How Fast Can I File Bankruptcy?

You can file for bankruptcy in one day. The bankruptcy courts have a special provision for an emergency bankruptcy petition. It is called "Filing an Emergency or Skeletal (Bare Bones) Bankruptcy Case." Through the provision, you are allowed to file for bankruptcy with minimal paperwork. You could see a bankruptcy attorney in the morning and file for bankruptcy the same afternoon. Or you could represent yourself and deliver your bankruptcy application to the courts.


Emergency bankruptcy petitions are designed for people who are facing a severe crisis. You may have tried to withdraw money from your checking account only to find out that the account is frozen because of bank garnishment related to a court judgment. Or you may have discovered that the bank is about to foreclose on your house within days.

The Automatic Stay

Filing for bankruptcy immediately stops foreclosure and forces open bank accounts that are being garnished. A provision in bankruptcy called an "automatic stay" prohibits debt collectors from filing lawsuits against you or continuing lawsuits that have been filed. The automatic stay stops evictions, prohibits enforcement of judgments and prevents debt collectors from collecting from you in any way while you are under the protection of the bankruptcy court. These are all key reasons why some people rush to file for bankruptcy.

No Fee Required

You are allowed to file an emergency bankruptcy petition without immediately paying the standard bankruptcy application fees of $299 for Chapter 7 and $234 for Chapter 13, as of 2011. The fees can be paid later, and you can request to pay in installments or ask that the fee be waived because of your financial situation. The intent of the court is to remove as many barriers as possible to a quick filing.

Following Up

After filing the emergency petition, you will be given deadlines by the court for producing additional information needed to complete the bankruptcy application. A simple form just three pages long is required for the emergency filing, and it asks only basic questions, such as an estimate of the number of creditors you owe and an estimate of the total dollar amount owed. You must follow up with information that is much more detailed, with an initial deadline of seven days after you file the emergency petition. All requested information must be provided within 14 days or the bankruptcy case may be dismissed and the automatic stay rescinded.