DISCLAIMER: The following information should not be relied upon as legal authority nor should it be used as a substitute for reference to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Finally, this information should supplement, not substitute, for the advice of competent legal counsel. Please be advised that the Clerk’s Office staff is prohibited from giving legal advice. For additional information, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code), the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules). See also https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/bankruptcy/filing-without-attorney.
What is a Pro Se Debtor?
A Pro Se debtor is a person who files and/or proceeds in bankruptcy without an attorney. A Pro Se debtor is responsible for all aspects of his/her case. Failure to comply with the Bankruptcy Code and Rules or with court orders may result in the dismissal of the debtor's case. It is recommended that all debtors seek legal advice before filing bankruptcy.
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?
Corporations and partnerships must have an attorney for filing a bankruptcy case. While it is possible for individuals to file a bankruptcy case "Pro Se", that is, without representation by an attorney, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully. The Court is not able to give legal advice or help fill out forms. Pro se debtors are expected to follow all rules and procedures and should be familiar with the Bankruptcy Code and Rules and all applicable local rules. Hiring a competent attorney is highly recommended.
Where can I obtain petition forms?
Can the Clerk’s Office help me fill out my forms?
No, members of the Clerk’s office are prohibited from assisting with the completion of any forms.
What forms are needed to file Bankruptcy?
The above links contain lists of common and required case filing documents. The lists are not exhaustive of all forms that may be needed in a particular case.
Where do I file my bankruptcy case, and can I file my documents electronically?
Pro se debtors (debtors without an attorney) may file their cases by mail or in person (see our locations, mailing addresses and county jurisdictions listed on our website: www.ilcb.uscourts.gov). At this time, debtors cannot file documents electronically with the Court.
What happens after I file my bankruptcy petition?
Generally, when a case is filed, the automatic stay immediately goes into effect. A notice will be sent by the Clerk’s Office to all the parties included on the list of the name and address of creditors filed with the petition (also known as the mailing matrix). This notice will advise them of the date and time of the first meeting of creditors (341 meeting) and other important information concerning the case.
Will filing a bankruptcy stop creditors from calling?
As a pro se debtor, creditors may still contact you for information.
What if I need to notify a creditor before the Court sends out notice of my bankruptcy?
If you provide an additional copy of the petition when the bankruptcy petition is filed, the Court will file-stamp and return your copy. However, the Court can also provide you with a file-stamped copy of the first page of the petition or the Notice of Bankruptcy Case Filing for a small fee at any time. For more information see: https://www.ilcb.uscourts.gov/obtaining-copies-documents-bankruptcy-case-file.
How long should I keep copies of my bankruptcy?
As your bankruptcy petition is a legal document, it is advisable to keep your bankruptcy records forever.
How do I format the matrix (the list of names and addresses of my creditors)?
FONT: Do not use script-style fonts.
COLUMNS: Use one single column per page.
MARGINS: Use one-inch margins on the top, bottom, left and right.
ADDRESS LINES: Each name/address block must consist of no more than five total lines and each must be no more than 40 characters in length.
CAPITALIZATION: Name/Address blocks should be capitalized appropriately using upper and lower case. Do not use all caps.
CITY/STATE ADDRESS LINE: Format as follows:
City (comma, space) two-letter U.S. Post Office state abbreviation (space) five-digit zip code.
City, State and Zip Code must be on the same line.
• Spell out the state,
• Use periods between state abbreviation letters (example: N.C.),
• Use abbreviations for states other than U.S. Post Office accepted two-letter abbreviations,
• Use nine-digit zip code.
An example of a properly formatted entry in a creditor matrix would be:
Acme Credit Corp.
1234 W. 9th St.
Somewhere, IL 12345
DO NOT include the following on the matrix:
• U.S. Trustee,
• Joint Debtor,
• Debtor(s) Attorney.
Where can I obtain legal advice?
The Illinois State Bar Association or your county bar association may be able to assist you in finding low cost legal advice.
The Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office is prohibited from giving legal advice.
How do I correct information or add information to my case?
The petition, schedules and/or statement of financial affairs can be corrected by filing an amendment with the Clerk’s Office. Any amendments to Schedule D, and/or E/F should list only the corrected or additional information and must include a proof of service which indicates the amendment was served on the creditor or party affected by the amended schedules. A filing fee is required for amendments to Schedules D, E/F or an amended mailing matrix (for a list of current fees click here). Also, amended schedules (Schedules A/B, D, E/F, I, J and Forms 122-A-C) require a Declaration (Official Form 106Dec) and a Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information (Official Form 106Sum) (for individuals only).
How do I report an address change to the court?
If you are a debtor representing yourself, you may mail a change of address to the court. You must provide the name of the case, the case number, and both your OLD and NEW address.
What form of payment do you allow?
The debtor in a case may make payment for their initial filing fee, any subsequent filing fees, service requests, etc. by cash (if in person), money order, or cashier's check. No personal checks or credit cards can be accepted on behalf of the debtor. Law firm checks on behalf of the debtor are accepted. Please be aware that the policies of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts do not allow the Clerk’s Office to provide change. Please have the exact amount.