Bankruptcy is a way for people or businesses who owe more money than they can pay right now (a "debtor") to either work out a plan to repay the money over time under Chapter 11, 12 or 13, or for most of the bills to be wiped out ("discharged"), as in a chapter 7 case. While the debtor is either working out the plan or the trustee is gathering the available assets to sell, the Bankruptcy Code provides that creditors must stop all collection efforts against the debtor. When the bankruptcy petition is filed, you are immediately protected from your creditors.
All debts are dischargeable except for those listed in 11 United States Code § 523.
Chapter 7 is the liquidation chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 7 cases are commonly referred to as "straight bankruptcy" or "liquidation" cases, and may be filed by an individual, corporation, or a partnership. Under chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell all property that is not exempt and to use any proceeds to pay creditors. In the case of an individual, the debtor is allowed to claim certain property as exempt. In exchange for this, the debtor gets a discharge, which means that the debtor does not have to pay certain types of debts. Corporations and partnerships do not receive discharges. Consequently, any individuals legally liable for the partnership's or corporation's debts will remain liable. Therefore, individual bankruptcies may be required as well as the corporation or partnership bankruptcy.
Chapter 12 offers bankruptcy relief to those who qualify as family farmers. There are debt limitations for chapter 12, and a certain portion of the debtor's income must come from the operation of a farming business. Family farmers must propose a plan to repay their creditors over a period of time from future income and it must be approved by the court. Plan payments are made through a chapter 12 trustee who also monitors the debtor's farming operations while the case is pending.
Chapter 13 is the debt repayment chapter for individuals with regular income whose debts do not exceed $1,000,000 ($250,000 in unsecured debts and $750,000 in secured debts), including individuals who operate businesses as sole proprietorships. It is not available to corporations or partnerships. Chapter 13 generally permits individuals to keep their property by repaying creditors out of their future income. Each chapter 13 debtor proposes a repayment plan which must be approved by the court. The amounts set forth in the plan must be paid to the chapter 13 trustee who distributes the funds for a small fee. Many debts that cannot be discharged can still be paid over time in a chapter 13 plan. After completion of payments under the plan, chapter 13 debtors receive a discharge of most debts.
- The filing fee for a Chapter 7 is $335.00
- The filing fee for a Chapter 11 is $1,717.00
- The filing fee for a Chapter 12 is $275.00
- The filing fee for a Chapter 13 is $310.00
Depending on a debtor's financial situation and reasons for filing, the consequences of filing for bankruptcy protection may outweigh the benefits. The following information is intended as a summary only. You are strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney in order to determine the rights and obligations that apply to your individual situation. Those considering bankruptcy should be aware of the following:
- Filing for bankruptcy protection is not free. For additional fees, please refer to the fee schedule.
- Not all debts are dischargeable. Ex: Secured creditors retain some rights which may permit them to seize property, even after a discharge is granted. Spousal and child support obligations and most tax debts are not dischargeable.
- Within 14 days of the filing of a bankruptcy petition, schedules of the debtor's assets and liabilities must be filed. Failure to timely file the appropriate schedules may result in dismissal of the bankruptcy and the barring of the debtor from filing again for 180 days (six months).
- If a case is not dismissed and a discharge is entered by the court, the debtor is prohibited from being granted another discharge under chapters 7 and 11 within eight years.
- Fraudulent information or acts by the debtor are grounds for denial of a discharge and may be punishable as a criminal offense.
- VCIS (Voice Case Information System) Available 24 hours a day - 866-222-8029
- PACER (Public Access To Court Electronic Records) A web-based format that allows anyone with internet access and a PACER login from the court to access official court records via the internet at https://ecf.wiwb.uscourts.gov
- The Clerk's office is open 8:00 - 4:30 M-F or call: 608-264-5178 (Madison) or 715-839-2980 (Eau Claire)
If you call or mail in a written request, there is a $31.00 per case search fee, and a photocopy fee of $ .50 cents per page. Payment must be made in the form of either a bank cashier's check or money order made payable to: United States Bankruptcy Court. No personal checks will be accepted.
Please include the case name, case number, filing date, and the title of the specific document(s) which you wish to have copied. In addition, please include your name, address, and daytime telephone number.
Mail your request to the appropriate Clerk's Office location. If you wish to visit the court, there is no search fee and the copy fee is reduced to $.10 cents per page.
Copies of a discharge after February of 2002 are available at the clerk's office for free.
Another way to retrieve copies is through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). PACER allows anyone with internet access and a PACER login to access official court records. This system contains bankruptcy information after 4/1/1991 and copies are available in cases filed after 2/1/2002. In order to obtain a PACER login and password, complete the online PACER Registration form. Once your registration has been processed by the PACER Service Center, a login and password can be retrieved online if a credit card is provided or sent by U.S. mail to the address provided on the registration form. There is no registration fee. All registered agencies or individuals will be charged a user fee. Access to web based PACER systems will generate an $.10 per page charge.
You may mail a written request, along with a $31.00 per case search fee, a $11.00 certification fee per document, and a photocopy fee of $ .50 cents per page in the form of either a bank cashier's check or money order made payable to: United States Bankruptcy Court. No personal checks will be accepted.
Please include the case name, case number, filing date, and the title of the specific document(s) which you wish to have certified. In addition, please include your name, address, and daytime telephone number.
Mail your request to the appropriate Clerk's Office location. If you wish to visit the court, there is no search fee and the copy fee is reduced to $.10 per page.
To retrieve case information or copies of documents from the Federal Records Center, you must obtain the Accession Number, Location Number, and Box Number from the clerk's office where the bankruptcy case was filed. You may obtain this information in person, by writing to the court where the case was administered, or from the archive section in this web site.
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case "pro se," that is, without the assistance of an attorney, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully. Hiring an attorney is recommended. The court is not able to give legal advice or help you fill out the forms. For more information about referral of an attorney, you can contact your local Wisconsin Bar Association Lawyer Referrals numbers (608) 257-4666 or 1-800-362-9082. If you are filing a new bankruptcy case without an attorney, see the pro se web page for information to assist you with filing procedures.
If you wish to retain an attorney, call the Wisconsin Bar Association Lawyer Referrals: 800-362-8096 (or 608-257-4666)
No, pursuant to 28 United States Code § 955.
A bankruptcy case is a legal proceeding affecting the rights of debtors, creditors and other parties in interest. Pursuant to 28 United States Code § 955, the Clerk's Office staff is prohibited from giving information which may be characterized as legal advice.
The Clerk's Office provides a variety of services to the bankruptcy judges, attorneys, and the public. The Clerk's Office staff provides clerical and administrative support to the court by filing and maintaining case-related papers, sending notices, and setting hearings. The services provided by the Clerk's Office to attorneys and the public include responding to requests for information and making copies of papers in bankruptcy court files.
In order to expedite the handling of complaints of criminal violations in the bankruptcy system, the United States Trustee requires that your complaint be submitted in a signed letter, bearing your return address and telephone number to:
Office of the United States Trustee
780 Regent Street, Suite 304
Madison, Wisconsin 53715
Upon receipt, your complaint will be reviewed promptly. If the information furnished establishes a reasonable belief that a criminal violation has occurred, the matter will be referred to the United States Attorney. If the United States Attorney deems the matter to hold prosecutorial merit, it will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation. A clearly written statement containing copies of any available documentation will expedite this process.
Submit the following information:
- The bankruptcy case name and file number, together with copies of any pertinent court filings.
- A chronological summary of the matter.
- A narrative of what occurred.
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers (to the extent available) of the subjects and witnesses known to you.
Once a bankruptcy petition is filed, all information submitted regarding the debtor or entity becomes a matter of public record, no matter what the outcome of the case. This information, which is regularly checked by credit companies, may affect the debtor's or entity's credit rating.
The current version of the Code was enacted in 1978. The Bankruptcy Code provides help for businesses or persons in financial difficulty in the form of bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies are the most commonly filed chapters. The Bankruptcy Code is available at legal libraries and found on the Internet.
A copy of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules) is available for review in any clerk's office location, legal libraries, and on the Internet. Bankruptcy rules are not available for purchase from the Court.
The rules governing practice in the Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Wisconsin in addition to the Federal Bankruptcy Rules. Local Rules can be obtained from the clerk's office or you may download them from this site for free.
A complete list of the documents and forms necessary to start a bankruptcy case under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code is listed under the filing requirements section of this web site and under pro se web page.
If you need to start your case quickly, you can file only those documents indicated as minimum documents required for filing. All additional documents must be filed within the time indicated. Your failure to timely file additional required documents or seek an extension of time to do so may result in dismissal of your case, denial of discharge, or the imposition of sanctions.
The clerk's office does not supply Official Bankruptcy Forms or sample plans. However, Official Bankruptcy Forms may be purchased at local stationery stores or downloaded from this web site under Forms and at the pro se web page.
Type the information on the forms, if possible.
A response is necessary for every question. If your answer is "none," and there is no "none" box to check, put "N/A." Use continuation pages when you run out of room. Sign each form where required. If filing a joint case, make sure that your spouse signs too.
Prepare your creditor matrix (a mailing list of all your creditors) according to the matrix format instructions. The clerk's office uses an Optical Character Reader to scan matrixes and if you do not follow the instructions exactly, the scanner will not be able to read the matrix properly. Mailing matrixes MUST be typed.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Cases for the following counties:
Eau Claire office
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Cases for the following counties: Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Lincoln, Marathon, Monroe, Oneida, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Rusk, St. Croix, Sawyer, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Viola, Vilas (town), Washburn, and Wood.
Mail copies of your federal and state tax returns to the trustee assigned to your bankruptcy case. You can find the trustee assigned to your case on the meeting of creditors notice, which was mailed to you after you filed bankruptcy.
A joint petition is the filing of a single petition by an individual and the individual's spouse. Only people who are married on the filing date may file a joint petition. Unmarried persons, corporations and partnerships must each file a separate case. If you are an individual and have a business which is not a partnership, corporation, or business trust that is a registered entity in a state or foreign country, you should list the business as a "dba" (doing business as) on your petition. However, yours will not be considered a joint petition because the business is not an independently-recognized legal entity.
Visit the U.S. Trustee's site for information on credit counseling and debtor education.
One original copy, and if you wish to have a conformed copy returned to you, an additional copy is required along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
The information contained in your petition, schedules, and statement of affairs is submitted under penalty of perjury. Therefore, you must be certain that it is correct when you sign these documents. If, however, you later discover that something is inaccurate, the documents may be corrected by the filing of an amendment with the Clerk's Office. New schedules or statements must be filed showing the corrected information. All amendments must be signed by the debtor(s). A fee of $31.00 must be paid to amend schedules of creditors if creditors are being added.
Personal Identifiers include:
- Social Security Numbers
- Financial Account Numbers
- Dates of birth
- Names of minor children
- Home addresses (in criminal cases only)
The process of blacking-out personal identifiers is known as redaction. Guidelines for redacting or blacking-out Personal Identifiers are as follows:
- Social Security Numbers: only the last four digits should be visible
- Financial account numbers: only the last four digits should be visible
- Dates of birth: only the year of the date of birth should be visible
- Names of minor children: only the initials should be visible
- Home addresses (in criminal cases only): only the city and state should be visible
123-45-6789 should be redacted to xxx-xx-6789
12 3456789 10 11 should be redacted to xx xxxxxxx 10 11
1/23/45 should be redacted to x/xx/45
John Doe should be redacted to J.D.
1234 Main Street, Madison, Wisconsin should be redacted to Madison, Wisconsin
Note: The Advisory Committee Note accompanying Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2 states, "The clerk is not required to review documents filed with the court for compliance with this rule. The responsibility to redact filings rests with counsel and the party or non-party making the filing.
In all chapter 7, 12, 13 and in some chapter 11 cases, a case trustee is assigned by the court to administer the bankruptcy proceedings.
The Court prints the name of the trustee in a Chapter 7, Chapter 12, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case at the top of the case docket and on many of the forms. You may obtain the trustee's name by visiting the Clerk's Office in person or through the automated systems.
The Office of the U.S. Trustee is an Executive Branch agency that is part of the Department of Justice.
The U.S. Trustee is responsible for appointing trustees to administer bankruptcy cases and setting the First Meeting of Creditors (§341 Meetings) dates and times. The staff also monitors the bankruptcy cases to see if bankruptcy fraud has occurred. They are prohibited from providing legal advice.
If the debtor cannot make a chapter 13 payment on time according to the terms of the confirmed plan, the debtor should contact the trustee by phone and by letter advising the trustee of the problem and whether it is temporary or permanent.
Debtors have a duty to appear and testify under oath and to be questioned by the trustee at the §341(a) meeting. This meeting is presided over by the trustee assigned to the case and is held approximately 40 days after the new petition is filed. Failure to appear may result in dismissal of the case. If a continuance of the meeting date is sought, contact the trustee assigned to the case.
Contact the trustee assigned to the case.
The law states that credit reporting agencies may not report a bankruptcy case on a person’s credit report after ten years from the date the bankruptcy case is filed, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 60.
The Bankruptcy Court has no jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies and does not actively report to any of the agencies. The bankruptcy docket and associated documents are public record. Credit reporting agencies regularly collect information from cases filed and report the information on their credit reporting services.
The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report; do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually.
To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
More information about access to free credit reports can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at: http://www.ftc.gov/freereports.
Debtors must directly contact credit reporting agencies to discuss information on a credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act the credit reporting agency (and the creditor) are required to correct inaccurate or incomplete information on a credit report. The credit bureau will verify the item in question with the creditor at no cost to the consumer, however, legal accurate negative information cannot be removed from a credit report.
There are a number of educational publications that the Federal Trade Commission has on its website to help consumers, www.ftc.gov.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. The credit bureau will verify the item in question with the creditor. The credit reporting industry has a policy that requires a creditor to respond to an investigation within 30 days.
After the investigation is complete, the credit reporting agency will notify the consumer of the outcome. If information in the repost has been changed or deleted, the consumer will receive a copy of the revised report.
PLEASE NOTE: The bankruptcy courts do not provide information to the credit reporting agencies. The credit reporting agencies, or other information providers, collect information regarding bankruptcy cases from the court’s public records. Once a case is filed with the bankruptcy court, that case becomes part of the court’s permanent public record. Regardless of the disposition of your case (i.e., open, closed, discharged, dismissed, etc.) the credit reporting agencies can still report your case on your credit report for up to ten years.
The bankruptcy court has no jurisdiction over credit reporting agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, 6 United States Code Section 605, is the law that controls credit reporting agencies. The law states that credit reporting agencies may not report a bankruptcy case on a person's credit report after ten years from the date the bankruptcy case is filed. Other bad credit information is removed after seven years. The larger credit reporting agencies belong to an organization called the Associated Credit Bureaus. The policy of the Associated Credit Bureaus is to remove chapter 11 and chapter 13 cases from the credit report after seven years to encourage debtors to file under these chapters. You may contact the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Education Division, Washington, D.C. 20580. The telephone number is 202-326-2222. That office can provide further information on reestablishing credit and addressing credit problems. For information on credit practices, contact (202) 326-3224.
I recently received my Discharge of Debtor paperwork. How do I clear a judgment and/or apply for a Satisfaction of Judgment/Lien release?
Post-discharge – satisfaction of judgments – are handled in the state court(s) where the judgment is recorded. Satisfaction of Judgement or Partial Judgment or Satisfaction of Lien forms for county court actions my be found on the Wisconsin Court System website. Please contact the Clerk at the specific local/state court to inquire as to their procedure(s). As a result of this response you may have an additional question(s).
Please see the answers to these related FAQ's. How do I get copies of documents in a case?, How do I get CERTIFIED copies of documents in a case? or How do I get a bankruptcy removed from the credit report?
A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement by which a bankruptcy debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of an otherwise dischargeable debt. Such an agreement must generally be filed within sixty (60) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors.
An original and executed reaffirmation agreement filed with the Clerk no later than 30 days following entry of the discharge order is enforceable without hearing or court order, if the agreement is accompanied by a declaration or an affidavit of the debtor's attorney. The reaffirmation agreement must be filed on form 240. If a reaffirmation agreement is filed without an attorney's declaration or affidavit, or creates a presumption of undue hardship, a hearing is required. You must appear in person at the hearing. The judge will ask you questions to determine whether the reaffirmation agreement imposes an undue burden on you or your dependents and whether it is in your best interests. Reaffirmed debts are not dischargeable.
Reaffirmation agreements are strictly voluntary. They are not required by the Bankruptcy Code or other state or federal law. You can voluntarily repay any debt instead of signing a reaffirmation agreement, but there may be valid reasons for wanting to reaffirm a particular debt.
Since a reaffirmation agreement takes away some of the effectiveness of your discharge, legal counsel is advisable before agreeing to a reaffirmation.
Redemption allows an individual debtor (not a partnership or a corporation) to keep tangible, personal property intended primarily for personal, family, or household use by paying the holder of a lien on the property the amount of the allowed secured claim on the property, which typically means the value of the property. Otherwise, in order to retain the property, the debtor would have to pay the entire amount of the secured creditor's debt or enter into a reaffirmation agreement and become legally obligated on the debt again. The property redeemed must be claimed as exempt or abandoned.
In the broadest sense, a claim is any right to payment held by a person or company against the debtor(s) and the debtor's bankruptcy estate. A claim does not have to be a past due amount but can include an anticipated sum of money which will come due in the future.
The written statement filed in a bankruptcy case setting forth a creditor's claim is called a proof of claim. The proof of claim should include a copy of the obligation giving rise to the claim as well as evidence of the secured status of the debt if the debt is secured. Under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, with limited exceptions, claims filed by creditors, except governmental units, in Chapter 7, 12 and 13 cases must be filed within ninety (90) days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors. Claims of governmental units must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days of the date the petition was filed.
If you have been listed as a creditor in a bankruptcy case, you may file a claim. If you do not have a claim form, you may pick one up from any clerk's office location or download it from the U.S. Court's site claim form. Attach documentation supporting your claim. Only the original claim needs to be filed in a Chapter 7 or 11. An original and 1 copy are required in Chapter 12 or 13. If you wish to have a conformed copy returned to you, please enclose an extra copy and self-addressed stamped envelope. Requests for information regarding when a claim will be paid should be directed to the trustee assigned to the case whose name and telephone number can be found on the § 341(a) meeting notice.
If a creditor continues to attempt to collect a debt after the bankruptcy is filed in violation of the automatic stay, you should immediately notify the creditor in writing that you have filed bankruptcy. Provide them with either the case name, number, and filing date, or a copy of the petition that shows it was filed. If the creditor still continues to attempt to collect, the debtor may be entitled to take legal action against the creditor to obtain a specific order from the court prohibiting the creditor from taking further collection action, and if the creditor is willfully violating the automatic stay, the court can hold the creditor in contempt of court and punish the creditor by fine or incarceration. Any such legal action brought against the creditor will be complex and will normally require representation by a qualified bankruptcy attorney.
A dismissal order concludes the case. Upon dismissal, the "automatic stay" ends and creditors may start to collect debts, unless a discharge is entered before the dismissal and is not revoked. An order of dismissal itself will not free the debtor from any debt. Often, a case is dismissed when the debtor fails to do something he/she must do (such as show up for the creditor's meeting, or pay the filing fee), or if it is in the best interests of the creditors. Unless the debtor appeals the order or seeks reconsideration of the order within 14 days after entry of the order, the Clerk will automatically close the case.
The discharge order is issued by the court and permanently prohibits creditors from taking action to collect dischargeable debts against the debtor personally. This does not prevent secured creditors from seizing collateral if payments are not kept up or other creditors from pursuing property of the estate. The following information is intended as a summary only. You are strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney in order to determine the rights and obligations that apply to your individual situation.
Some debts are not dischargeable, and others may be found to be non-dischargeable depending on particular circumstances.
In a Chapter 7 case, the bankruptcy court will order that the debtor be discharged of all dischargeable debts once the time for filing complaints objecting to discharge has expired unless:
- the debtor is not an individual;
- a complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge has been filed; or
- the debtor has filed a waiver of discharge.
In Chapter 11 cases, the confirmation of a plan of reorganization discharges the debtor from dischargeable debts that arose before the date of the order of relief unless:
- the plan or order confirming the plan provide otherwise; or
- the plan is a liquidating plan and the debtor would be denied a discharge in a Chapter 7 case under 11 United States Code § 727.
In Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 cases, the court will order that the debtor is discharged of dischargeable debts after the debtor has completed all payments under the plan, or prior to plan completion, after notice and hearing, if the requirements of 11 United States Code §§ 1228(b) or 1328(b) have been met.
The granting of a discharge does not automatically result in the closing of a case. All contested matters, adversary proceedings, and appeals must be resolved and the appointed trustee or debtor-in-possession must file a final report and account and request entry of a final decree before the Clerk's Office will close the case.
Copies of a discharge after February of 2002 are available through the clerk's office for free.