to be accessible and easy to use to help you successfully file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Third, eSR lets you file for bankruptcy on your own terms. It can be stressful filing for bankruptcy by yourself. Electronic Self-Representation gives you the flexibility to work on your bankruptcy petition when it is convenient for you to do so. You can access the Electronic Self-Representation portal 24/7, that means you can pick the time that is most convenient for you to work on your bankruptcy.

The Electronic Self-Representation program also gives you 45 days to complete your petition. That means even if something unexpected comes up, there will still be plenty of time for you to get back to working on your bankruptcy petition.

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Downsides of Electronic Self-Representation

The biggest downside to eSR is that it is . At the moment, only people who live in certain parts of California are able to use Electronic Self-Representation. Electronic Self-Representation is available to anyone who would file for bankruptcy in the Central District Court of California.

In the future, other states may create their own programs like eSR to help guide individuals without attonterys through the bankruptcy process. You may want to check to see if your state has recently implemented their own eSR program.

However, even if you do not live in California there are other options you can take advantage to help you file for bankruptcy. For instance, there are a wide range of that can be cheaper than an attorney, but still take you step by step through the bankruptcy process. The downside to using these programs is that they can be expensive.

Fortunately, there are free alternatives available too that can help guide you through the process for filing for bankruptcy. Even if you do not live in California, you can take advantage of free resources like , a free bankruptcy non-profit, in order to file for bankruptcy. Upsolve helps guide individuals throughout the entire bankruptcy process for free and you can see if you are eligible online.

What to do before using eSR?

Before you can use eSR to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy you will have to gather some . This includes a from a court approved credit counseling agency, the names and addresses of all your creditors, a list of the property you own, proof of income for the last six months, bank statements from the last six months, a list of your monthly expenses, the past two years of tax returns, as well as other relevant financial information.

These are the same kinds of financial documents you will need to gather no matter if you file for bankruptcy with an attorney, use commercial bankruptcy software, or file using electronic self-representation. Making sure to gather all the relevant documents is important in order to ensure your bankruptcy petition is filed promptly and evaluated with minimal delay.

Another requirement is that you will need to have access to a computer and the internet. You will also need a printer for certain parts of the process. Luckily, your local library probably has everything you need in order to complete eSR if you do not have your own computer and printer.

After that you can get started working on filing for bankruptcy. The Electronic Self-Representation program will help guide you step by step in order to complete your bankruptcy petition. Afterwards, you can submit your bankruptcy forms to the Court and get started resolving your bankruptcy.


There are many resources available to you to file for bankruptcy electronically. California’s new eSR program is a great place to start if you want to file for bankruptcy without an attorney.

If you don’t live in a place with a court run Electronic Self-Representation program you can still take advantage of resources like Upsolve to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at not cost. Upsolve helps guide you through the process of filing for bankruptcy similar to how court-run eSR programs work.

If you cannot afford an attorney or an expensive bankruptcy software to help you fill out your paperwork, consider Upsolve. Our mission is to help low-income Americans in financial distress get a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy at no cost. We do this by combining the power of technology with pro bono attorneys. Spun out of Harvard Law School, includes lawyers, engineers, and judges.

Whether you’re , legal aid, or on your own with a service like , Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a great way to help you get a fresh start. , and we want to help you and your family become debt-free.

Filing on your own? Take this short quiz to find out whether Upsolve can help you succeed!

Written By:

Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad


Kristin is a recipient of Harvard Law School’s Public Welfare Foundation A2J Tech Fellowship. At Harvard Law, she served as a member of the Harvard Defenders, the Women’s Law Association, and the Harvard Law Negotiation Review. She was the 2016 – 2017 president of the Harvard Bla... read more about Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad

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