US Bankruptcy Court Southern District of Florida
Pro Se General Information

Also, please see the pro se web pages of the United States Courts web site for additional information at:
www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/prose.html.

To access information on financial planning and agencies that offer consumer protection and information access the link(s) below:
Personal Financial Planning and Consumer Information.

 
  
  1. Do I qualify for free or low cost legal assistance?
  2. Where can I find general information about the bankruptcy process?
  3. Where can I find definitions of bankruptcy terms?
  4. What is a case trustee?
  5. What is the US Trustee?
  6. Where can I find the US Bankruptcy Code, other federal and local laws and rules?
  7. Where can I get copies of Official Bankruptcy forms and Administrative Office Director's forms for the petition, schedules and other required documents? (Note: also see Question #8 below.)
  8. Where can I find this court's local forms?
  9. What are the filing fees?
  10. If I want to file a bankruptcy case, what do I need to file?
  11. Is there any personal information that I should not include in documents filed with the court?
  12. Can pro se parties electronically file papers and receive notice of case activity electronically?
  13. How do I get copies of documents?
  14. What does a discharge mean?
  15. I have information about bankruptcy fraud in a case. Where do I report it?
  16. Does each judge have a web page with information about that judge's procedures?
  17. What is a motion?
  18. Is there information about how to act in the courtroom?
  19. What identification do I need and what are the security restrictions for entering the court building?
  20. What is a reaffirmation agreement?

1.   Do I qualify for free or low cost legal assistance?

The bankruptcy court does not provide attorneys for those who cannot afford counsel. The following links provide information on organizations in this district who may provide free or low cost legal assistance to those who qualify.
FREE Bankruptcy Clinic
Legal Aid Information
Bankruptcy Bar Pro Bono Referral Form
ABI Bankruptcy Pro Bono Resource Locator

If you don't qualify for these services, The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service Online will refer you to an attorney who will provide an initial consultation for a set fee.

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2.    Where can I find general information about the bankruptcy process?

General bankruptcy information is available on the Federal Judiciary's web site at the following link. Bankruptcy Basics - AO Publication

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3.    Where can I find definitions of bankruptcy terms?

A glossary of bankruptcy terms is available on the Federal Judiciary's web site at the following link. Bankruptcy Basics - Glossary - AO Publication

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4.    What is a case trustee?

A case trustee is the representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7 trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.

Trustee contact list for the Southern District of Florida
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5.    What is the US Trustee?

The US Trustee is an officer of the Justice Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees, monitoring plans and disclosure statements, monitoring creditors' committees, monitoring fee applications, and performing other statutory duties.

National US Trustee web site
Local US Trustee Office web site
US Trustee Bankruptcy Information Sheet

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6.    Where can I find the US Bankruptcy Code, other federal and local laws and rules?

The Bankruptcy Code:
Note: The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 amended many sections of Title 11 of the United States Code which is also known as the Bankruptcy Code. The Bankruptcy Code ( Title 11 ) can be searched at this site: http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml.

In addition, the Cornell Law School posts an unofficial version (which may not be current at all times) at this site:
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode11/usc_sup_01_11.html

The Bankruptcy Rules:
The Federal Bankruptcy Rules may be accessed on the U.S. Courts website at http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/RulesAndPolicies/rules/BK-Rules.pdf. Also, you may view pending rules amendments at http://www.uscourts.gov/RulesAndPolicies/FederalRulemaking/Overview/BankruptcyRules.aspx

The Local Rules:
This court has local rules, that, together with administrative orders also apply in bankruptcy cases in the Southern District of Florida.
Local Rules
Local Administrative Orders currently in effect in the US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida.

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7.   Where can I get copies of Official Bankruptcy forms and Administrative Office Director's forms for the petition, schedules and other required documents? (Note: also see Question #8 below.)

Copies of Official Bankruptcy forms can be found on the court's web site.
Official Bankruptcy Forms
Administrative Office of the US Courts Director's procedural Forms

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8.    Where can I find this court's local forms?

This court has adopted various local forms for use in filing documents in this court. If a local rule or administrative order directs you to use a specific local form, you must use the latest version of the form which is posted on this court's web site.
LOCAL FORMS

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9.    What are the filing fees?

Filing fee information is available at the following link on the court's web site.
Clerk's Summary of Fees

Payments for filing fees must be remitted in the exact amount due for the fee owed and must be made in cash, money order or certified cashier's check. Personal or business checks will not be accepted.

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10.   If I want to file a bankruptcy case, what do I need to file?

General filing information is available at the following link on the court's web site. Clerk's Filing Instructions

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11.    Is there any personal information that I should not include in documents filed with the court?

See Local Rule 5005-1(A)(2).

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12.    Can pro se parties electronically file papers and receive notice of case activity electronically?

Currently, pro se debtors and bankruptcy petition preparers are ineligible to register to use CM/ECF, which is the court's electronic case filing system to file documents and receive notices electronically.

However, creditors without counsel may become registered users of CM/ECF with limited creditor filing privileges permitting them to electronically file notices of appearance, change of address, requests for service of notices, proofs of claim, notices of transferred claims, withdrawal of claims, reaffirmation agreements, chapter 11 ballots and other papers as authorized by the court. See also Question 5 on Pro Se Creditor Information page.

Creditors may file proofs of claims electronically on the court website via an online fillable proof of claim form at this link.

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13.    How do I get copies of documents?

The following links provide information regarding obtaining copies of documents from the court.
Copies and Research
Clerks Instructions for Electronic Public Access Services (CI-04)

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14.    What does a discharge mean?

General information regarding the discharge in bankruptcy is available on the Federal Judiciary's web site at the following link. Bankruptcy Basics - The Discharge in Bankruptcy - AO Publication

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15.    I have information about bankruptcy fraud in a case. Where do I report it?

The following link to the bankruptcy fraud hotline contains information for reporting bankruptcy fraud.
Bankruptcy Fraud Hotline

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16.   Does each judge have a web page with information about that judge's procedures?

Yes. The following link is to the bankruptcy judges' information pages.
Bankruptcy Judges' Information

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17.   What is a motion?

A motion is a typewritten letter to the court, stating the case number, case name, and specifically detailing the action you (the movant) wishes the Court to take.

18.   Is there information about how to act in the courtroom?

The following link is to the court's guidelines to court decorum.
Guidelines for Courtroom Decorum (CG-3)

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19.   What identification do I need and what are the security restrictions for entering the court building?

All visitors to the court or clerk's offices will need to present current, valid, government issued picture identification (drivers license, state identification card, passport, or immigration card) for entry into the buildings. This has been mandated by the Department of Homeland Security for all visitors, including the public conducting personal business. Minors do not have to present picture identification if accompanied by an adult; however, unaccompanied minors must adhere to the rule. Those with no or unacceptable identification must be escorted by a government employee of the building in order to be granted access. Your cooperation and patience are appreciated.

Debtors appearing at their 341 meeting of creditors must also provide current valid government issued picture identification as described above when attending the scheduled meeting.

Court Security

(1) Prohibited Materials - No weapons (guns, knives or any other item which may be used as a weapon) or electronic devices as set forth in subdivision (3) shall be permitted in the courtroom, chambers and/or other environs of this court. No items may be left unattended in the court environs. Neither the U.S. Marshal’s Service nor the court shall be required to provide storage areas for visitors possessing prohibited items. Visitors to court environs housed in federal buildings shall be required to comply with, and are subject to prosecution for violation of, any existing law, order or other regulation in effect in the respective federal building.

(2) Smoking - Smoking is prohibited in all environs of the court.

(3) Electronic Devices - Electronic devices including but not limited to cameras of any type (including cellular phones which have an integrated camera device), cellular phones, pagers, personal data assistants (PDA), laptop computers, tape recorders, etc., are not permitted on the 14th floor of the Claude Pepper Federal Building in Miami, or any areas of the West Palm Beach court offices or the Ft. Lauderdale courthouse building.


Also, please see the pro se web pages of the United States Courts web site for additional information at  www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/prose.html

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20.    What is a reaffirmation agreement ?

A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between a chapter 7 debtor and a creditor that the debtor will pay all or a portion of the money owed, even though the debtor has filed bankruptcy. In return, the creditor promises that, as long as payments are made, the creditor will not repossess or take back its collateral. This means that the debtor will remain personally liable on that debt. See also Bankruptcy Basics - The Chapter 7 Discharge.

Local Rule 4008-1 sets forth requirements for reaffirmation agreements in this court. Usually the filing of a reaffirmation agreement doesn’t require any notice, hearing or order, unless

  1. The debtor is not represented by an attorney in his or her bankruptcy case (but if you have a lawyer and he or she doesn’t sign your reaffirmation agreement the court will set a hearing);

  2. The reaffirmation agreement shows that the debtor’s expenses are larger than the debtor’s income and the court decides a hearing is necessary. If the reaffirmation agreement does not include the required explanation why the debtor feels he or she can make the payments the court will usually set the matter for a hearing.

An attorney who files a petition on behalf of a debtor must also represent the debtor during the negotiation and filing of any reaffirmation agreement, whether or not the attorney has charged the debtor a fee that includes representation for the reaffirmation. Further, the attorney must appear at any hearings set on the reaffirmation agreement. Reaffirmation agreements must contain the original (scanned) signatures of all required parties (the debtor(s), the creditor and, if the debtor is represented by a lawyer, the lawyer). If the reaffirmation agreement is missing any of the required information or signatures, it is possible the court will not approve the reaffirmation agreement or the court will set a hearing.

Reaffirmation Agreements filed in pro se debtor cases (meaning the debtor is not represented by an attorney) will always be scheduled for a hearing to make sure the debtor understands what are the consequences of a reaffirmation agreement, that the agreement is voluntary , and to determine whether the debtor has the ability to maintain payments on the debt being reaffirmed and/or whether the reaffirmation agreement is in the debtor’s best interest.

All judges permit debtors appearing pro se to appear by telephone for hearings on reaffirmation agreements. Please check the assigned judge’s web page for additional information regarding telephonic appearances.

Reaffirmation Agreements must be filed using the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Director’s Forms which may be obtained on the court’s website under the tab Administrative Orders, Local Rules, Forms, Guidelines/Administrative Office Director’s Forms. Forms may also be obtained at http://www.uscourts.gov/FormsAndFees/Forms/BankruptcyForms.aspx

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