Filing Your Own Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Case
If you are considering filing your own bankruptcy case (representing yourself is called being "pro se"), be aware that you are responsible for understanding the law and court rules. You will be expected to comply with all deadlines. Being pro se will not be an excuse. Here are some resources you should become familiar with:
If you use a non-attorney petition preparer (such as a paralegal service) to fill out your bankruptcy documents, you are still considered to be pro se and will be representing yourself. Petition preparers cannot by law give you legal advice or appear in court for you.
There are a number of resources available so that you can educate yourself about the bankruptcy process:
- Legal Aid Center offers a free bankruptcy legal information class. To learn more about the class, click to visit our Bankruptcy Class page.
- The U.S. Courts have created a series of Bankruptcy Basics videos, which provide a good overview of the bankruptcy process. Legal Aid Center has prepared videos that supplement the courts' videos with additional and Nevada-specific information.* To watch the videos, click to visit our Bankruptcy Videos page.
- Legal forms are available for free on the Bankruptcy Court's website. Click to visit the Bankruptcy Court's Local Forms page (for forms specific to the District of Nevada) and Official Forms page (for forms used when there's no Nevada-specific form).
Legal Aid Center has also prepared a number of easy-to-read flyers on some important bankruptcy topics:
*Legal Aid Center's videos were made possible thanks to a grant from the American College of Bankruptcy and the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation.
Sometimes a debtor is sued in Bankruptcy Court. These lawsuits are called "adversary proceedings." One type of adversary proceeding is a "non-dischargeability" action. This is when a creditor brings a suit to determine that a debtor is not entitled to a discharge of a specific debt (under 11 U.S.C. § 523) or all of the debtor's debts (under 11 U.S.C. § 727).
Adversary proceedings are started with the filing of a complaint. The party that filed the complaint is called the "plaintiff." The plaintiff must obtain a summons from the Bankruptcy Court and serve the summons and complaint on the debtor. The debtor is now also called the "defendant" in the adversary proceeding.
The debtor-defendant must file a timely answer with the court in response to the complaint or face the entry of a default and default judgment (meaning that the plaintiff wins).
If you are served with an adversary complaint, the plaintiff is required to include a document entitled "What to Do After You've Been Sued in an Adversary Proceeding." It also can be found on the Bankruptcy Court's website on the Adversary Proceeding Filing Requirements page.
Although your answers to the specific allegations contained in the plaintiff's complaint will depend on the facts of your case, you can use this general Answer Form to prepare your answer. You must file your answer with the Bankruptcy Court within the mandatory time limit and serve a copy of your answer on the plaintiff. You must then file a certificate of service with the court. Click for the general local Certificate of Service form.
Sometimes the debtor files the adversary case, making the debtor the "plaintiff." For example, in order to seek to have a student loan debt discharged, the debtor must file an adversary complaint.
To learn more about the requirements for adversary proceedings, click to visit the Bankruptcy Court's Adversary Proceeding Filing Requirements page.