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Frequently Asked Questions are provided as a reference. To view questions more specific to your needs, click on the applicable tab. The default landing page lists all questions.
Are all debts discharged in bankruptcy?
Not all debts are discharged. The debts discharged vary under each chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. A slightly broader discharge of debts is available to a debtor in a Chapter 13 case than in a Chapter 7 case. Section 523(a) of the Bankruptcy Code specifically excepts various categories of debts from the discharge granted to individual debtors. Therefore, the debtor must still repay those nondischargeable debts after bankruptcy. The most common types of nondischargeable debts are certain types of tax claims, debts for domestic support obligations, debts for willful and malicious injuries to person or property, debts to governmental units for fines and penalties, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts for personal injury caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and debts owed to certain tax-advantaged retirement plans. Other types of debt, such as obligations incurred as the result of fraud, embezzlement, or willful injury may be excepted from discharge if the creditor successfully brings a nondischargeability action against the debtor.
Does a discharge remove the lien against my property?
The discharge order only relieves the debtor of the personal obligation to pay the debt. Valid liens against the debtor’s property that existed prior to the date the debtor filed for bankruptcy generally pass through the bankruptcy unaffected. However, certain liens may be avoided (e.g. made unenforceable) during bankruptcy or may be satisfied through a plan or reorganization.
How do I change or correct information in the petition, schedules and statements I have already filed with the Clerk's office?
The information contained in your petition, schedules, and statement of affairs is submitted under penalty of perjury. Therefore, you must be certain that it is correct when you sign these documents.
If, however, you later discover that something is inaccurate, the documents may be corrected by the filing of an amendment with the Clerk's Office. New schedules or statements must be filed showing the corrected information. All amendments must be signed by the debtor(s) with a declaration under penalty of perjury.
A filing fee is required to amend schedules when adding creditors, deleting creditors, changing the amount specified as being owed to a creditor, or changing the classificationof a debt on Schedules D/E, or F. See Miscellaneous Fee Schedule. If additonal creditors are added, a separate additional page matrix is required to be filed, listing only the creditor(s) being added.
A new Form must be filed along with the amended schedule(s) : Form B106-Summary - A Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities and Certain Statistical Information (individuals) or Form B206-Summary - A Summary of Your Assets and Liabilities (non-individuals).
All amendments must be served pursuant to Federal Bankruptcy Rules.
How long does a bankruptcy case stay on my credit report? How do I get a bankruptcy removed from the credit report?
A bankruptcy generally affects a person’s credit rating for 7 to 10 years. However, this depends entirely on the individual credit reporting agency. The Bankruptcy Court does not have influence on the type of information the credit bureaus report or how long the credit bureaus keep the filing in their records. Under federal law, you may be able to periodically receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Each agency's report may contain different information. To receive a free annual credit report, you can visit www.annualcreditreport.com or you can call or send a written request to:
For more information, see the Credit Reporting Information section on this website.
What are bankruptcy schedules and your statement of financial affairs for bankruptcy?
These documents provide information about the debtor’s assets and liabilities. In these documents, the debtor describes the nature and value of his or her property and lists the nature and amount of debts, the names and addresses of creditors, and the debtor’s current income and expenditures. The statement of financial affairs for bankruptcy requires the debtor to disclose certain historic information about his or her financial affairs. These documents must be fully completed and are signed by the debtor under penalty of perjury.
What can I do if a creditor continues to try to collect on a debt from me that was discharged in my bankruptcy case?
The best course of action will depend on the specific facts involved. It is recommended that a debtor contact an attorney with any questions. Making the creditor aware that the discharge order was entered and that the order applies to the creditor’s debt often resolves the collection action. If the creditor continues its attempts to collect a discharged debt, the discharge order may be used as a viable defense to the collection action. The debtor may also file an appropriate pleading in the Bankruptcy Court for a determination that the debt was discharged or alternatively to seek damages for a creditor’s violation of a discharge order.
What can I do if a creditor keeps trying to collect money after I have filed bankruptcy?
If the creditor continues to attempt to collect a debt after the bankruptcy is filed, the creditor may be in violation of the automatic stay. If you have an attorney, you should immediately notify him or her of the creditor’s collection efforts. If you are not represented, you may provide notice to the creditor that you have filed bankruptcy including documents such as the bankruptcy petition and Notice of Filing; these documents may assist the creditor in determining your status as a debtor in bankruptcy who may be protected by the automatic stay. If the creditor continues an attempt to collect, you may be entitled to take legal action against the creditor. Any such legal action brought against the creditor may be complex and will normally require representation by a qualified bankruptcy attorney.
What does it mean if a case is dismissed? If my case is dismissed, are my fees still owed?
A dismissal order ends the case and removes most matters from the Bankruptcy Court’s jurisdiction. Dismissal does not mean the case was never filed or erase the case from the Court’s records. The filing of the case and the dismissal remain a matter of record. When the Court dismisses a case, the automatic stay is no longer in effect and creditors may start to collect on their debts again. Some types of dismissals may contain a bar or prejudice period that prohibits the debtor from refiling another bankruptcy case.
The filing fee is due even if your case is dismissed.
What if I do not agree with an Order entered in a case?
A Notice of Appeal may be filed after an Order or Judgment has been entered in a case. In a Notice of Appeal, the party filing the Appeal, the appellant, wishes to reverse the Order or Judgment granted in favor of the other party, the appellee. When an Appeal is filed in the Northern District of Iowa, the matter may be elected to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) or District Court by the appellant at the time of filing the Notice of Appeal and Statement of Election.
Click here for more information on filing an appeal.
What is "credit counseling"? Where do I take this course?
In order to be eligible to file for bankruptcy, an individual debtor must receive credit counseling within 180 days prior to filing a bankruptcy petition unless he or she qualifies for a temporary waiver of the requirement under 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(3) or an exemption from the requirement under 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code. Specifically, the law requires the debtor to receive from an approved agency a briefing to outline the opportunities available for credit counseling and the creation of a financial management plan. This may be done in an individual or group session and may be completed in person, on the phone, or even via the Internet. The Court facilitates access to credit counseling by the public use of a telephone or computer to obtain such counseling. A timely certificate of credit counseling is required and must be filed with the Court.
A list of court-approved credit counselors is available on the U.S. Trustee’s website or from this hyperlink: Approved Credit Counseling Agencies.
What is "financial management"? Where do I take the course?
The "Certification About a Financial Management Course" in Chapters 7 and 13 must be completed before a discharge is entered, unless the debtor qualifies for a temporary waiver or exemption from the requirement under 11 U.S.C. § 109(h).
Chapter 7: If you have filed a Chapter 7 petition, you must complete a course in personal financial management and file your certification with the Court within 45 days of the first date set for the Meeting of Creditors or your case will be closed without a discharge. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007
Chapter 13: If you have filed a Chapter 13 petition, you must complete a course in personal financial management and file your certification with the Court no later than the last payment made as required by the plan or the filing of a motion for entry of discharge under § 1328(b), or your case will be closed without a discharge. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1007(b)(7).
The U.S. Trustee's Office provides a list of Approved Financial Management Course Providers.
What is "Property of the Estate"?
“Property of the Estate” is a term of art used in the Bankruptcy Code. The term includes nearly all of the debtor’s property at the time the debtor files the petition. In a Chapter 13 case, the term also includes a debtor’s post-petition wages and other property that the debtor acquires before the case is closed. Property of the Estate is protected by the automatic stay absent a lifting of the stay by court order or operation of law.
What is a bankruptcy petition? What is a joint petition?
A bankruptcy petition is a form that a debtor files to commence a case before the Bankruptcy Court. The debtor elects in the document the bankruptcy chapter under which he or she will proceed and provides certain other required identifying information. The document is signed by the debtor under penalty of perjury. Married individuals are allowed to file a joint petition whereby a single bankruptcy case is commenced for the two married individuals.
What is a discharge?
The discharge order is issued by the court and permanently prohibits creditors from taking action to collect dischargeable debts against the debtor personally. This does not prevent secured creditors from seizing collateral if payments are not kept up or other creditors from pursuing property of the estate. The following information is intended as a summary only. You are strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney in order to determine the rights and obligations that apply to your individual situation.
Some debts are not dischargeable, and others may be found to be non-dischargeable depending on particular circumstances.
In a chapter 7 case, the bankruptcy court will order that the debtor be discharged of all dischargeable debts once the time for filing complaints objecting to discharge has expired (usually 90-120 days after the case was filed) except in certain situations. For example, a discharge will not be granted if the debtor is not an individual, a complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge has been filed, a motion to dismiss the case for abuse is pending, the debtor has not paid the filing fee in full, or the debtor has not filed a Debtor's Certification of Completion of Instructional Course Concerning Financial Management (Official Form B423) or a Certificate of Completion of Instructional Course Concerning Personal Financial Management.
In chapter 12 and chapter 13 cases, the court will order that the debtor is discharged of dischargeable debts after the debtor has completed all payments under the plan (3-5 years), or prior to plan completion, after notice and hearing, if the requirements of 11 United States Code §§ 1228(b) or 1328(b) have been met.
A chapter 13 debtor seeking entry of a discharge in a case filed on or after April 20, 2005, shall file the local form "Debtor's Certified Motion for Discharge and Notice of Deadline to Object" (IANB1328) upon completion of all payment under the plan. A chapter 13 debtor must also file a Debtor's Certification Re: 11 U.S.C. Section 522 (Form IANB-522), not earlier than the date of the last plan payment.
The granting of a discharge does not automatically result in the closing of a case. Pending motions must be resolved and the trustee must file a final report and account and request entry of a final decree before the Clerk's Office will close the case.
What is a Meeting of Creditors?
The Meeting of Creditors, also known as a 341 Meeting (so-called after § 341 of the Bankruptcy Code), is a meeting that a debtor is required to attend after filing for bankruptcy. The meeting is conducted by the case trustee or the U.S. Trustee. The bankruptcy judge does not attend this meeting. The debtor must appear at this meeting and testify under oath about his or her financial condition, assets, and liabilities. The debtor will be asked questions about the information contained in the bankruptcy paperwork filed with the Court. Creditors may also attend this meeting and may question the debtor about his or her financial affairs. If a debtor fails to attend this required meeting, the case trustee may seek to dismiss the bankruptcy case. A debtor typically cannot receive a discharge in bankruptcy without attending this meeting.
The Meeting of Creditors is held within a certain time period after the bankruptcy case is commenced. Within about a week after the bankruptcy case is filed, the debtor will receive notice by mail of the date and time of the Meeting of Creditors, which will be contained in the Notice of Bankruptcy Case. The debtor is required to bring certain identification information to this meeting and the trustee may request further information about the debtor’s financial affairs.
What is a proof of claim?
A proof of claim is a document filed by a creditor that asserts a right to payment. In a Chapter 13 case, the creditor must file a proof of claim to receive payment from the Chapter 13 trustee under your plan. In a Chapter 7 case, creditors may be asked not to file a claim until the Chapter 7 trustee determines whether there are assets for distribution. Since the claim is filed with the Court, you may not necessarily receive a copy of the claim from the creditor. Your attorney can assist you in determining whether the claim is valid or should be disputed. You may use ePOC or Official Form B410 for filing a proof of claim on behalf of a creditor.
What is a reaffirmation agreement?
A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement by which a Chapter 7 debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of an otherwise dischargeable debt. Such an agreement must generally be entered into within sixty (60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. The agreement must be filed with the court. A reaffirmation agreement must be filed on (Form B2400) and be accompanied by a Reaffirmation Agreement Cover Sheet (Form B427).
If the reaffirming debtor is represented by an attorney, and the agreement complies with 11 United States Code § 524(c), no hearing for approval of such an agreement is generally necessary. If the reaffirming debtor is not represented by an attorney or the attorney has not signed the agreement, the court will schedule a hearing. You must appear in person at the hearing. The judge will ask questions to determine whether the reaffirmation agreement imposes an undue hardship on you or your dependents and whether it is in your best interests. Since reaffirmed debts are not discharged, the bankruptcy court will normally approve reaffirmation agreements only when the debt is secured by collateral that is important to your daily activities. Reaffirmation agreements are strictly voluntary. They are not required by the Bankruptcy Code or other state or federal law.
What is an executory contract and why must I assume or reject it?
Executory contracts are unfulfilled contracts whereby each party to the contract has remaining obligations. A typical example of such contracts is a lease for property, such as a home or a vehicle, or a rent-to-own agreement. In bankruptcy such contracts must be “assumed” for the debtor to continue to have rights under the agreement. As with reaffirmation agreements and redemption, the debtor must take timely action to assume his or her executory contracts, otherwise the contracts may be deemed “rejected” and the automatic stay may be lifted.
What is an Exemption?
An “exemption” is a statutory right that an individual debtor may exercise to exempt the equity in certain real and personal property from certain creditors. If there is no non-exempt equity in your property, after considering its value, consensual liens, and the amount of the exemption, then your trustee may determine that the property should not be sold for the benefit of your creditors or that such property should not be considered in determining the amount of your payment under a Chapter 13 plan. An exemption has no effect on the rights of a creditor with a consensual lien, such as a mortgage creditor or a creditor that financed the purchase of a vehicle.
A debtor takes an exemption by completing Schedule C.
What is redemption?
Redemption allows an individual debtor (not a partnership or a corporation) to keep tangible, personal property intended primarily for personal, family, or household use by paying the holder of a lien on the property the amount of the allowed secured claim on the property, which typically means the value of the property. Redemption is an alternative to reaffirmation. The property redeemed must be property that is exempt or that has been abandoned by the Chapter 7 trustee. With redemption, a debtor can often get liens released on personal possessions for much less than the underlying secured debt; however, unless the creditor consents to periodic payments, redemption must generally be made in one lump sum payment to the creditor. As with reaffirmation, the Bankruptcy Code imposes certain deadlines by which the debtor must seek redemption of his or her property.
What is the "means test"?
Individual debtors with primarily consumer debts who file a petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, 11, or 13 must complete an income-based “means test.” The means test calculates the difference between a debtor’s current monthly income (“CMI”) and his or her allowed expenses. The means test is intended to determine whether a debtor has the “means” to repay some percentage of his or her non-priority unsecured debts. In order to report and calculate a debtor’s CMI and allowed expenses for the completion of the means test, official forms B122A-1, B122A-1SUPP, and B122A-2 have been created for Chapter 7 debtors, B122B for individual 11 debtors, and B122C-1 and B122C-2 for Chapter 13 debtors. In a Chapter 7, the means test may determine whether there is a presumption of abuse by the debtor in seeking relief under Chapter 7. Forms B122B, B122C-1 and B122C-2 can be used to determine the appropriate payment plan for debtors in Chapters 11 and 13.
What is the Plan of Reorganization?
The plan, generally filed by the debtor in a Chapter 13 case, states how the debtor proposes to pay their various debts. Creditors and other parties in interest are served with the plan and have an opportunity to object to a proposed plan. The plan does not become effective until the Court confirms it after a hearing. The form Chapter 13 plan used in this District is found here.
What should I do if I cannot make my chapter 13 payment?
If the debtor cannot make a chapter 13 payment on time according to the terms of the confirmed plan, the debtor should contact his or her attorney, if represented, or the Chapter 13 trustee to explain the problem. Under certain circumstances, the Chapter 13 trustee may agree to allow the debtor to catch up on the missed plan payments. Significant changes in the debtor’s circumstances may require that the plan be amended by motion of the debtor. The debtor may also be able to seek a temporary stay of plan payments by filing a motion for a moratorium. The debtor may also seek an order for a hardship discharge to obtain a limited Chapter 13 discharge and end the Chapter 13 case if certain criteria are met. If the problem in payment is permanent and the debtor is no longer able to make payments under the plan, the trustee may request that the Bankruptcy Court dismiss the case or convert the case to one under another chapter.