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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.
What is bankruptcy?
“Bankruptcy” refers to a national set of laws (the “Bankruptcy Code,” which is codified in Title 11 of the United States Code), designed to help certain individuals and businesses reorganize their financial affairs to achieve a fresh start. Bankruptcy laws give the debtor certain protections and benefits that are generally not available outside of bankruptcy. Most notably, once a bankruptcy case is filed, existing creditors must typically stop all collection efforts against the debtor and certain debts may be forgiven if the debtor obtains a discharge. The bankruptcy laws require the debtor make a full disclosure of all assets, liabilities and other financial information, and generally the debtor either: (1) surrenders non-exempt assets for liquidation and distribution to creditors; or (2) formulates and proceeds under a plan of reorganization and debt repayment that provides creditors with at least as much as they would receive if the debtor’s non-exempt assets were liquidated and distributed to creditors.
Can the Clerk's Office Staff give legal advice?
A bankruptcy case is a legal proceeding affecting the rights of debtors, creditors and other parties in interest. Pursuant to 28 United States Code § 955, the Clerk's Office staff is prohibited from giving information which may be characterized as legal advice.
How can I get information about a case (debtor's name, case number, chapter)?
Multi-court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) 866-222-8029
PACER (Public Access To Court Electronic Records) A web-based format that allows anyone with internet access and a PACER login from the court to access official court records via the internet at https://ecf.ianb.uscourts.gov
For more information about these systems, call the Clerk's office Monday through Friday, 8:00 - 4:30 at 319-286-2200 or 712-233-3939.
How do I change the date and/or time for a meeting of creditors?
Contact the trustee assigned to the case.
How do I find out who the trustee is in a case?
The Court prints the name of the trustee in a Chapter 7, Chapter 12, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case at the top of the case docket and on many of the forms. You may obtain the trustee's name by visiting the Clerk's Office in person or through the automated systems.
How do I get certified copies of documents in a case?
You may mail or fax (319-286-2280) a written request. Please include the case name, case number and the title of the specific document(s) you wish to have certified. In addition, please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. A certification fee per document and a photocopy fee will apply. In some instances, a per item search fee may be charged. See the Filing Fee Schedules for estimated costs.
You may also contact the Clerk's Office at (319)286-2200 or (712) 233-3939 to make your request or to confirm the payment owed.
Payment must be in the form of either a bank cashier's check or money order made payable to: United States Bankruptcy Court. No personal checks will be accepted. Alternatively, payment can be made through our Online Payment Program.
How do I get copies of documents in a case?
For information of obtaining copies, click here.
How many copies of my schedules do I need to file with the court?
The original petition is filed with the Clerk’s Office. If you wish to have a "date stamped" copy returned to you, please enclose an extra copy (self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage is required if returned via U.S. mail).
How much are the filing fees to file a bankruptcy?
To view filing fees Filing Fee Schedules
I have information about bankruptcy fraud. Where do I report it?
The following link to the Bankruptcy Fraud Hotline contains information for reporting bankruptcy fraud.
Is bankruptcy information public information? Can anyone look at it?
The documents filed in a bankruptcy case are a matter of public record and can be reviewed by members of the general public at the Clerk's Office in Cedar Rapids or Sioux City during regular business hours at no charge. Attorneys, parties and those who have access to PACER may review documents filed in bankruptcy cases online at any time via their PACER access.
May I speak directly to the judge?
No. The Bankruptcy Rules prohibit any "ex parte" contact (communication between just you and the judge) with the Court in order to preserve the integrity of the Court and to prevent the appearance of any impropriety or allegations of preferential treatment for any party. The only time you may speak to the judge is when you are in the courtroom for a hearing in your case.
What are claims? How are claims filed?
The term "claim" in bankruptcy is used in the broadest sense. A claim is any right to payment held by a person or company against the debtor(s) and the debtor's bankruptcy estate. A claim does not have to be a past due amount but can include an anticipated sum of money which will come due in the future.
The written statement filed in a bankruptcy case setting forth a creditor's claim is called a proof of claim. The proof of claim should include a copy of any document giving rise to the claim as well as evidence of the secured status of the debt if the debt is secured. Generally, claims in chapters 11, 12 and 13 cases must be filed within ninety (90) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. In the Northern District of Iowa, all chapter 7 cases are opened as "no asset" cases. The bankruptcy trustee will determine if there are assets to be distributed. If so, the Clerk of Court will give creditors notice of a deadline to file claims for debts owed to them by the debtor(s). Creditors should not file a claim in a chapter 7 case unless a claims deadline is set. Creditors will have 90 days after the clerk's notice within which to file their claim with the bankruptcy court. Claims of governmental units must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days of the date the petition was filed.
What are Local Rules?
The Local Rules are the rules governing practice in the Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Iowa in addition to the Federal Bankruptcy Rules. Local Rules are available on this site
What are the consequences of filing for bankruptcy?
Depending on a debtor's financial situation and reasons for filing, the consequences of filing for bankruptcy protection may outweigh the benefits. 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. Those considering bankruptcy should be aware of the following: Filing for bankruptcy protection is not free. How much does it cost? To view filing fee schedules click here
- Not all debts are dischargeable. Examples of debts which are not dischargeable are:
- Spousal and child support obligations
- Most tax debts
- Most student loans
- Fines, penalties, forfeitures, or criminal restitution obligations
- Debts for personal injuries or death caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated
- Some debts which may not be properly listed.
In addition, secured creditors retain some rights which may permit them to seize property, even after a discharge is granted. Schedules of the debtor's assets and liabilities must be timely filed. Failure to timely file the appropriate schedules may result in dismissal of the bankruptcy and the barring of the debtor from filing again for 180 days (six months). If a case is not dismissed and a discharge is entered by the court, the debtor may be prohibited from being granted another discharge in a later case. Fraudulent information or acts by the debtor are grounds for denial of a discharge and may be punishable as a criminal offense.
What are the different "chapters" in a bankruptcy?
The Bankruptcy Code is divided into several chapters. When a debtor files a case, the debtor elects which chapter he or she will proceed. The different chapters have varying procedures for repaying debt and obtaining a discharge.
Chapter 7: Often called the "liquidation chapter," Chapter 7 cases may be filed by individual or non-individuals (corporations or partnerships). There is no debt limitation under Chapter 7; however, certain individuals may not be eligile for Chapter 7 relief under the "Means Test." Under Chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors. In the case of an individual, the debtor is allowed to claim certain property as exempt. In exchange for this, the debtor gets a discharge, which means that the debtor does not have to pay certain types of debts. Corporations and partnerships do not receive discharges. Consequently, any individuals legally liable for the partnership's or corporation's debts will remain liable. Therefore, individual bankruptcies may be required as well as the corporation or partnership bankruptcy.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11 and the remaining chapters of the Bankruptcy Code offer the debtor a chance to reorganize through a repayment plan. Creditors vote on whether to accept or reject a plan of reorganization, which must be approved by the court. While the debtor normally remains in control of the assets in a Chapter 11, the court can convert the case to a Chapter 7 case or order the appointment of a trustee in certain circumstances. In addition to the filing fee paid to the bankruptcy clerk, a quarterly fee is paid to the U.S. Trustee in Chapter 11 cases. There is no debt limit under Chapter 11.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12 offers bankruptcy relief to individuals, corporations, or partnerships who qualify as family farmers, a term defined under the Bankruptcy Code. There are debt limitations for chapter 12, and a certain portion of the debtor's income must come from the operation of a farming business. Family farmers must propose a plan to repay their creditors over a period of time from future income, and the plan must be approved by the court. Plan payments are made through a chapter 12 trustee who also monitors the debtor's farming operations while the case is pending.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13 is the debt repayment chapter for individuals with regular income whose debts do not exceed certain limits, including individuals who operate businesses as sole proprietorships. It is not available to corporations or partnerships. Chapter 13 generally permits individuals to keep their property repaying creditors out of their future income for three to five years. Each chapter 13 debtor proposes a repayment plan which must be approved by the court. Attorney fees may be paid through the plan. The amounts set forth in the plan must be paid to the chapter 13 trustee who distributes the funds for a fee. Many debts that cannot be discharged can still be paid over time in a chapter 13 plan. After completion of payments under the plan, chapter 13 debtors receive a discharge of most debts.
What documents do I need to start a bankruptcy?
A complete list of the documents and forms necessary to start a bankruptcy case under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code is listed under the filing requirements section of this web site.
If you need to start your case quickly, you can file only those documents indicated as minimum documents required for filing. All additional documents must be filed within the time indicated. Your failure to timely file additional required documents or seek an extension of time to do so may result in dismissal of your case.
The clerk's office does not supply Official Bankruptcy Forms or sample plans. However, Official Bankruptcy Forms may be downloaded from this web site under Forms.
Type the information on the forms, if possible.
A response is necessary for every question. If your answer is "none" or "not applicable," put "none" or "N/A." Use continuation pages when you run out of room. Sign each form where required. If filing a joint case, make sure that your spouse signs too.
Prepare your creditor matrix (a mailing list of all your creditors) according to the matrix format instructions. The matrix must alphabetically list the names, with complete addresses of: creditors. Include any creditors, assignees, agents, or attorneys, and equity security holders. Mailing matrixes MUST be typed.
What does the Clerk's Office do?
The Clerk's Office provides a variety of services to the bankruptcy judges, attorneys and the public. Clerk's Office staff provide clerical and administrative support to the Bankruptcy Court by maintaining case-related files, issuing notices, collecting authorized fees, entering judgments and orders, and setting hearings. The services provided by the Clerk's Office to attorneys and the public also include responding to requests for information and making copies of papers in bankruptcy court files.
What form of payment does the Clerk's Office accept?
Debtors may pay with exact cash, cashier's check, or postal money order. However, the Clerk's Office does not accept two-party checks, personal checks, or credit cards from the debtor in bankruptcy.
Certain payments (e.g., installment filing fees) may be paid online via ACH or debit card.
What identification do I need for entering the Courthouse?
All adult visitors and unaccompanied minors will need to present valid government-issued picture identification (driver's license, state identification card, passport, or immigration card) for entry into the Court’s buildings. A valid government-issued picture identification is also required for entry into the Meeting of Creditors.
What if a case I am interested in has been sent to the archive center?
To retrieve case information or copies of documents from the Federal Records Center, you must obtain the Accession Number, Location Number, and Box Number from the clerk's office where the bankruptcy case was filed. You may initiate this process by contacting the Clerk’s office where the case was administered. They will assist you in making the Federal Records Center Request to obtain the information from the Federal Records Center.
What is a meeting of creditors (§341 meeting)? What can I expect to happen there?
A meeting of creditors is required by Section 341 of the Bankruptcy code and the debtor is required to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to enable the appointed trustee to examine the debtor under oath regarding the information that has been filed with the Court.
Debtors have a duty to appear and testify under oath and to be questioned by the trustee at the meeting. This meeting is presided over by the trustee assigned to the case and is held approximately 20 - 40 days after a petition is filed. Individual debtors must bring a picture identification and proof of social security number to the meeting of creditors for presentation to the trustee assigned to the case. Failure to appear may result in dismissal of the case.
The trustee or a creditor may inquire about the debtor’s financial status, conduct and financial affairs, and any other matters that are relevant to the administration of the debtor’s estate, including factors which bear on an individual debtor’s right to a discharge, the dischargeability of any particular obligation, or the debtor’s claimed exemptions.
What is the Bankruptcy Code?
The Bankruptcy Code is Title 11 of the U.S. Code. Major revisions to the Code were made in 2005. The Bankruptcy Code provides help for businesses or persons in financial difficulty in the form of bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies are the most commonly filed chapters. Chapters 1, 3, and 5 of the Code apply in every case. These chapters deal with case administration, creditors' claims, debtors' duties, and property of the bankruptcy estate. The Bankruptcy Code is available at legal libraries and may be found on the Internet.
Where can I get information concerning bankruptcy procedures?
The Bankruptcy Code, Rules and Forms can be viewed on this web site or at law libraries.
The Clerk's office can answer questions about required forms and filing fees.
Where do I file my initial bankruptcy and/or documents related to my case?
Court Filing Locations for the Northern District of Iowa
Who is the bankruptcy trustee?
The bankruptcy trustee is appointed in all Chapter 7, 12 and 13 cases and in some Chapter 11 cases. The trustee administers the bankruptcy estate and presides at the first meeting of creditors (also called the "341 meeting" ). In a Chapter 7 case, the trustee liquidates the debtor's assets by collecting and selling non-exempt estate property. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee collects money from the debtor each month over a period of 3-5 years and distributes it to creditors according to the debtor's repayment plan. The trustee can require the debtor to provide information and documents before, during or after the meeting of creditors.
Who is the United States Trustee? What is the function of the U.S. Trustee?
The Office of the U.S. Trustee (UST) is an Executive Branch agency that is part of the Department of Justice. The UST is responsible for appointing bankrutptcy trustees to administer bankruptcy cases and scheduling meetings of creditors. The UST also identifies and helps investigate bankruptcy fraud and abuse.