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Can I File for Bankruptcy Online?

4 minute read Upsolve is a nonprofit that helps you get out of debt with education and free debt relief tools, like our bankruptcy filing tool. Think TurboTax for bankruptcy. Get free education, customer support, and community. Featured in Forbes 4x and funded by institutions like Harvard University so we'll never ask you for a credit card.  Explore our free tool


In a Nutshell

Most bankruptcy courts don’t allow individuals who are filing bankruptcy without an attorney to file their bankruptcy forms online. However, filing your bankruptcy case with the court is only one of 10 steps to filing bankruptcy. Many of the other steps can be done online, like accessing the required bankruptcy forms, taking the two required credit counseling and financial education courses, and attending your 341 meeting of creditors (usually).

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated May 21, 2024


Upsolve is a nonprofit with a free filing app that can help you prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork for free if you're eligible, but you usually need to file the paperwork in person at your local courthouse or send it via mail.

Can You File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Online? 

When most people ask this question, they’re wondering if they can file their bankruptcy forms, also known as a bankruptcy petition, online with their local bankruptcy court. Unfortunately, most bankruptcy courts across the U.S. don’t allow people who are representing themselves to file bankruptcy online. That said, rules vary by court, so it’s worth double-checking with your bankruptcy court to see if they have an online filing system for pro-se filers — that is, people who are filing their case without an attorney.

Most of us are used to doing practically everything online, so not being able to submit your bankruptcy paperwork that way can feel frustrating. But there’s some good news. Filing bankruptcy involves several steps, and many of those steps can be completed online.

Can You File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Online?

No. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is no different than Chapter 7 when it comes to filing your case online. It’s not allowed in most courts. Chapter 13 is the second most common type of bankruptcy. Filing Chapter 13 may be better for individuals who own houses or other expensive property or who earn too much income to pass the means test for Chapter 7. 

While Chapter 13 can be a great option for some people, it’s more complicated and requires even more paperwork than Chapter 7. Part of the required paperwork is a detailed 3–5-year repayment plan. Because of this, most people who attempt to file Chapter 13 without getting professional legal help unfortunately fail. If you think Chapter 13 might be a good option for you, get a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney near you to learn more and get the support you need.

The information below applies equally to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases.

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What Can You Do Online When You File Bankruptcy?

You can do several of the required steps to file bankruptcy online. This includes: 

  • Taking the two required courses — the credit counseling course before you file and debtor education course after you file

  • Downloading or completing the official bankruptcy forms and any local forms your bankruptcy court requires

  • Getting your credit report, bank statements, and other financial documents you’ll need when filing

  • Attending your 341 meeting of creditors — most filers will be able to attend this meeting virtually or in person   

You can also track the progress of your case through PACER online and sign up to get notices about your bankruptcy case via email. 

What Can’t You Do Online When Filing Bankruptcy?

It’s important to know which steps of the bankruptcy process you won’t be able to do online. The main things you’ll need to do the old-fashioned way (in person at the courthouse or via mail) are:

While it’s slowly becoming more common, most courts still don’t allow self-represented filers to submit their bankruptcy forms to the court online. That said, in 2014, the Central District of California Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles became the first bankruptcy court to use electronic Self-Representation (eSR) — a free online tool that allows users to prepare and submit bankruptcy forms online. Since then, some other courts across the country have followed suit. You can check your court’s website to see what your filing options are. 

One other note: Most Chapter 7 filers won’t be required to attend a court hearing before a judge. Usually, the only meeting you’ll be required to attend is the 341 meeting with your trustee. However, if you decide to reaffirm your car loan, you may be required to appear in court for a brief hearing in front of a bankruptcy judge. 

Can You Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer To File Your Bankruptcy Case Online?

Yes. Bankruptcy attorneys are required to use the U.S. Courts’ electronic online filing system, so they’re able to submit your bankruptcy forms to the court online. Keep in mind that bankruptcy attorneys can be quite expensive. 

If you have a simple Chapter 7 case, you can use Upsolve’s free web app to prepare your forms, though you’ll need to print them off and submit them via mail or in person at the court. If your case is complicated or you just feel more comfortable hiring an attorney, they’ll take care of submitting your paperwork for you.

Can You Hire a Bankruptcy Petition Preparer To File Your Bankruptcy Case Online?

No. The law limits what bankruptcy petition preparers can do. Petition preparers aren’t attorneys, so they don’t have the same privileges to file papers online that attorneys do. 

If you use a bankruptcy petition preparer for your case, the agency may allow you to fill out information through an online portal. But, importantly, you’re still the one who has to submit the paperwork to the court. 

A petition preparer is any non-lawyer who prepares a bankruptcy petition for you and charges a fee for doing it. Different courts have different rules limiting the amount a bankruptcy petition preparer can charge. The maximum fees are usually less than $250. Bankruptcy petition preparers can't offer legal advice under any condition.  

What’s the Fastest Way To File Bankruptcy?

If you’re facing a debt lawsuit or wage garnishment order, you may be trying to figure out the quickest way to file your bankruptcy case. As soon as the court receives your bankruptcy petition, the automatic stay kicks in. The automatic stay stops collection calls and actions, including foreclosure, wage garnishment, or car repossession. 

There’s no one answer to the question of the fastest way to file. The time it takes to file your case depends largely on whether or not you decide to hire a lawyer to represent you and how much time and energy you have available to provide information to the lawyer or fill out the forms yourself. These factors matter a lot more than the method by which you file. 

If you’re filing bankruptcy pro se and you want the automatic stay to kick in as soon as possible, it’s advisable to take your bankruptcy petition to the court in person. This eliminates the wait of sending the packet in the mail. It can also save you time if the court clerk spots a missing signature or other small error you could otherwise correct while you’re at the courthouse. 

Let's Summarize...

If you have a lot of debt and you’ve looked at or tried other debt relief options without success, it might be time to consider getting a fresh start by filing personal bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can dramatically improve your financial situation by wiping out credit card debt, medical bills, and sometimes even federal student loans. It requires filling out several forms and submitting them to a U.S. bankruptcy court near you. You usually can’t file these forms online if you choose to represent yourself.

  



Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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