Hon. Marilyn Shea-Stonum
Chief Judge


Kenneth J. Hirz
Clerk of Court

(Frequently Asked Questions)
Question
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?
How do I find out who the trustee is in a case?
How do I get a hearing date?
How do I get certified copies of documents?
How do I obtain case information?
How many copies do I need to file at the Court?
What are the requirements for filing a document without an attorney?
What are the federal holidays?
What do we do if someone in bankruptcy owes us money?
What does it mean when a case is dismissed?
What is a bankruptcy discharge?
What debts are subject to a bankruptcy discharge?
What is a section 341(a) meeting of creditors?
What is the automatic stay?
What is the Bankruptcy Code?
What is the difference between chapters?
What is the function of the U.S. Trustee and where is that office located?
What is the witness fee?
Where can I obtain a copy of the local rules?
Where can I obtain the forms to file a bankruptcy case?
Where do I file?
Whom do I notify about a possible fraudulent filing?
 
Question:
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

Answer:
    While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case pro se (without the assistance of an attorney), it may be difficult to do so successfully. It is recommended that a person considering bankruptcy consult with a competent attorney prior to filing a case. For information on lawyer referral programs, or free legal clinics in your area contact the local bar association.  A list of bar associations is located at the Related Sites/Bar Associations menu of this website.

 

Question:
How do I find out who the trustee is in a case?

Answer:
    The trustee's name and address are printed on the notice of the section 341 meeting of creditors.

    You can also obtain the trustee's name from the Court's automated public information systems Ė Voice Case Information System (VCIS) and Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Information on these systems is located at the Case Information/Public Access menu of this website. Registered users of the Courtís Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system can also find this information by running a query in the ECF system.

 

Question:
How do I get a hearing date?

Answer:
    To schedule a matter please contact the secretary or courtroom deputy for the judge assigned to the case, or visit the Judgesí Information menu of this website.

 

Question:
How do I get certified copies of documents?

Answer:
   Certified copies of documents are available at any Clerk's Office depending on where the case is filed. The cost is $9.00 per certification plus $.50 per page for the copies. To obtain copies by mail write to U.S. Bankruptcy Court c/o mail requests. The addresses for the Courtís Clerkís Offices are located on the home page of this website. Please specify the name of the document to be certified and the document number if available. There is an additional file search fee of $26.00 for mail requests. The Court will accept a certified check or money order payable to Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Personal Checks are not accepted.

 

Question:
How do I obtain case information?

Answer:
    With certain limited exceptions, bankruptcy cases are public records and are available for viewing in any Clerk's Office depending on where the file is located. In addition, the Court's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) and Voice Case Information System (VCIS) provide basic case information by computer modem or touch tone telephone. Information on PACER and VCIS is located at the Case Information/Public Access menu of this website. Registered users of the Courtís Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system can access case information by running a query in the ECF system.
    Closed cases that are not in electronic format are kept at the Clerk's Offices for a limited amount of time (generally nine months) due to a lack of storage space. The closed cases are shipped to the Federal Records Center (also referred to as the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA). To view a case at the Federal Records Center you need the accession, location, and box number. That information is available by calling the Clerk's Office. The information is also available at the Case Information/Public Access menu of this website. If you prefer to review the case at the Clerk's Office, there is a $45.00 archive retrieval fee. The Federal Records Center accepts requests for copies from bankruptcy case files by mail or fax.

 

Question:
How many copies do I need to file at the Court?

Answer:
    A pro se filer (filing without the assistance of an attorney) need only provide the original petition. Please provide a copy if you want one for your records. Copy requirements do not apply to papers filed via the Courtís Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system.  Refer to Local Rule 5005-2 for any additional information.

 
Question:
What are the requirements for filing a document without an attorney?
 
Answer:
    Any debtor wishing to file a bankruptcy petition or plaintiff wishing to file an adversary complaint without the assistance of an attorney should consult the Notice to Individuals Filing a Document without an Attorney (Pro Se Filers), which is located at the Filing Information/Notices re: Filing menu of this web site.
 
 
 
Question:
What do we do if someone in bankruptcy owes us money?

Answer:
    If you are listed as a creditor in an asset case you will receive a claim form and a notice setting a date to file. Proof of Claim forms are available on the Forms & Publications/Bankruptcy Forms menu of this website, at any Clerk's Office, or by mail. The original claim and any supporting documents are filed with the Clerk's Office, or, in chapter 13 cases, with the trustee. If you wish to have a conformed copy returned to you, please enclose an extra copy and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

    Creditors are encouraged to submit claims electronically through the Courtís Electronic Case Filing (ECF) system, which is a fast, cost effective, easy to use alternative to paper filings. Electronic filing of claims is particularly useful for creditors who regularly file claims. A Claims Agent Registration Form and other information about ECF can be found at the Electronic Case Filing menu of this website.

 

Question:
What does it mean when a case is dismissed?

Answer:
    A dismissal order ends the case. The dismissal order removes the automatic stay that may have been in effect, which prevented a creditor from collecting on a debt or taking other actions against the debtor and the debtor's property. Debts that are discharged prior to dismissal are not affected by the dismissal order, unless the discharge order was revoked. A case generally is dismissed when the debtor fails to do something such as appear at the meeting of creditors, file required documents , pay the filing fee, produce books and records for the trustee, or when the dismissal is in the best interest of creditors.

 

Question:
What is a bankruptcy discharge?

Answer:
    The discharge order in bankruptcy relieves an individual debtor from personal liability on debts incurred prior to the filing of the petition, with certain exceptions, and prohibits creditor actions to collect those debts. For example, a creditor is not permitted to contact a debtor by mail, phone, or otherwise, to file or continue a lawsuit, to attach wages or other property, or to take any other action to collect a discharged debt from the debtor. There are also special rules that protect certain community property owned by the debtor's spouse, even if that spouse did not file a bankruptcy case. A creditor who violates this order can be required to pay damages and attorney's fees to the debtor.

    However, a creditor may have the right to enforce a valid lien, such as a mortgage or security interest, against the debtor's property after the bankruptcy, if that lien was not avoided or eliminated in the bankruptcy case. Also, a debtor may voluntarily pay any debt that has been discharged.

 

Question:
What debts are subject to a bankruptcy discharge?

Answer:
    The chapter 7 discharge order eliminates a debtor's legal obligation to pay a debt that is discharged. Most, but not all, types of debts are discharged if the debt existed on the date the bankruptcy case was filed. (If this case was begun under a different chapter of the Bankruptcy Code and converted to chapter 7, the discharge applies to debts owed when the bankruptcy case was converted.)

    Some of the common types of debts that are not discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case are:

    a. Debts for most taxes;
    b. Debts that are in the nature of alimony, maintenance, or spousal or child support;
    c. Debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans;
    d. Debts for most fines, penalties, forfeitures, or criminal restitution obligations;
    e. Debts for personal injuries or death caused by the debtor's operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated;
    f.  Debts for willful and malicious injuries to person and property;
    g. Some debts that were not properly listed by the debtor;
    h. Debts owed to certain tax-advantaged retirement plans;
    i.  Debts for which the debtor has given up the discharge protections by signing a reaffirmation agreement in compliance with the Bankruptcy Code requirements for reaffirmation of debts;
    j.  Debts that the bankruptcy court specifically has decided or will decide in this bankruptcy case are not discharged.


    This information is only a general summary of the bankruptcy discharge. There are exceptions to these general rules. Because the law is complicated, you may want to consult an attorney to determine the exact effect of the discharge in a specific case.

 

Question:
What is a section 341 meeting of creditors?

Answer:
    Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires every debtor to personally attend a meeting of creditors and to submit to an examination under oath. The United States Trustee, his designee or, in a chapter 7 case, a panel trustee, presides at the meeting. Creditors may question the debtor under oath, elect a trustee other than the one assigned, and conduct such other business as may be appropriate. Creditors are not required to attend the meeting.

 

Question:
What is the automatic stay?

Answer:
    Upon the filing of a bankruptcy petition a "stay" goes into effect, which prohibits creditors from taking or continuing most actions to collect money or property from the debtor. However, there are several exceptions to the automatic stay. See Bankruptcy Code section 362. Where the automatic stay applies, a creditor wishing to proceed with action against the debtor or its property must obtain permission from the Court, or face a potential claim for damages, including costs and attorney's fees, and, in appropriate circumstances, punitive damages. Creditors who are uncertain of their rights should seek legal advice.

 

Question:
What is the Bankruptcy Code?

Answer:
    The Bankruptcy Code is the informal name for Title 11 of the United States Code. It contains chapters that provide a legal process for individuals and businesses to deal with debt problems. The most commonly filed bankruptcy cases are those under chapters 7, 11 and 13.

 

Question:
What is the difference between chapters?

Answer:
    Chapter 7 is designed for individuals, corporations and partnerships in financial difficulty who do not have the ability to pay their existing debts. Under chapter 7 a trustee takes possession of all the debtor's non-exempt property, liquidates it for cash and uses the proceeds to pay creditors according to priorities of the Bankruptcy Code.

    Chapter 9 is designed to allow a municipality to continue operating while it works out a repayment plan for its creditors. A municipal unit cannot liquidate its assets to satisfy its debts.

    Chapter 11 allows a business to reorganize and restructure its finances so that it may continue to operate, provide employees with jobs, pay its creditors, and produce a return for its stockholders, if any. While chapter 11 is primarily designed for a business it is also available to individuals. In a chapter 11 case the debtor proposes a plan to creditors which, if accepted by the creditors and approved by the court, will allow a debtor to reorganize. A debtor may also propose a plan of liquidation and cease doing business.

    Chapter 12 allows family farmers and fishermen with financial difficulties to repay debts over a period of time from future earnings. In many ways it is similar to a chapter 13 case.

    Chapter 13 enables individuals with regular incomes, under court supervision and protection, to repay their debts over an extended period of time according to a plan. The plan may call for full or partial repayment.

    Chapter 15 deals with cases of cross-border insolvency.

 

Question:
What is the function of the U.S. Trustee and where is that office located?

Answer:
    The Office of the United States Trustee is an Executive Branch agency within the Department of Justice. Its function is to oversee the administration of bankruptcy cases. The U.S. Trustee establishes and supervises a panel of private trustees in chapter 7 cases, appoints standing trustees in chapter 13 cases, and appoints case trustees in chapter 11 and chapter 12 cases. The U.S. Trustee monitors the administration of chapter 11 cases by, among other things, reviewing disclosure statements and plans of reorganization, and monitoring post-confirmation plan performance. The U.S. Trustee also monitors bankruptcy cases for possible crimes which may be reported to the United States Attorney. For more information about the Office of the U.S. Trustee contact:

                  Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse
                  201 Superior Avenue
                  Cleveland, Ohio 44114

                  (216) 522-7800

                   

Question:
What is the witness fee?

Answer:
    A witness is entitled to compensation of $40.00 per day for attendance in the courts of the United States pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1821. In addition a witness who travels by private vehicle will receive 48.5 cents per mile, the same rate that applies to government employees on official travel. Charges for toll roads, bridges, tunnels, ferries, taxicab fares, and parking fees (upon presentation of a valid parking receipt) will be paid in full. Other reimbursable travel and subsistence expenses are outlined in 28 U.S.C. section 1821.

 

Question:
Where can I obtain a copy of the local rules?

Answer:
    The Local Rules can be downloaded from this web site under the Research and Forms menu.

 

Question:
Where can I obtain the forms to file a bankruptcy case?

Answer:
    Bankruptcy forms are available in the under the Forms & Publications menu of this web site.  Most office supply stores, and businesses that carry legal forms sell bankruptcy forms with instructions.

 

Question:
Where do I file?

Answer:
    Where a debtor files depends on where he or she resides or has his or her principal place of business or principal assets. The counties and filing locations for the Northern District of Ohio are:

EASTERN DIVISION: COUNTIES: COURT ADDRESS:
Akron Medina, Summit, and Portage John F. Seiberling Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
2 South Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
Canton Ashland, Carroll, Crawford, Holmes, Richland, Stark, Tuscarawas, and Wayne Frank T. Bow Federal Building
201 Cleveland Avenue, SW
Canton, OH 44702
Cleveland Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain

Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse
201 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114-1235

Youngstown Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
10 East Commerce Street
Youngstown, Ohio 44503-1621
WESTERN DIVISION:
Toledo Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Lucas, Marion, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, and Wyandot U.S. Courthouse and Custom House
1716 Spielbusch Avenue
Toledo, OH 43624

 

Question:
Whom do I notify about a possible fraudulent filing?

Answer:
    The Office of the United States Trustee reviews complaints about possible fraudulent filings and, if appropriate, notifies the U.S. Attorney for further investigation. For more information on reporting suspected bankruptcy fraud, go to http://www.usdoj.gov/ust/eo/fraud/index.htm, or contact the United States Trustee at:

                Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse
                201 Superior Avenue, Suite 441
                Cleveland, Ohio 44114

                (216) 522-7800



While the information presented above is accurate as of the date of publication, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is highly recommended that legal advice be obtained from a bankruptcy attorney or legal association. For filing requirements, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code) the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules), and the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio.