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Filing Without an Attorney: Other Interested Parties

The resources provided on this web page are designed to provide basic information to other parties involved in bankruptcy court without an attorney, also known as proceeding “pro se.” When representing yourself before the Court, you must follow all applicable local and federal bankruptcy rules. Representing yourself in a bankruptcy case may be allowed; however, the process can be complex and many self-represented parties often do not obtain the relief they seek because they are unfamiliar with the requirements of the court. Information contained herein is given as a general information and should not be relied upon for your individual circumstances or taken as legal advice. Consult an attorney to discuss your particular circumstances.



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My spouse/ex-spouse is a debtor, what action can I take without violating the automatic stay?

The automatic stay does not prevent the commencement or continuation of the following civil actions or proceedings against a debt

  1. the establishment of paternity;
  2. the establishment or modification of an order for a domestic support obligation;
  3. actions concerning child custody or visitation;
  4. the dissolution of a marriage except to the extent that such a proceeding seeks to determine the division of property that is property of the estate; or
  5. actions regarding domestic violence.

A spouse or ex-spouse may also collect domestic support obligations from property that is not property of the estate. See 11 U.S.C. § 362(b) for further information.

My ex-spouse is a debtor, does he/she have to pay according to the divorce decree?

Provisions of a divorce decree requiring the debtor to make payments to certain creditors are generally not binding upon creditors. A debtor may seek to pay such debts in the bankruptcy on terms that are different than the divorce degree or the debtor may seek to return the property or pay the creditor less than what is owed. In such instances, the creditor may have a claim against you for the unpaid balance if you are liable on the debt with the debtor or the creditor may seek to exercise its state law rights, such as repossession or foreclosure, if it is secured by property such as a home or car. You may have a resulting claim in the debtor’s bankruptcy for the unpaid balance.

My ex-spouse is a debtor, can he/she discharge alimony and child support in a bankruptcy?

“Domestic support obligations” are not dischargeable in a bankruptcy. A domestic support obligation is a debt owed to or recoverable by a spouse, former spouse, or child that is in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or support of the spouse, former spouse, or child. See 11 U.S.C. § 101(14A) for the complete definition of the term. A debtor may be able to discharge other types of debts owed to you such as debts owed under a property settlement agreement.

My spouse/ex-spouse owes alimony or child support, how will I be paid?

To receive a distribution from the debtor’s estate, a claim must be timely filed; however, filing a claim is not a guarantee that payment will be made. If the debt owed to you is a “domestic support obligation,” the claim may be entitled to priority treatment meaning that, if payment is made, your claim would be paid before other unsecured creditors. If the debtor is in a chapter 13, the debtor must be current on domestic support obligations, such as alimony and child support, that come due after the petition date in order to have a chapter 13 plan confirmed.

I cosigned a loan for a debtor, what are my rights and responsibilities?

If you are a cosigner, you are generally obligated to make payment on the debt even if the debtor fails to pay; although you may have a claim against the debtor for the unpaid balance. If the debtor is in a chapter 13 case, you may be protected from suit while the co-debtor stay is in place; however, the creditor may seek to lift the co-debtor stay and pursue its rights against you or the collateral that secures the debt.

I am a landlord and my tenant filed bankruptcy, what happens next?

The lease with the debtor is considered an “executory contract” in the bankruptcy case. The debtor must assume or reject the lease. The time frame to assume or reject depends upon the nature of the lease and the chapter under which the debtor filed. To assume the lease, the debtor must cure existing defaults. Generally, the debtor should perform post-petition obligations under the lease.

Under certain limited circumstances, there may not be an automatic stay of an action to complete an eviction against the debtor if the lease involves residential real property and the landlord obtained a judgment for possession prior to the petition date. See 11 U.S.C. § 362 and consult an attorney for further information.

My employer filed bankruptcy, what should I expect?

If you are owed wages that were due prior to the bankruptcy, you may file a claim and the claim may have priority over certain other unsecured creditors. Priority in payment is not an indicator that you will be paid but only that, if a distribution is made, your claim will be paid before certain other creditors.

After the employer’s bankruptcy petition date, payment of post-petition wages may be delayed while the employer negotiates with creditors or seeks a court order to authorize payment of post-petition wages from property encumbered by a creditor’s lien.

There are a number of other things that could happen as a result of an employer’s bankruptcy. The employer could cease operations, could operate through a reorganization process, or it could sell the business to another company. There may also be complex issues concerning the continuation of insurance and benefits after the petition date. You may be able to discuss these issues with your employer or employer’s attorney.