- Important Cautionary Notes
- Step One: Credit Counselling
- Step Two: Fill out the Court Forms
- Step Three: File all Required Forms and Documents
- Step Four: Send Tax Return and Wage Information to the Trustee
- Step Five: First Meeting of Creditors
- Step Six: Financial Management Course
- Get More Information
- Frequently Asked Questions
Important! This information is for individuals who need to file for bankruptcy and who cannot get help from a lawyer. Important steps you need to take before trying to file for bankruptcy on your own:
- Read our pre-filing information: Bankruptcy: Is it the right choice for you? This will help you decide whether you really want to file for bankruptcy, what type of filing you may need, and how to get ready to file.
- Try to get a lawyer. The bankruptcy laws are complicated. It is difficult to go through the bankruptcy court on your own. Also, the new law requires that your case to be dismissed if you don't complete certain steps correctly and on time. So, if you can afford it, get a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy law.
If you have taken all of the above steps and have no other options left but to file on your own, then you may want to use this information to help you get started.
This information will not help you if you need to file under Chapter 11, 12 or 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. This information is for Chapter 7 filers. (See our pre-filing information.) If you are not filing under Chapter 7, we recommend again that you get a lawyer.
Caution: Many of these rules and procedures are new. We will be revising this as we learn of of new developments. In the meantime, rules will be changing quickly, and we may miss things. If you know of any changes or corrections, please let us know by using the feedback form at the bottom of any page. We also invite comments and corrections from the bar, the trustees and the court.
Thanks to William Sandstead, an experienced bankruptcy attorney with offices in Portland, for his help in developing this information.
Step One: Credit Counseling
The new law requires you to complete credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy. When you get your credit counseling ''certificate of completion,'' you must file for bankruptcy within 180 days (about 6 months). If you miss this deadline, you have to go through counseling again before you can file your petition with the court. There are only a few ''approved'' credit counselors in Maine. Get the listing of approved agencies online or from the bankruptcy court clerk. In certain cases (emergency, disability, incapacity, or active military duty), you may be able to get this requirement waived or deferred to a later date, but these requests are rarely granted.
The normal fee for this service is about $50.00. If you cannot afford the fee, ask for a reduced fee or a fee waiver. The agency is required to waive fees for anyone who cannot afford to pay.
Important Note: If you plan to hire a lawyer, talk to the lawyer before you sign up for credit counseling. Your lawyer may want to advise you on things like which agency to use, when to sign up, and other basics.
Step Two: Fill out the Required Court Forms
Here is a list of the court forms you must read and complete:
- Form B-201 Notice to Individual Consumer Debtor
- Form B-1 Voluntary Petition
- Form B-7 Statement of Financial Affairs
- Three B-6 forms (Cover sheet, Summary and Declaration) and attached Schedules B-6A through B-6J. These ''schedules'' detail your basic financial information. Scroll down the forms page to find these forms--13 in all.
- Form B-8 Statement of Intention
- Form B-21 Statement of Social Security Numbers
- Form B-22A Statement of Current Monthly Income and Means Test Calculation
- Creditor Matrix Information and Certification of Matrix Use this information and sample form to help you draft this required ''Matrix.''
To better understand the terms used in the forms and why certain information is required, these Court resources may help:
Step Three: File all Required Forms and Documents
Make copies of all of the above completed court forms. These will be for your files. To prepare for filing with the court, you will also need copies of these documents:
- certificate of credit counseling (see Step One above)
- any debt repayment plan you developed during your credit counseling
File with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court all of the forms and documents listed above. Make sure that you have provided complete information on all of the court forms. Your petition can be dismissed for failure to provide all required information.
Maine has bankruptcy courts in Portland and Bangor. File in the court serving the area where you have lived for the last six months (or for most of the last six months). Go to list of counties served by each of these Maine Courts.
At the same time you file, you must pay the filing fee and related court fees. The total cost is $353. A husband and wife filing a single petition will pay one filing fee.
If you have a low income and cannot afford these fees, you have two other options:
- You can ask the court to let you pay the fee in installments. Use Form B3A.
- You can ask the court for a fee waiver. Use Form B3B.
File this form with your other court papers. The court must waive your filings fees if your income is below 150% of the current poverty level and you cannot afford to pay in installments. If the court grants your waiver or installment plan, your case will be filed. If your waiver is denied, you will have to follow the court's order on payment of fees to avoid dismissal.
Step Four: Send Tax Return and Wage Information to the Trustee
After your case is successfully filed, the court clerk will assign a trustee to your case and set a meeting of creditors. At least 7 days before this initial meeting, you must send to the trustee:
- a copy of your most recent federal tax return or transcript
- evidence of all payments from employers, if any, received 60 days before filing (such as pay stubs or a statement from your employer)
At the same time send a notice to the Bankruptcy Court clerk, verifying that you have provided this information to the Trustee.
If you fail to complete these steps, your case can be dismissed.
- To protect your privacy, you may black out all but the last four digits of your Social Security number and private account numbers, as well as names and birthdates of children (use initials only), that may appear on these documents.
- Any creditor may also request a copy of your tax return before you send it to the Trustee. So you will help yourself by sending this to the Trustee as soon as you can, before you get any creditor requests.
If you complete another tax return while your case is pending, you must file that with the trustee, as well.
Step Five: First Meeting of Creditors
This meeting is held by the Trustee assigned to your case. You must go to the meeting. The court posts driving directions to the creditor meeting sites.
The Trustee will determine whether you have any unprotected assets that can be liquidated to pay creditors. He will also review your situation to determine whether he should object to your discharge.
Pay close attention to the Trustee's instructions. He will making important decisions about your case.
Step Six: Financial Management Course
You must complete a ''financial management instructional course.'' It is anticipated that the fee for this brief session (about 2 hours) will be about $50. You should complete this course and file Form B-23 with the court clerk within 45 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. You cannot get a discharge unless this form is filed, or you get a waiver from this requirement (based on disability, incapacity, or active military service). Granting of these waivers is rare. If you cannot afford the cost of this course, the law requires the course provider to offer it to you at a reduced fee or for free.
Get More Information
On the national U.S. Bankruptcy Court website:
Bankruptcy Forms Manual (complete index, with links, to all of the official court forms)
Glossary of Bankruptcy Code terms
For more information on local practices, go to the District of Maine Bankruptcy Court pages, including:
Information for Self-Filers (includes contact information and directions to courts and creditors meetings)
Interactive version of many of the basic court forms (fill out online, then print)
The U.S. Trustees Program also posts a large volume of bankruptcy-related information.
Update January 2006