Top 10 "Pro Se" Bankruptcy Filing Errors

Filing bankruptcy chapter 7 or chapter 13 goes much smoother when you avoid these top 10 pro se filing mistakes.

Note: the term pro se is another way of saying *filing your own bankruptcy without an attorney*

1. Failure to Submit a Certificate of Service


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2. Failure to Include Signatures

Be sure to sign all forms and declarations where instructed to do so (e.g., signature pages/sections at the end of many official and local bankruptcy) .

3. Not Labeling Amended Pleadings as “Amended”

All amended pleadings must be clearly marked as “Amended”. This includes Amendments to the Creditor Mailing Matrix (due to an incorrect address or creditor additions). See also Filing Error #8 below.

4. Submitting Illegible Hand Written Documents

Typed documents are preferable for all filings with the Bankruptcy Court. All bankruptcy forms are available in PDF fillable format so you can complete them electronically and then print them out (and then sign, if necessary) to submit them. If you must file handwritten documents, print neatly or ask someone who can to help you.

5. Filings with Improper Captions or No Caption

A caption is required on all pleadings. Some pleadings can be submitted using forms from the Court’s website. If there is no form available for the pleading you need to file, click here for  Sample_Captions

6. Incomplete Summary of Schedules and/or Missing Statistical Summary Page

The B6_Summary_Schedules is Official Bankruptcy Form B6, which includes both the Summary of Schedules and the Statistical Summary of Certain Liabilities. Both forms must be completed in their entirety and submitted to the Court when filing a Chapter 7, 11, 12, or 13 case. You may also need:



7. Failure to File a Certificate of Credit Counseling

Every debtor in a chapter 7, chapter 11 in which § 1141(d)(3) applies, or chapter 13 case must file this certification. If a joint petition is filed, each spouse must complete and file a separate certification.

B23 Certification of Financial Management Instructional Course

Every debtor in a chapter 7, chapter 11 in which § 1141(d)(3) applies, or chapter 13 case must file this certification. If a joint petition is filed, each spouse must complete and file a separate certification.

Did you obtain credit counseling within the last 180 days from a United States Trustee-approved credit counseling agency? If not, and you do not meet the requirements for an extension or exemption, your case will be dismissed and you will not receive a discharge of your debts.

In some cases, you may not be allowed to file another case for 180 days or your protection under the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay from your creditors may be limited. The Court will only allow you to complete the credit counseling after filing if you meet all of the following conditions:

  1. If you requested counseling from an approved agency, but were unable to obtain services during the 5-day period beginning on the date you made the request; and

  2. There are exigent (emergency) circumstances that the Court finds merit a waiver of the requirement before filing; and

  3. You file a certification stating the facts regarding the conditions listed in #1 and #2 above with your petition that the Court finds satisfactory. See 11 U.S.C. § 109(h) (section 109(h) of the Bankruptcy Code, title 11, U.S. Code) for the full statutory law.

Important Notes Regarding Obtaining Credit Counseling:

It may be conducted online, over the phone, or in person.

It must be from a U.S. Trustee approved agency.

You should ask the agency for a credit counseling certificate and a copy of any debt repayment plan to file with your case.

The certificate must reflect that the counseling was received within the 180 days preceding the date of the filing your case.

Debtor education is not the same as pre-petition counseling.

You can locate an approved credit counseling agency by visiting the U.S. Trustee Program’s locator.

8. Incorrect Amended List of Creditors

The Amended Creditor Matrix should only contain the names and addresses of the newly added creditors and should be filed with a signed Amended Verification of Creditor Matrix Form. The Amended Verification Form should be used to correct an insufficient address/returned mail.



Do not forget you also must file a Certificate_of_Service_Template stating that you notified the creditors on the amended schedule of the 341 Meeting of Creditors (by forwarding a copy of the Court generated notice or sending a separate notice to the creditor that includes the case number, meeting date, and meeting time), with your Amended Matrix and Amended Verification of Creditor Matrix Form.

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9. Incorrect Installment Fee Payments

When paying for the filing of a bankruptcy case in installments you must be sure to fully complete the application to pay in installments, including dates, payment amounts, and an initial down payment.

B3A Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments

Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee: If you are unable to pay the filing fee, ask the court to waive it. 

10. Failure to file the Financial Management Course Certificate and Certificate of Debtor Education

The financial management course requirement is separate from the credit counseling required before filing. Both are needed to complete the bankruptcy process and obtain a discharge of your debts.

B23 Certification of Financial Management Instructional Course