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What is the Bankruptcy Code?
The Bankruptcy Code is the collection of statutory provisions that govern bankruptcy cases contained in title 11 of the United States Code in which individuals and businesses in financial difficulty may seek relief from their debts. In addition to the Code and other federal statutes that affect bankruptcy, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and Local Bankruptcy Rules apply.
What are the different "Chapters" under the Bankruptcy Code?
Note: The following are brief and very general summaries - numerous additional qualifications and conditions may apply.
Chapter 7 is the "liquidation" chapter of the Bankruptcy Code and the most common one used by individuals, corporations, and limited liability companies. Under Chapter 7, a trustee is appointed to collect and sell ("liquidate") all property that is not exempt under federal or state law. Unless someone prevails on a formal objection to discharge, an individual debtor gets a discharge, which means the debtor does not have to pay certain types of debts. Corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies do not get discharges.
Chapter 9 is a chapter that may be used by municipalities - political subdivisions of a state such as a county or water district. However, state law must specifically provide that a municipality may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9.
Chapter 11 allows debtors - usually corporations or businesses - to stay in business through confirmation of a plan of reorganization. The plan must explain when and how much will be paid to various classes of creditors, who vote on whether or not the plan should be confirmed.
Chapter 12 is used by individuals and businesses which qualify as a "family farmer" or "family fisherman" as those terms are defined in the Bankruptcy Code. A certain portion of the debtor's income must come from the operation of a farming or fishing business and there are also debt limits that apply. A Chapter 12 debtor proposes a plan to repay creditors from future income. If the court confirms a plan, the debtor will make periodic payments to a Chapter 12 trustee who will distribute the funds to creditors according to the terms of the plan.
Chapter 13 allows individuals who have income and meet certain debt limits to propose a plan to repay creditors over time, usually 3 - 5 years. Creditors do not vote on the debtor's plan, but may file objections to it. A Chapter 13 debtor must begin making plan payments to a Chapter 13 trustee within 30 days after filing the petition. Once a plan is confirmed by the court, the trustee will make distributions to creditors. The debtor receives a discharge only after completing all the plan payments.
Chapter 15 is for foreign debtors who have already filed for bankruptcy under the laws of another country.
Is the bankruptcy court a federal or state court?
Bankruptcy is part of federal law and the bankruptcy court is a unit of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. A bankruptcy petition can only be filed in the bankruptcy court, not in the state court.
Does the court have offices or hold hearings on the Neighbor Islands?
No. The Clerk’s Office and courtroom are in downtown Honolulu. All hearings are held there but you may participate by telephone or videoconference for a hearing held in Honolulu if you make arrangements in advance with the courtroom deputy. As of March, 2020, all hearings are being held telephonically and no advance request is necessary. The toll-free number is (866) 390-1828, access code: 3287676. Meetings of creditors - which are presided over by a trustee and are not court hearings before a judge -- are held in Hilo, Kahului, and Lihue.
How is the bankruptcy court different from other courts?
In contrast to civil actions in most courts where there is litigation between a plaintiff and a defendant, most cases in the bankruptcy court involve a debtor, creditors, and a trustee in the administration of a bankruptcy estate. Most, but not all, issues are resolved by way of motions and hearings rather than extended litigation involving trials. In addition, bankruptcy cases and proceedings are governed by the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which may vary from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The bankruptcy court also does not typically hold jury trials. If a jury trial has been demanded, the action may be withdrawn for a jury trial in the U.S. District Court.
What is a motion?
A motion is a request for the court to issue an order to determine a matter. The person filing the request for the court to rule on something is a “movant” or the “moving party.” The party against whom the request is directed is a “respondent.” If you wish the court to take some action, you must file a motion - do not write a letter to the judge or call the judge’s chambers. Forms for some of the more common types of motions may be downloaded from the court’s website. The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the local bankruptcy rules may require that the motion be served on other parties in addition to the respondent.
What is an adversary proceeding?
An adversary proceeding is a lawsuit related to a bankruptcy case. Whereas a bankruptcy case involves a debtor and his/her creditors, an adversary proceeding involves a “plaintiff” who has filed a complaint, and a "defendant" who must file an “answer” to the complaint. If the defendant fails to file a timely answer, the plaintiff may be able to obtain a judgment by "default." While some matters are resolved quickly in a bankruptcy case through motions, some issues must be litigated in adversary proceedings, which may take months and even years. See Bankruptcy Rule 7001 for the types of actions that require an adversary proceeding.
How can I get information about what I need to do in a bankruptcy case?
For debtors and those who wish to file for bankruptcy, check the information posted under Filing Without an Attorney. Creditors should consult an attorney for advice. Also review the Local Bankruptcy Rules. You may contact the Clerk’s Office for general questions about forms and procedures. However, a clerk is prohibited from giving you any legal advice or offering a legal opinion. For example, a clerk may not tell you if a particular debt has been discharged. Bankruptcy issues can be very complicated - whether you are a debtor or a creditor you should consult an attorney familiar with bankruptcy law and procedures.
Can someone at the court recommend a good bankruptcy lawyer?
The court is prohibited from making any recommendations. Click here for a list of members of the Hawaii Bankruptcy Bar Association who may be able to assist you.
How many copies of a document do I need to submit for filing?
The court needs only one copy with an original signature. If you wish to submit additional copies to have file-stamped and returned to you, please include an addressed return envelope with sufficient postage affixed.
Can I file documents online, by fax, or by email?
Unless specifically directed to do so by the judge, documents for filing may not be faxed or emailed. For documents mailed to the court, be aware that the filing date will be the date that the court receives the document, not when you put it in the mail.
Online filing: If a party is represented by an attorney, only the attorney may electronically file documents. Pro se parties, i.e. parties without an attorney, may apply for a login for the CM/ECF system which will give access to a limited menu of documents if the case or proceeding already exists. Pro se parties may not file a bankruptcy petition or a complaint to open a case. Registration and training are required. For more information, contact the Clerk's Office.
What is the best way to get information about a bankruptcy case?
Use PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), the federal judiciary’s online service for viewing the docket sheet and documents filed in the case. You must obtain a login for PACER and there are charges for viewing documents. However, fees will be waived if the amount due is less than $30 in a quarter.
How can I get copies of documents filed in a case?
See the information for Copies of Documents under the Case Information tab at this website.
How may I get a certified copy of an order or other document?
You may request that any document in the record be certified as a true copy. There is a certification fee of $11 as well as a copying fee for the number of pages copied. If you wish a certification of a judgment or order for registration in another federal district, use Form B 265. Make your request by sending an email with the specific case and document information to email@example.com. You will be advised of the exact amount of the charge.
What is the difference between certification and exemplification of a judgment or order?
Generally, certifications of judgments are intended to be used for registering the judgment in another federal court. An exemplification is used for filing a copy of a document with a state court or local authority. The fee to prepare an exemplification certificate is $23 in addition to the copying charge. If a copy of a document is to be filed in a foreign country, an apostille must be issued by the district court.
May I pay a filing fee with a check? How about a credit or debit card?
Personal checks and credit and debit cards are not accepted from debtors and individual creditors. Attorneys and financial institutions may use business checks imprinted with the name of the law firm or institution. The court accepts money orders and cashier’s checks. The court no longer accepts payments in cash. In addition, the court requires attorneys who electronically file motions and complaints in CM/ECF to pay the filing fees with a credit (but not a debit) card as part of the online filing.
The court also accepts online payments using a government service, pay.gov. For more information, click here.
How may I find out what happened at a hearing that I could not attend?
If no order has been entered on the docket, a minute entry will briefly summarize any decision made at the hearing. An audio record may also be available. You may view the minutes and listen to the audio file online using PACER, the federal judiciary’s online record system. Court staff are not allowed to explain or interpret what or why something happened at a hearing.
What if I don’t agree with an order issued by the judge?
You may file a notice of appeal after the order or judgment is entered in the record. The person filing the appeal is the appellant and the adverse party is the appellee. There is a filing fee of $298. In certain circumstances, before filing an appeal, you may file a motion to alter or amend the judgment or for relief from the order - these types of motions are sometimes referred to as motions for reconsideration. There are strict deadlines in the Bankruptcy Rules for filing appeals and motions for reconsideration.
Is there a difference between a trustee and the U.S. Trustee?
The U.S. Trustee Program is part of the Department of Justice, not a part of the court or federal judiciary. The U.S. Trustee Program oversees the bankruptcy system and appoints individual trustees in specific cases to make distributions if assets are sold in chapter 7 or plan payments are made in chapter 13 . These case trustees are private citizens, not government officials, but must file reports with the local Office of the U.S. Trustee.
When I contacted the Office of the U.S. Trustee to discuss the case I’m involved in, why wouldn’t anyone help me?
If you are represented by an attorney, ethical rules prohibit the staff of the Office of the U.S. Trustee from speaking with you - they may speak only with your lawyer. In addition, like court staff, the staff of the Office of U.S. Trustee is not allowed to give legal advice.
I think my lawyer acted improperly - to whom may I complain?
Allegations that an attorney licensed in Hawaii has violated the rules of professional conduct should be brought to the attention of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 201 Merchant Street, Suite 1600, Honolulu, HI 96813.
How do I obtain a CM/ECF login?
Filing a document requires a PACER account and access approval by our court. Click on this link for NextGen Information, then Register for PACER and Request E-Filing Privileges.
I file in the District Court, District of Hawaii - Can I use the same CM/ECF login?
Yes, your PACER credentials will provide you access to file in Hawaii District CM/ECF and any other NextGen court. However, you should understand that filing procedures may be quite different, especially if you intend to file a petition to open a bankruptcy case or a complaint to open an adversary proceeding. Attending a training class is highly recommended and may be required if you are filing anything more than a simple motion or memorandum.
Do I need to be an attorney to register for CM/ECF?
Debtors and other parties in a bankruptcy case who are not represented by an attorney, may request limited online filing privileges in the CM/ECF system of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawaii. This is a request to file documents in a specific existing case and access will be terminated when the case is closed. All filers must submit a completed and signed registration form, agreeing to abide by the court’s rules and procedures regarding electronic filing. There is no entitlement to electronic filing; access to online filing is a privilege and may be withdrawn at any time solely at the court’s discretion. For more information, contact the Clerk's Office at (808) 522-8100..
In contrast to filing documents electronically, anyone may obtain a PACER account for viewing documents online.
How do I reset my password?
Click on this link for information about resetting and changing your password.
What is the maximum file upload size for filing electronically?
20 MB. You should be able to upload multiple PDFs as attachments for a single docket entry so long as each file is less than 20 megabytes. If you have a large number of attachments and have trouble completing the upload, file some of the attachments as separate docket entries. Select Miscellaneous Documents > Continuation of Document as the CM/ECF event and make sure you include a cover page identifying the document part and the correct sequence.
How can I play an audio file for a hearing in PACER?
If an audio recording of a hearing or trial has been uploaded in PACER, it will be attached to a separate docket entry "PDF with attached Audio File". Accessing the MP3 audio file attachment is dependent on the particular version of PDF software being used. With Adobe Acrobat, it may be shown as a 'paper clip' icon. The MP3 file may be played using any application that plays music files. For additional instructions, click here. There is a PACER charge for accessing the audio file.
What is the "free look" for notices of electronic filing and when does it expire?
When a document is filed electronically in the CM/ECF system, a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) is emailed to the attorneys and other ECF-registered parties in the case. Clicking on the document link in this email will open the document in PACER. Case participants can use this link without accruing a PACER fee for 15 days after the date the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) is sent. The free look extends to all separate email addresses sent the NEF. For example, this may include legal assistants as well as the attorney. You should access the PDF before your free look expires and save the file for future viewing - there will be a charge after 15 days.
Where can I get more information about bankruptcy?
Read the publication Bankruptcy Basics and watch the Bankruptcy Basics Video in the section Filing Without an Attorney. Forms to file for bankruptcy can be downloaded from the Forms section of this website or obtained at the Clerk's Office. Important! The staff of the bankruptcy court are not allowed to give you legal or financial advice. For example, we cannot tell you what bankruptcy chapter you should file under, whether or not a particular debt will be discharged, whether the court has jurisdiction over something, what actions you should take, and who needs to receive notice or service.
What chapter should I file under?
Review the information about the different chapters in Bankruptcy Basics. Which chapter is best for you depends on your particular circumstances - you should get an opinion from an attorney familiar with bankruptcy law. However, most individual consumer debtors file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 liquidation is designed for debtors in financial difficulty who do not have the ability to pay their existing debts. If your debts are primarily consumer debts, you are subject to a “means test” to determine whether your case should be permitted to proceed under Chapter 7. In Chapter 7, you may claim certain of your property as exempt under governing law. A trustee may have the right to take possession of and sell the remaining property that is not exempt and use the sale proceeds to pay your creditors. The purpose of filing a Chapter 7 case is to obtain a discharge of your existing debts. But even if you receive a general discharge, some particular debts are not discharged under the law. Therefore, you may still be responsible for most taxes and student loans; debts incurred to pay nondischargeable taxes; domestic support and property settlement obligations; most fines, penalties, forfeitures, and criminal restitution obligations; and certain debts which are not properly listed in your bankruptcy papers.
Chapter 13 repayment is designed for individuals with regular income who would like to pay all or part of their debts in installments over a period of time. You are only eligible for Chapter 13 if your debts do not exceed certain dollar amounts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code. Under Chapter 13, you must file a plan to repay your creditors all or part of the money that you owe them, using your future earnings. The period allowed by the court to repay your debts may be 3 years or 5 years, depending upon your income and other factors. The court must approve your plan before it can take effect. After completing the payments under your plan, your debts are generally discharged except for domestic support obligations; most student loans; certain taxes; most criminal fines and restitution obligations; certain debts which are not properly listed in your bankruptcy papers; certain debts for acts that caused death or personal injury; and certain long term secured obligations.
Do I need an attorney to file my bankruptcy case?
No, individuals can file without an attorney; this is sometimes called filing “pro se.” But bankruptcy cases can be complicated and many pro se cases are not successful. Please review the information under Filing Without an Attorney.
Can someone at the court recommend a bankruptcy lawyer?
The court is prohibited from recommending any individual attorneys. However, you may click here for a list of members of the Hawaii Bankruptcy Bar Association, who specialize in bankruptcy matters.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
Persons with low incomes may qualify for help from Legal Aid Society of Hawaii or Volunteer Legal Services Hawai`i.
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (legalaidhawaii.org) is a public interest, not-for-profit law firm whose mission is to achieve fairness and justice through legal advocacy, outreach and education for those in need. Services include a monthly bankruptcy pro se clinic. Due to budgetary restrictions, Legal Aid currently only offers bankruptcy services to Oahu residents. Individuals may call LASH’s intake line at (808) 536-4302 to find out if they qualify for legal assistance.
Volunteer Legal Services Hawai`i (vlsh.org) is a non-profit organization that recruits volunteer attorneys to assist individuals with Chapter 7 bankruptcy and other civil legal matters. Services include advice and counsel clinics and self-help workshops. Individuals may call Volunteer Legal’s intake line at (808) 528-7026 to find out if they qualify for Volunteer Legal’s services.
How may a bankruptcy petition preparer help me?
A bankruptcy petition preparer is an individual or a firm that can provide the forms for filing a bankruptcy case and can type in the information. A bankruptcy petition preparer is not authorized to give you any legal advice, e.g., whether you should file under chapter 7 or chapter 13, or claim exemptions under state law or federal law. Someone who gives unauthorized legal advice may be sanctioned by the court. If a bankruptcy petition preparer helps you with the forms, he or she must also sign certain sections of the documents and must file a statement disclosing how much money you have paid for the preparer’s services.
How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy and what if I don't have enough money to pay the filing fee?
The filing fee depends on what chapter under which you file. Click this link for information about Filing Fees.
In Chapter 7, you may file an Application for a Fee Waiver or an Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments. There is a strict income qualification set by law for a full waiver. In addition, the judge must decide that you are not able to pay in installments. If the judge denies your application, you will be required to pay the filing fee in installments. In Chapter 7, an application to pay in installments generally is approved so long as your final installment is payable within 120 days after you file your petition.
Installment payments in Chapters 11, 12, and 13 are disfavored. If you do request payment in installments, the court generally will order you to pay the filing fee in full within 14 days after you file your petition.
What documents do I need for the court to open a bankruptcy case for me?
See the lists of forms to file under the tab Filing Without an Attorney: Chapter 7 Filing Requirements and Chapter 13 Filing Requirements. Some documents may be filed within 14 days after the bankruptcy petition is filed. However, at a minimum you must submit the following for the court to open your case.
- Petition (Official Form 101) with an original signature
- Statement of Social Security Number (Official Form 121) with an original signature
- Creditor List (names and addresses of all creditors to be listed in your bankruptcy schedules) and verification with original signature; submit both a list on paper and as a .txt file on a CD or USB drive
- Filing Fee, or Fee Installment Application, or Application for Chapter 7 Fee Waiver
Note: You should provide a comprehensive list of your creditors with your petition. If you submit your schedules later that contain additional creditors and parties in interest, you will need to amend your creditor list and pay an amendment fee of $32.
I'm married - Does my spouse need to be included in my bankruptcy?
No. Married individuals may file a "joint" petition but one spouse may file alone. However, information about assets and wages of the non-filing spouse must appear in your statements and schedules to give the court a complete picture of your financial situation.
Is Hawaii the proper district for filing my petition?
The proper location for filing a bankruptcy petition is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1408. Make the appropriate selection on Page 2 of the petition form.
What is the requirement for credit counseling?
The Bankruptcy Code requires that individuals obtain credit counseling in the 180-day period BEFORE filing a bankruptcy petition. You may file the petition before filing the certificate that will be issued by the credit counseling agency, but you must file it within 14 days after you file your petition. Click this link for more information about Credit Counseling. Note: after you file, you will need to take a separate course, Debtor Education, before being issued a discharge.
Are there any exceptions to the credit counseling requirement?
Yes, but they are very limited. A debtor may request a total exemption from the credit counseling requirement based only on the circumstances below. The request must be made by filing a Motion for Waiver of Credit Counseling/Debtor Education.
- Incapacity where the person is so impaired by reason of mental illness or deficiency that the individual is inacapable of making rational decisions with respect to financial responsibilities;
- Disability where the person is so physically impaired that the individual cannot, after reasonable effort, participate in an in-person, telephonic, or Internet briefing; or
- Active duty in a military combat zone.
You may also request a temporary waiver if there are exigent circumstances that prevent you from obtaining prebankruptcy credit counseling within 7 days after requesting the counseling. You must select the appropriate box in Part 5 of the petition and attach a separate sheet explaining what efforts you made to obtain the counseling, why you were unable to obtain it before you filed for bankruptcy, and what circumstances required you to file the case before obtaining the counseling. If the court approves this temporary waiver, you must get the credit counseling within 30 days after filing the petition. If the court denies the waiver, your case is subject to dismissal.
What is the difference between credit counseling and debtor education?
Individuals must obtain credit counseling in the 180-day period BEFORE filing a bankruptcy petition. A debtor education course (also known as a course in personal financial management) must be completed AFTER the petition has been filed. If you fail to obtain the credit counseling, your case may be dismissed. If you fail to complete a debtor education course, your case will be closed without a discharge. If your case is closed without a discharge and you later wish to submit a debtor education certificate, you will need to file a motion to reopen your case and pay a fee ($260 for Chapter 7, $235 for Chapter 13) before the court will issue you a discharge.
How may I request more time to complete my bankruptcy schedules and statements?
You must file a Debtor’s Motion to Extend Time to File Case Opening Documents. File it before the original deadline expires, i.e. 14 days after the date you filed the petition.
Can I amend schedules, the statement of financial affairs, or my creditor list? Is there a filing fee?
Yes - you are required to amend these if you need to add creditors or update or correct information in what you originally filed. There is an amendment fee of $32 if you file an amended creditor list or amended schedules D or E/F. If you add creditors, you must send them a copy of the notice of your bankruptcy case, and file a certificate of service that you did so. For detailed information, see the Amending Schedules & Creditor Lists section under Filing Without an Attorney.
How can I reinstate my case that was dismissed for missing schedules or other documents or because I did not pay the filing fee?
First, make sure you file all the missing documents and pay any balance due on the fee. If you have satisfied all deficiencies, you may use a form Debtor’s Motion to Reconsider Order Dismissing Case. This should be filed within 14 days after the court enters the dismissal order.
What happens at a meeting of creditors?
At the meeting of creditors or “341” meeting (named that because the meeting is required under § 341 of the Bankruptcy Code), the debtor is questioned under oath by a trustee. Creditors are also given an opportunity to question the debtor. In a joint case, both spouses must appear. Failure to appear may result in dismissal of the case. Click here for more information.
Where are meetings of creditors held?
In addition to Honolulu, meetings are held in Hilo, Hawaii, Kahului, Maui, and Lihue, Kauai. Addresses are listed here. Currently, meetings of creditors are being held remotely by telephone.
How can I request a different location, date, or time for my meeting of creditors?
Meeting locations generally are assigned by the debtor’s county of residence or principal place of business as stated in the petition. Meeting dates are assigned according to specific time limits set by the Bankruptcy Rules. For a change in location, you must contact the Office of the U.S. Trustee - (808) 522-8150. The court cannot make a change without approval by the U.S. Trustee. For a change in date or time, contact the individual trustee appointed in your case. If a change is approved, it will be your responsibility to send a notice of the change to all creditors and parties in interest in your case.
What is the automatic stay?
The filing of a bankruptcy petition operates as a “stay” which prohibits starting or continuing certain actions against the debtor and property of the bankruptcy estate, such as collection actions, foreclosures, and evictions. (Note: If you are involved in an action in another federal or state court, the local rules require you to give notice to the clerk of that court and the other parties.) A creditor may seek “relief from stay” by filing a motion and obtaining an order from the judge “lifting” the stay so the creditor may proceed. The judge will likely grant the motion if you do not file a timely opposition.
What is a discharge and when will I get it?
A bankruptcy discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain specified types of debts. In other words, you are no longer legally required to pay any debts that are discharged. The discharge is a permanent order prohibiting the creditors from taking any form of collection action on discharged debts, including legal action and communications with the debtor, such as telephone calls, letters, and personal contacts. This is called the "discharge injunction." Although a debtor is not personally liable for discharged debts, a valid lien (i.e., a charge upon specific property to secure payment of a debt) that has not been avoided (i.e., made unenforceable) in the bankruptcy case will remain after the bankruptcy case. Therefore, a secured creditor may enforce the lien to recover the property secured by the lien. In a typical Chapter 7 case where no objections to discharge are filed, the court may issue a discharge approximately 60 days after the meeting of creditors, or about 90 days after the filing of the petition. A discharge in a Chapter 13 case will not be issued until all plan payments have been made - plans may last up to 5 years. Note that other requirements may apply, such as the need to complete a debtor education course and be current on domestic support obligations.
Does a discharge cover all my debts?
You should read the section about discharges in Bankruptcy Basics and consult an attorney familiar with bankruptcy. The Clerk’s Office cannot give you any legal advice, including whether a particular debt has been discharged.
What is a reaffirmation agreement and why should I sign one?
A reaffirmation agreement is a voluntary agreement between the debtor and a creditor whereby a debtor becomes legally obligated to pay all or a portion of a debt that otherwise would be discharged. You should consult an attorney familiar with bankruptcy law as to whether or not you should reaffirm a debt based on your particular situation. In certain circumstances, you may also need the court to approve the agreement. For more information about reaffirmation agreements, click here.
How can I convert my case to another chapter?
You need to file a motion and you may need to pay a filing fee. Some form motions are available: Chapter 7 Debtor’s Motion and Notice of Conversion of Case to Another Chapter and Chapter 13 Debtor’s Notice of Conversion of Case to Chapter 7.
How can I voluntarily dismiss my case?
You must file a motion to dismiss and a hearing may or may not be required. Some form motions are available: Debtor’s Motion to Dismiss Chapter 7 Case and Debtor’s Motion to Dismiss Chapter 13 Case. Note that if you voluntarily dismiss your case after a motion for relief from the automatic stay has been filed, you may be ineligible to file another bankrupcty petition for 180 days.
How long does a Chapter 7 case usually last?
A typical Chapter 7 consumer case where there are no assets and no objections to discharge, adversary proceedings, or other motions to resolve generally is closed within 4 - 6 months after the petition is filed. However, if there are assets for the trustee to liquidate and make distributions to creditors, a case may last years.
What is the difference between a secured, unsecured, and priority debt?
A secured debt is a debt that is backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien, including a properly recorded judgment lien. It is a debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Typically, things like a car or a house are used as collateral to secure consumer loans. If you have simply promised to pay someone a sum of money at a particular time and have not pledged any property, it is an unsecured debt. This may include a judgment that is not secured by a lien. Typically, things like medical bills and gas or electric bills are unsecured debts. Certain types of unsecured debts are entitled to priority under the Bankruptcy Code and are entitled to be paid ahead of other unsecured debts. Examples of priority debts are some taxes, wage claims of employees, and domestic support obligations such as alimony and child support.
If I think something is not being done correctly by the trustee in a case in which I am involved, to whom may I complain?
Questions concerning individual trustees should be addressed to the Office of the U.S. Trustee. Note: If you are a debtor or another party in a case and are represented by an attorney, the U.S. Trustee's staff may only communicate with your attorney.
What documents should I keep for my records?
You may wish to keep copies of all documents filed in your case. At a minimum, you should retain copies of your petition, schedules, statements, and creditor list, as well as your discharge and any orders issued in your case.
How may I get another copy of my discharge?
You should save a copy of your discharge when it is mailed to you by the court. If you need another copy later, you may print a copy using PACER, the federal judiciary’s online system for viewing case records. You may also visit or contact the Clerk’s Office for a copy. Send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long does information about my bankruptcy filing stay on my credit report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act generally requires Information about a bankruptcy case to be excluded 10 years after the date the bankruptcy was filed. See 11 U.S.C. § 1681c. As a matter of policy, a credit reporting agency may remove bankruptcy information after 7 years if it was a case under chapter 13 where a discharge was issued. You should check with the major credit reporting agencies about their policies: equifax.com, experian.com, transunion.com.
Note: The court does not provide any information or verification to the credit reporting agencies. Those agencies obtain information from public records such as PACER.
What can I do if my credit report incorrectly shows a bankruptcy case that is not mine?
You should contact the individual credit reporting agency (equifax.com, experian.com, transunion.com) to dispute your report. Data about bankruptcy cases is a matter of public record and the credit reporting agencies search these records for their reports. The bankruptcy court does not directly provide any information to the agencies and has no control over credit reports. However, you may request that the court send you information about the bankruptcy case appearing in your report to assist in resolving any dispute.
I think my lawyer acted improperly - to whom may I complain?
Allegations that an attorney licensed in Hawaii has violated the rules of professional conduct should be brought to the attention of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, 201 Merchant Street, Suite 1600, Honolulu, HI 96813; Phone: (808) 521-4591.
I received a notice of a bankruptcy filing - What should I do?
If you have a claim against the debtor, you should file a proof of claim if the notice advises you that you must do so by a deadline. In many bankruptcy cases, no deadline is initially set and creditors do not need to file a claim until there is a notice to do so. You must observe the automatic stay, i.e. you cannot act to collect a debt or take certain other actions against the debtor and the property of the bankruptcy estate unless you get a court order for relief from the stay. Note that in Chapter 13 there may also be a stay against a codebtor - someone who is not a debtor but is liable on the same consumer debt as the individual in bankruptcy.
Where can I get a proof of claim form?
Official Form 410 - Proof of Claim may be downloaded from the U.S. Courts Forms website. Attachments and supplements may be required and are also available from that site. Make sure an authorized individual signs the claim form in ink before sending it to the court. Also note that a deadline may apply and the claim will be filed with the date the court receives it, not the date you mailed it. You may also file a claim online - see the information about ePOC.
How do I know if my claim is a priority claim?
Section § 507 of the Bankruptcy Code specifies which types of claims are entitled to priority, such as domestic support obligations and employee wages. Section 12 of the proof of claim form (Official Form 410) lists the categories of priority claims. You should consult a bankruptcy attorney if you have questions about whether you have a priority claim.
Do I need to file an amended claim for a change of address?
No. File the form Notice of Change of Address (Proof of Claim). Make sure the information is correct as to the address for court notices and the address where payments should be sent.
Do I need to attend the meeting of creditors (341 meeting)?
Only the debtor and the debtor’s attorney are required to appear at the meeting of creditors (sometimes called the "341" meeting). You may appear to ask questions while the debtor is under oath, but a creditor’s attendance is voluntary. If you do wish to question the debtor, your time may be limited. For a more detailed examination, your attorney may file a Motion for Rule 2004 Examination. See Local Bankruptcy Rule 2004-1.
How do I get a record of the meeting of creditors?
You may request a CD of the audio record from the Office of the U.S. Trustee. If you wish a written transcript, you must make your own arrangements to have the audio recording transcribed.
To whom should I report a fraudulent filing or if the debtor is concealing assets?
Information regarding possible concealment of assets should be given to the case trustee or the local Office of the U.S. Trustee. You may also click here to submit a report of suspected bankruptcy fraud to the United States Trustee Program. If you wish to object to the debtor receiving a discharge of debts or if you think a debt to you should not be discharged due to fraudulent conduct, you must file a formal complaint, for which there are deadlines to meet and a filing fee to be paid. This essentially begins a lawsuit and it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney who is experienced with bankruptcy law and rules before taking this action.
When will my claim get paid?
If there are sufficient assets for distributions to creditors and your claim is unchallenged, you may receive one or more disbursements from a trustee or through a confirmed plan. In addition, distributions must be made according to certain priorities under the Bankruptcy Code. If there are insufficient assets, some claims may be paid while others are not. The timing of distributions happens case by case. In a Chapter 7 case where there are assets, there may be circumstances where it may be several years before disbursements occur. In a Chapter 13 case, monthly distributions (but not necessarily to all creditors) should start after a plan has been confirmed.
How do I stop the debtor from getting a discharge of the debt owed to me?
You may object to debtor getting a discharge or you may seek a ruling from the court that the specific debt to you should not be discharged. In either situation, you must file a formal complaint to commence an adversary proceeding. There is a filing fee of $350. You will be the plaintiff and the debtor will be the defendant, and the matter may eventually go to trial. Bankruptcy litigation may be complicated - consult an attorney who is familiar with bankruptcy law and procedures.
What is the difference between a complaint objecting to discharge and a complaint to determine dischargeability of a debt?
An objection to discharge means you think there is justification to deny the debtor a discharge of all debts. A determination regarding the dischargeability of a particular debt means that you oppose the discharge of your claim against the debtor, but do not oppose the debtor obtaining a discharge of other debts.
Why did the court issue a discharge and close the case when my adversary proceeding for dischargeability of debt is still pending?
The outcome of an adversary proceeding to determine the dischargeability of a debt involves only your claim against the debtor. The adversary proceeding will proceed even though the debtor has received a discharge of other debts. The case may also be closed because no further administration of the estate is required. Issuing the debtor a discharge or even closing the case does not mean that the court has decided your claim against the debtor.
Do I need to pay a filing fee for a complaint if I am a child support creditor?
No, if your complaint seeks payment of a child support debt. But you must file Form B 2810 - Appearance of Child Support Creditor or Representative. Download this form from the U.S. Courts Bankruptcy Forms website.
May I proceed with my collection action against the debtor now that the case has been dismissed?
Under § 362(c) of the Bankruptcy Code, the automatic stay generally ends when a dismissal order is entered in the record. However, you may wish to consult an attorney familiar with bankruptcy law and procedures as to any actions you may or may not take.
May I collect my debt now that the case is closed?
If the debtor received a discharge, the automatic stay against collecting a debt was replaced with a "discharge injunction" which prohibits acts to collect any discharged debts. You should consult an attorney familiar with bankruptcy law if you have questions as to whether the debt to you was discharged.
How can I stop getting notices from the court?
To stop receiving notices for a case, parties and creditors may file a Request for Removal from Notice List with the court. Creditors who have filed a claim will not be removed from the court's notice list. Attorneys withdrawing from participation in a case may file a Notice of Withdrawal of Counsel and Request for Removal from Notice List.
I practice in several federal courts - May I appear before this bankruptcy court?
The bankruptcy court is a unit of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. If you are admitted to practice by the district court, there are no additional requirements. If you are not yet admitted to practice before the district court, note that as of October 1, 1997, you must be a member in good standing of the bar of the State of Hawaii. Also note that if you are a member of the federal bar in Hawaii but do not maintain an office in this district, you may be required to associate with a member of the Hawaii State Bar who does maintain an office here. For information about appearing pro hac vice, review Local Bankruptcy Rule 2090-1(b).
How do I get a hearing date for my motion?
Do I need to file anything if I am helping out another attorney by assisting the debtor at the 341 meeting?
Yes. If you assist the debtor at the meeting of creditors, you are considered to be representing the debtor. You must file a Disclosure of Compensation of Attorney for Debtor (Form B 2030) even if you do this as a courtesy and receive no compensation. Download this form from the U.S. Courts Bankruptcy Forms website.
What should I do to correct the debtor's Social Security Number that was entered at case opening?
If the SSN provided with the filing of the petition is incorrect, Local Bankruptcy Rule 1009-2(b) requires that the debtor promptly provide the correct number to all creditors and parties in interest. Be sure to review the procedures on Correcting Social Security Numbers.
My agreement with the debtor does not include representation in an adversary proceeding but I was served a copy of the complaint and summons. What should I do?
You were required to be served under Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7004(g). However, LBR 9011-1(b) provides that you may file a notice of non-representation in the adversary proceeding if your services were not included in your compensation disclosure statement. If you are a registered ECF user, you may file this notice using a text-only entry: Adversary > Miscellaneous Documents > Statement of Non-representation in an Adversary Proceeding.
I changed my address - what do I need to do?
In an adversary proceeding, LR83.1(e) of the District Court applies. In a bankruptcy case, refer to the requirements in LBR 2091-1(c)(1). In accordance with that rule, notice is required using the local form Attorney's Notice of Change of Address / Attorney's Notice of Change of Firm Affiliation or, in the alternative, electronically filing a text entry in each affected case docket in CM/ECF. For assistance in performing the latter, contact the Clerk's Office.
You should also update your address in your PACER account. Click here for detailed instructions.
I changed law firms - Do I need to do anything?
See LBR 2091-1(c)(2): An attorney who changes firms but will continue to represent the party in a pending case, contested matter, or adversary proceeding must explicitly indicate that information in a notice. An attorney who will no longer be representing the party must include a notice that the attorney is withdrawing representation of that party and must (i) indicate the name of another member of the former firm upon whom service may be made, or (ii) comply with the provisions under LBR 2091-1 regarding withdrawal and substitution of counsel. Also see local form Attorney's Notice of Change of Address / Attorney's Notice of Change of Firm Affiliation. For assistance in electronically filing notices in multiple cases in CM/ECF, contact the Clerk's Office. Also remember to update your information in PACER.
How can I check on the status of the order I submitted?
If the proposed order was uploaded in the eOrders system, check Order Query - see page 9 of the eOrders Guide.
Do I need court approval to withdraw from an adversary proceeding?
A motion is required. See LBR 2091-1(a)(2).
Where do I file a motion to withdraw reference?
A motion to withdraw reference of an adversary proceeding or a prticular contested matter must be filed in the bankruptcy court. A filing fee is due. The clerk will transmit the motion to the district court to be ruled on by a district judge.
How do I submit a sealed document?
I neglected to redact the debtor's personal information in a document I filed. What should I do?
CM/ECF Tips and Tricks
Audio Files - Listening to Audio Files
An audio file is embedded as an attachment to a PDF document that is entered on the docket. Registered CM/ECF users who are attorneys of record on the case will receive a "free look" when the PDF is accessed through the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). PACER fees apply when the audio is accessed through PACER. Click here for detailed instructions for listening to audio files.
Blank Screen - No Bankruptcy or Adversary Headings
If you can see Query, Reports, and Utilities, but not Bankruptcy or Adversary, you have not linked your PACER account with your CM/ECF account. Click here for detailed instructions.
Blank Screen - Bankruptcy/Adversary Headings But No Menu Items
If you can see the Bankruptcy and Adversary headings but there are no categories underneath them, you may have been locked out for failure to timely pay filing fees. Go to Utilities > Internet Fees Due and pay for the overdue filing fees. Log out, refresh your screen and login.
Pages you view on the internet (including CM/ECF screens and documents) are stored in temporary files for quick viewing. If these temporary files are not deleted, they can create problems in CM/ECF. Therefore, it is recommended that you regularly clear your internet browser cache and temporary files. Click here for detailed instructions.
ECF Activity - Reviewing Activity in Cases You Are Involved
Login to CM/ECF. Go to Reports > Select Summary of ECF Activity Report. Enter Activity Date, select either Summary Text or Full Text and Run Report. The next screen displays filing activity in cases in which you are involved. While there is no charge to view the report, PACER fees apply when clicking the hyperlink to view the document or docket report.
ECF Activity - Email Notifications in Cases in Which You Are NOT Involved
If you would like to monitor activity in a specific case, add it to your ECF account. Login to CM/ECF. Go to Utilities > Select Maintain You ECF Account. Click Email Information... In the Send notices in these additional cases field, enter the case number for which you would like to receive notifications. Click Return to Account Screen. Click Submit. You will receive email notifications when docket entries are made in the case. Note: PACER fees apply.
Electronic Notifications - Determining Who Will Receive NEFs
Use the Mailings report to determine who will receive electronic notices in a specific case. Login to CM/ECF. Go to Utilities > Select Mailings. Select Mailing Info for a Case. Enter Case Number > Click Submit. Review the Electronic Mail Notice List and Manual Notice List. Note: While there is no charge to view these lists, PACER fees apply to view the Creditor List and List of Creditors.
Electronic Notifications - No hyperlink to a PDF
Some docket events create "text-only" entries. A PDF is not attached and the docket entry itself serves as the official court record.
PDF - Checking Dimension of Scanned PDFs
Any document which will be served by the court through the Bankruptcy Noticing Center (BNC) must not exceed 8.65" x 11.15", or it will be rejected by the BNC. It is important to ensure that your PDF conversion software and scanner are producing PDFs which do not exceed 8.5" x 11" inches. When the document is open in Adobe, the dimension appears in the bottom left of the screen. If a scanned document exceeds 8.65" x 11.15", Print to PDF to resize it. Select File > Print, and then change your default printer to Adobe PDF. (Page Scaling should be “Fit to Printable Area”.)
PDF - Error Message "Document contains code which may cause external action..."
Document contains code which may cause external action such as launching an application. PDF document can't be accepted.
PDF - eOrder Error Message "Your PDF document has one or more pages that exceeds the standard page size limit"
FAILURE: Your PDF document has one or more pages that exceeds the standard page size limit and cannot be accepted until fixed.
eOrders will not accept a PDF of an order that is not 8.5" x 11" in portrait mode. When the document is open in Adobe, the dimension appears in the bottom left of the screen. To resize it, either: (1) Rescan the original document with a scanner configured to produce an 8.5" x 11" PDF; or (2) Print to PDF: Select File > Select Print, and then change your defaulted printer to Adobe PDF (Page Scaling should be “Fit to Printable Area”).
If the error persists, contact the CM/ECF Help Desk at (808) 523-7373.
PDF - Error message "Cannot redisplay /tmp/XXXXXXXXX.pdf, it has already been shown once"
Cannot redisplay /tmp/_________________.pdf, it has already been shown once.
There is an issue with the Chrome browser that may cause a user to receive the error message above when attempting to view a document through a hyperlink contained in a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) using the Chrome PDF plug-in. To view the document, the user should change the Chrome browser settings to download the PDF instead of viewing it or switch to a different browser.
PDF - Maximum file size
The maximum size for a single PDF uploaded in CM/ECF is 20 MB. To determine the size of a document, in Adobe Acrobat, click on File > Document Properties or press [Ctrl][D] and go to the Description tab. The File Size field is near the bottom of the screen.
To keep the size of PDF files as small as possible for faster uploading and to keep within the required size limit:
- After saving the completed PDF, click on File > Save As Other > Reduced Size PDF.
- Avoid scanning paper documents to PDF (which produces image documents). If you have an electronic version of a document, convert to PDF using an option within the program that created the document, or by opening the file in Adobe and saving as a PDF.
- If scanning a paper document cannot be avoided, choose the scanner setting of black and white (not gray scale or color) and set the resolution to 300 dpi.
- When using Word, use the Save as Adobe PDF option.
To break a PDF document into smaller segments in Adobe, use Organize Pages > Extract Pages and save each set of pages with a different file name.
When uploading documents, make sure each PDF is fully uploaded before attaching the next one.
PDF Headers - Turning on and off
You will not see PDF headers on documents unless you select "Include PDF Headers" when you run a docket report. You can also set it as your default setting under Maintain Your ECF Account.