Bankruptcy Court FAQ
Your Questions about Bankruptcy Court

Bankruptcy Court FAQ

What you need to know about how to get information you need bankruptcy court and what you're likely to encounter on court websites

Updated: 2021-04-27 by

Your Questions about bankruptcy court, answered:


<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

What is CM/ECF?

This term refers to "Case Management/Electronic Case Filing."

This an "electronic filing" procedure that only applies to attorneys.

If you are filing for bankruptcy without an attorney (also known as filing 'pro se'), you can safely ignore all the warnings about "mandatory CM/ECF" -- you are not required to file electronically.

If you are an attorney, don't worry. This procedure is not as complicated as it sounds. In most districts, it basically means that the forms must be saved as PDF files and submitted in a specified manner.


<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

Can I file electronically (eSR) in California Eastern District Bankruptcy Court? Am I Required To?

Electronic Filing for Self-Represented Debtors (eSR)

Not so long ago, self represented debtors had no way to file online. Now, thanks to about a dozen pioneering  bankruptcy  courts, eSR or "Electronic Self Representation " for debtors is now available. 

CM/ECF for Attorneys

Many court web sites have prominent references to "mandatory" electronic filing or "mandatory ECF." Do not be alarmed. You are not required to file electronically, unless you are an attorney.

It is true that, in most courts, attorneys must now file all documents and forms electronically, and they must take training on how to file electronically with the court. However, by law, that rule does not apply to individuals filing without the help of an attorney. If a court clerk tells you otherwise, they are incorrect. Ask to talk to their supervisor to clear up the matter.

In most cases filing electronically is not all that technologically challenging. In many districts, it simply means filing the documents in PDF format.

Electronic filing for self-represented debtors.

Some courts are now offering do it yourself electronic filing for self represented debtors but only in a few districts. The new service called "eSR" or "electronic Self Representation" of debtors. More districts are adding this option all the time. So check the California Eastern District Bankruptcy Court website often to see if they offer it.

If you have no real estate and have income that is low enough, you may be able to use a service like to file online.



<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

Will the court staff explain the filing procedure to me?

To some extent, yes, but it depends on the court.

Some courts are quite willing to help non-attorneys and will give you a packet of information that explains the filing procedure in detail, and in plain English.

Other courts are quite hostile to debtors attempting to represent themselves and will make it a point not to help you at all.

The difference between courts can be dramatic, as evidenced by the wide range of difference between various court websites.

See the "court ratings" section on this page. The list of courts that "get it" provide helpful information to non attorneys.

If the staff at your court tells you that they can't offer you any help, you may wish to refer them to the websites of these other bankruptcy courts that manage to provide ample help the general public.


<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

What is a 341 Hearing?

A 341 hearing is the so-called "creditors meeting" that every bankruptcy filer must attend shortly after you file your bankruptcy papers.

For many filers, this will be your only trip to the courthouse. This is when you meet with the bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case, and are asked questions about the information you have entered on your forms.

Most court websites post schedules of 341 hearings, and when you file, you will be notified of your hearing date. When you show up for your hearing, you will find that many other people have hearings set for the same day. You sit wait for your name to be called.

This is also the time when creditors can ask questions about your papers, and objections to your filing may be raised by creditors.

See the Products & Services page for a podcast about what happens at a 341 meeting. Also, the book How to File For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy has information about what to expect at your 341 hearing.

The book How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy provides detailed information about what to expect at your 341 hearing.

Coronavrius Update: Virtual 341 Hearings


August 28, 2020

The U.S. Trustee Program has extended the requirement that section 341 meetings be conducted by telephone or video appearance to all cases filed during the period of the President’s “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak” issued March 13, 2020, and ending on the date that is 60 days after such declaration terminates. However, the U.S. Trustee may approve a request by a trustee in a particular case to continue the section 341 meeting to an in-person meeting in a manner that complies with local public health guidance, if the U.S. Trustee determines that an in-person examination of the debtor is required to ensure the completeness of the meeting or the protection of estate property. This policy may be revised at the discretion of the Director of the United States Trustee Program.


<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

Glossary of Important Terms You're Likely to find in Court Websites

341 Hearing
Your meeting with trustee and any creditors who choose to attend. At this meeting the trustee will ask you questions about the papers you have filed and creditors can ask questions and raise objections. For most debtors, this is the only time you have to go to the courthouse.
The new anti-consumer bankruptcy law passed by the Republican congress (with help from many Democrats) in 2005. BAPCPA imposes many new procedural requirements ('gotchas') on debtors filing for bankruptcy and can result in dismissal of a bankruptcy case on for failure to meet technical filing requirements.
Case Management/Electronic Case Filing - Attorneys are required to file documents electronically. Links with this descriptor deal with the procedures for electronic filing of documents. Debtors representing themselves (pro se) do not have to do this (except perhaps, in Virginia.)
Fee waiver
If your income is less than 150% of the poverty level income for a family your size in your state, you don't have to pay the bankruptcy filing fee and may also not have to pay the fees for mandatory credit counseling and debtor education courses. The relevant income levels can be found at
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,060 for each additional person.
1 $11,670
2 15,730
3 19,790
4 23,850
5 27,910
6 31,970
7 36,030
8 40,090


Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,080 for each additional person.
1 $14,580
2 19,660
3 24,740
4 29,820
5 34,900
6 39,980
7 45,060
8 50,140


Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,670 for each additional person.
1 $13,420
2 18,090
3 22,760
4 27,430
5 32,100
6 36,770
7 41,440
8 46,110



In Forma Pauperis
A debtor too poor to pay the filing fee. (See "Fee waiver")
Payment Advices
Pay stubs, etc. Local rules may have a requirement to supply "payment advices"
Pro bono
Legal services provided for free. Some court websites have listings of organizations that provide free legal assistance to debtors who cannot afford a lawyer.
Pro se (pro SAY)
A Latin phrase meaning "for himself/herself" or "in one's own behalf." This term denotes a person who represents himself/herself in court. A person who files for bankruptcy without a lawyer is said to be a 'pro se' filer.
Pro Hac Vice (pro-hack-VEE-chay)
Filing as an attorney but from outside the district. (example "Motion to Proceed Pro Hac Vice")


<   Bankruptcy Court FAQ Contents

What does "pro bono" mean

"Pro bono" is a Latin term that refers to lawyers who are willing to provide assistance for free. Bar associations like to talk about the fact that lawyers do 'pro bono' but, in fact, very few actually do, and the need for legal services is far greater than the amount of pro bono help available. Nevertheless, some court websites will direct you to pro bono services instead of simply providing the information you need.

Pro bono services can be uneven. Some can be excellent while others may be done by lawyers with little expertise in bankruptcy law. If you read a good book on how to file for bankruptcy before you meet with your pro bono lawyer, you will be better able to gauge their knowledge of bankruptcy law.



Automatically apply the Kern County expense standards, and California income standards to your means test calculation.

Find where to file if you live in Kern County.

Automatically apply the Kern County expense standards, and California income standards to your means test calculation.