Top 10 Filing Errors By Self-Represented Parties
To better assist parties without an attorney (also known as "pro se") in successful navigation of their bankruptcy cases, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland has compiled a listing of the top 10 filing errors made by pro se parties. Each error is followed by a tip on how to avoid making the error.
1. Failure to Submit a Certificate of Service
Please review the Required Documentation section under the Information for Debtors Without an Attorney page. A copy of the Certificate of Service can be found under the Forms section of the Court’s website.
2. Failure to Include Signatures
You must sign all forms and declarations where instructed to do so (e.g., Declaration of Schedules (navigate to Part 1 then to form B 6 - the one just above B 7 as there are 3 different B 6 forms listed on the US Courts Web site) and signature pages/sections at the end of many official and local bankruptcy forms).
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), which must be filed with an Amended Verification of Creditor Matrix Form. Please see the Amended Filings section under the Information for Debtors Without an Attorney page for more information. Also see #8.
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 under the Forms page on the Court’s website, so you can complete them electronically and then print them out (and then sign, if necessary) to submit them. If you need to file handwritten documents, they must be legible and in print.
5. Filings with Improper Captions or No Caption
A caption is required on all pleadings. Some pleadings can be submitted using forms on the Court’s website, like the Pro Se Answer Form Instructions). If there is no form available for the pleading you need to file, please click here for sample captions.
6. Incomplete Summary of Schedules and/or Missing Statistical Summary Page
The Summary of Schedules is Official Bankruptcy Form B6 (Navigate to Part 1 and then the first B 6 for the thre B6 forms listed), 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.
7. Failure to File a Certificate of Credit Counseling
Please see the Court’s Credit Counseling Warning!
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, 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.
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 (Official Bankruptcy Form B6 (Navigate to Part 1 and then form B 3A), including dates, payment amounts, and an initial down payment.
10. Failure to file the Financial Management Course Certificate/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. Please see the Financial Management Certification Warning under the Information for Debtors Without an Attorney page.