Filing your pro se bankruptcy forms during the COVID 19 Outbreak
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Although most courts are closed to the public, you can still file your bankruptcy case by submitting your forms. In person filing has been suspended at most courts for the time being and each court has established its own specific filing procedures. This article is intended to provide you with a general overview of how the COVID-19 outbreak impacts your options for filing your bankruptcy forms. To find instructions for your court, visit your court’s website. Please be sure to closely follow the instructions provided by the court on how to file your bankruptcy forms.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated August 11, 2020
Although most courts are closed to the public, you can still file your bankruptcy case by submitting your forms. In person filing has been suspended at most courts for the time being and each court has established its own specific filing procedures. To find instructions for your court, visit your court’s website. Please be sure to closely follow the instructions provided by the court on how to file your bankruptcy forms. This article is intended to provide you with a general overview of how the COVID-19 outbreak impacts your options for filing your bankruptcy forms. For a listing of all bankruptcy court districts and their procedural changes during the pandemic, click here.
Important: Always make sure you sign your forms in all required spots before dropping them off or sending them to the court.
Filing by dropbox
Since filing in person is currently impossible as courts are closed to the public, many of them have established a dropbox where filers can submit documents for filing with the court in person. Your court’s website will provide specific information about where the dropbox is located and what specific procedures you should follow when using it.
A couple of tips for filing by dropbox:
Be sure to place your filing in a properly labeled envelope that fits all the forms neatly without folding anything. Remember to label your envelope with your contact information before placing it in the dropbox. Some basic information to include is your full name, phone number, and email. We’re hearing that some courts are contacting filers directly via phone or email if there are any issues with the documents they dropped off, in an effort to reduce any unnecessary delays.
Filing by email, fax or upload your forms to their website
Some courts are offering pro se debtors the ability to file by email, fax or, in rare cases, by uploading their forms to the court’s website. Your court’s website will provide specific information about how this is being handled by their clerk’s office. This includes instructions about specific additional information you may need to provide to allow the court to process your submission and the email address, fax number, or website to use to submit everything.
In most districts, you will still have to send the court a fully signed copy with your “wet” signature (i.e. your original signature) within 7 days of filing your case. This is because the courts still need all of the forms with an original signature from you, despite the alternative filing accommodations made by the court. If you don’t follow your court’s instructions on how quickly to mail in your signed originals, your case may be dismissed.
Please note: Filing by email or using one of these portals made available to pro se filers during the outbreak is not the same as online filing or electronic filing. E-Filing through the Court’s Electronic Court Filing (ECF) system is still only available for attorneys.
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Filing by mail
As before the global pandemic, you can still file your case (or any amendments you need to file) by mailing everything to the court. For now, the courts are still processing mail daily but expect delays in processing. Check your court’s website for more information on how to file your case forms by mail, including which address to mail everything to and how to pay the filing fee, if you’re not applying to have the fee waived. Expect to receive a confirmation of your filing in the form of the Notice of Creditors’ Meeting within 1 - 2 weeks after filing your case by mail.
I filed by dropbox, mail, email or fax. How will I know my forms are filed?
When you submitted your forms, you provided the court your contact information. Most courts are indicating that the clerk’s will contact new filers by email or phone once their forms have been received.
Check your mail frequently & sign up for electronic notices
Since none of these alternative filing methods will give you the opportunity to have someone review all of your forms as you’re filing them, remember to frequently check your mail and keep an eye out for any deficiency notices the court may you.
Signing up for Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (DeBN)
Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing is a system that allows filers to sign up to receive all of their court notices via email. This is an especially good idea these days as it may take longer for mail to get to you during this outbreak. Look for instructions on how to sign up for DeBN for your case on your court’s website.
How do I pay my filing fee?
Unless you’re eligible to apply for a fee waiver, you still have to pay your filing fee either in full, or in part if you’re applying to pay the fee in installments at the time you file your case. You’ll also have to abide by the payment due dates set by the court in response to your request to pay the filing fee in installments.
The courts are not accepting cash or personal checks. Do not mail in cash or a personal check to pay your filing fee. Instead, visit your court’s website for more information on how to make a payment at or after filing. Courts are accepting money orders, cashier’s checks or may allow you to make a payment online.
If you applied for a fee waiver you will receive notice in the mail whether your application has been granted and further instructions on how to make a payment if your application was denied.