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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Consumer Information

The United States Trustee Program is prohibited from providing legal advice to private individuals. These questions and answers relate to general circumstances involving bankruptcy.

The FAQs are separated into the following major areas of interest:

Click on the area of interest to view the related questions, then on the question to view the answer.

Questions

How to File Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Trustees

Bankruptcy Proceedings

Homeowners’ Concerns

Same-Sex Married Couples in Bankruptcy

Reporting Suspected Fraud and Abuse

General Information

Answers

How to File Bankruptcy

Q: Where do I find information on how to file bankruptcy?

A: Basic information on filing bankruptcy is available on the federal courts’ Web site at: United States Bankruptcy Courts.

Updated: May 2010

Q: How do I locate a bankruptcy attorney?

A: A list of private attorneys in your area may be available from your state bar association, local law schools, or legal aid clinic. For example, see the information provided by the American Bar Association at: Consumers' Guide to Legal Help. Attorneys who provide bankruptcy services are required to disclose certain information in writing, including the services they will provide and the cost for those services.

Updated: May 2010

Q: What if I don’t have enough money to pay a bankruptcy attorney?

A: The clerk of your bankruptcy court or your state bar association may have information regarding individuals or organizations offering bankruptcy-related legal services, including services provided for free or for a reduced fee. Click here for contact information for bankruptcy courts. Click here for contact information for state bar associations.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I have heard about non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparers. What services do they provide?

A: Non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparers may type bankruptcy documents with information supplied by the debtor. They may not provide legal services, such as helping you choose whether to file under chapter 7 or chapter 13 or identifying your property that is exempt from the reach of creditors. Bankruptcy petition preparers may advertise their services under “document preparation services” and similar categories of services, but not under “legal services.” If a bankruptcy petition preparer offers to provide legal services to you or fails to disclose that he or she is not an attorney and may not provide legal services, please report this to a U.S. Trustee Program field office. A list of Program offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator.

Updated: May 2010

Q: May I file bankruptcy on my own, without an attorney or a non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer?

A: A bankruptcy filing may raise complex legal issues, so it is often advisable to consult with an attorney. However, an individual may file bankruptcy pro se (pronounced “pro say”), a Latin term that means “on one’s own behalf.” Information on filing bankruptcy pro se is available on the federal courts’ Web site at: Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney.

Updated: May 2010

Q: Where do I find information about the requirements for pre-bankruptcy credit counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education?

A: Information relating to pre-bankruptcy credit counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education is found on the Program’s Web site at: Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Information.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I understand that the bankruptcy “means test” is a calculation that must be completed as part of a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. Where do I find information about the bankruptcy means test?

A: Information about the bankruptcy means test is available on the Program’s Web site at: Means Testing.

Updated: May 2010

Bankruptcy Trustees

Q: How do I contact the trustee who is handling my chapter 7, chapter 12, or chapter 13 bankruptcy case?

A: If you have filed bankruptcy under chapter 7, chapter 12, or chapter 13, you should have received a notice identifying the trustee and providing the trustee’s contact information. Contact information for chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 trustees is found on the Program’s Web site at: Chapter 7, 12 & 13 Private Trustee Locator.

Updated: May 2010

Q: Does the trustee represent me in my chapter 7, chapter 12, or chapter 13 case?

A: No. Generally, the trustee’s duties in a chapter 7 case are to determine whether property is available for creditors, to collect that property, and to distribute the property to creditors. The trustee’s duties in a chapter 12 or chapter 13 case are to determine whether your proposed repayment plan is workable, to collect payments you make according to the repayment plan, and to distribute those payments to creditors.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I have a complaint about the trustee in my chapter 7, chapter 12, or chapter 13 case. Where do I file my complaint?

A: You may contact the U.S. Trustee Program field office if you have a complaint about a trustee in a chapter 7, chapter 12, or chapter 13 case. A list of Program field offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator. You will be asked to make a written complaint.

Updated: May 2010

Bankruptcy Proceedings

Q: I don’t speak or understand English well. How can I understand the bankruptcy proceedings?

A: Debtors who do not speak or understand English well may request free telephone interpreter services at the section 341 meeting of creditors. The U.S. Trustee Program pays for these services. More information on free telephone interpreter services is available from the U.S. Trustee Program field offices and on the Program’s Web site at: Information for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency. A list of Program offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator.

In addition, the Program provides the Bankruptcy Information Sheet in languages other than English, and identifies approved credit counseling agencies and debtor education providers that offer services in languages other than English. See the Program’s Web site at: Information for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency for more information.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I have a hearing impairment. How can I understand the bankruptcy proceedings?

A: Before the date of your section 341 meeting, please inform the bankruptcy trustee who is administering your case. The trustee will notify the U.S. Trustee so that reasonable accommodations can be made.

Updated: May 2010

Homeowners’ Concerns

Q: I am a current or former bankruptcy debtor, and I think my mortgage servicer is overcharging me on my mortgage payments. What do I do?

A: The Program is a member of the President’s interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, and serves on its Mortgage Fraud Working Group. The Program investigates complaints about mortgage servicing issues that affect the integrity of the bankruptcy system as a whole. The Program has pursued complaints that mortgage servicers filed inaccurate papers in court claiming that debtors owe more money than they actually owe. It has also pursued complaints that mortgage servicers added undisclosed or improper charges to debtors’ mortgage payments. The Program does not investigate complaints involving individual billing disputes.

The Program does not investigate all complaints. Many mortgage servicing issues are best addressed by the chapter 7 or chapter 13 trustee, or the debtor’s attorney.

If you would like to make a complaint to the Program, please see the list of Program field offices at: Nationwide Office Locator.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I’m having trouble paying my mortgage. Someone contacted me and offered to help me avoid foreclosure. What should I do?

A: Some individuals and companies use the bankruptcy system to take advantage of homeowners in distress. These individuals and companies are sometimes called “foreclosure rescue scheme” operators. They contact homeowners whose homes are listed in the foreclosure notices. A foreclosure rescue scheme operator may promise to renegotiate the terms of the homeowner’s mortgage, and may direct the homeowner to make mortgage payments or pay a monthly fee to the operator. The scheme operator may direct the homeowner to file a bankruptcy petition, or the scheme operator may file a bankruptcy petition in the homeowner’s name. In reality, the scheme operator does not try to renegotiate the homeowner’s mortgage or help the homeowner avoid foreclosure, and often disappears after taking the mortgage payments or monthly fees.

If you recognize this scheme or a similar one, please tell the U.S. Trustee field office immediately. The foreclosure rescue scheme will not help you avoid foreclosure, and it will leave a bankruptcy filing on your credit record. A list of U.S. Trustee Program field offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator.

There are legitimate programs and services to assist homeowners in financial distress. Government agencies that provide information and assistance include the Department of Housing and Urban Development (Find a Housing Counselor and Avoiding Foreclosure) and the Federal Trade Commission (Facts for Consumers).

You may find more information on foreclosure rescue schemes and similar types of fraud at www.PreventLoanScams.org, a Web site in partnership with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

Updated: May 2010

Same-Sex Married Couples in Bankruptcy

Q: How does the USTP define the term “state” for purposes of determining whether a couple was validly married?

A: For purposes of determining whether a couple is validly married for bankruptcy purposes, including same-sex couples, the USTP defines the term “state” to mean any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Wake Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, any other territory or possession of the United States, and any foreign jurisdiction having the legal authority to sanction marriages.

Added: February 2014

Q: Does the USTP’s position on determining whether a couple is validly married for purposes of bankruptcy law apply to all relationships?

A: No. The USTP’s position does not apply to individuals in a formal relationship recognized by a state that is not denominated a marriage under state law, such as a domestic partnership or a civil union, or to marriages celebrated in a foreign jurisdiction that are not recognized in the United States, such as non-consensual marriages.

Added: February 2014

Q: How does the USTP’s interpretation of marital terms in the Bankruptcy Code and Rules to include same-sex married couples affect the actions of others involved in the bankruptcy process?

A: The USTP is not the sole regulatory authority with respect to bankruptcy law and procedure. It is possible that not all bankruptcy case participants will choose to follow the USTP’s interpretation of marital terms in the Bankruptcy Code and Rules to include same-sex married couples.

Added: February 2014

Q: Will the USTP inform others involved in the bankruptcy process about its position that same-sex married couples should be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex married couples?

A: Yes. The USTP will advise bankruptcy trustees of its interpretation of the Bankruptcy Code and Rules. The USTP also intends to inform others involved in the bankruptcy process, including courts and members of the debtor and creditor bars, of its position as opportunities to do so arise.

Added: February 2014

Reporting Suspected Fraud and Abuse

Q: I think someone engaged in bankruptcy fraud. Where do I report it?

A: You may report suspected bankruptcy fraud by using the U.S. Trustee Program’s Internet hotline at USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov. Instructions for using this Internet hotline are found at: Report Suspected Bankruptcy Fraud. Alternatively, you may report suspected bankruptcy fraud to a U.S. Trustee Program field office. A list of Program offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator. Please be prepared to make a written report.

You may find more information on various types of financial fraud, including where to report financial fraud, at www.StopFraud.gov, the Web site of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

Updated: May 2010

Q: There is a bankruptcy filing listed on my credit report, but I never filed bankruptcy. What do I do?

A: This may indicate that another person used your identity when filing a bankruptcy petition. Please report this suspected crime to the U.S. Trustee Program by using our Internet hotline at USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov. Instructions for using this Internet hotline are found at: Report Suspected Bankruptcy Fraud. You may also report an erroneous bankruptcy filing on your credit record to a U.S. Trustee Program field office. A list of offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator. Please be prepared to make a written report.

Information on correcting errors in your credit report is available on the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site.

Updated: May 2010

General Information

Q: How do I contact a U.S. Trustee Program office?

A: Contact information for the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Trustee Program field offices is found on the Program’s Web site at: Nationwide Office Locator.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I have a complaint about my bankruptcy attorney. Where do I file my complaint?

A: You may contact the U.S. Trustee Program field office if you have a complaint about a bankruptcy attorney. A list of Program field offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator. You will be asked to make a written complaint.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I have a complaint about my bankruptcy petition preparer. Where do I file my complaint?

A: You may contact the U.S. Trustee Program field office if you have a complaint about a bankruptcy petition preparer. A list of Program field offices is found at: Nationwide Office Locator. You will be asked to make a written complaint.

Updated: May 2010

Q: I want to follow developments in a bankruptcy case. How do I do that?

A: Bankruptcy court records are accessible via the Internet through the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system, which is maintained by the federal court system. A user must register for PACER access, and there is a per-page fee to view records. Information on obtaining a PACER account is available at: PACER Service Center.

Updated: May 2010

 

Thursday, February 6, 2014 7:33 PM