How to File a Skeletal or Emergency Bankruptcy Case

You are permitted to file for bankruptcy without all of the forms, schedules and information generally required for bankruptcy proceedings. An incomplete bankruptcy filing is known as an emergency or skeletal bankruptcy. Although the procedures for filing an emergency bankruptcy differ by jurisdiction, some basic forms are required at the time of initial filing or within 48 hours after. You are still required to supply the remaining forms and information to the bankruptcy court after your skeletal filing, but you will be given a deadline by the court to do so.

Request a debt counseling session with a consumer credit counseling agency at least one week before filing your skeletal bankruptcy. The agency must be approved by your district bankruptcy court. Visit the official website of your district bankruptcy court to find a list of approved agencies. Complete the course before filing for bankruptcy if you are able.

Visit the federal district court in your area and request the following forms: filing fee schedule; voluntary petition; statement of Social Security numbers; voluntary Exhibit D or credit counseling certification; and the creditor matrix forms. Ask the court clerk for the creditor matrix and voluntary petition instructions if the document is not attached to the forms.

Check the fee schedule for the chapter of the federal bankruptcy code under which you are filing. You must pay the initial filing fee when you file your emergency petition. If not paying with cash, make a money order payable to the court listed on the fee schedule unless directed otherwise. Do not use personal checks.

Fill out the voluntary petition as required in the instructions. Some bankruptcy courts permit an incomplete petition for a voluntary filing, while others require the petition be complete.

Fill out the statement of Social Security numbers in full. Do not fill out the joint debtor section unless another person is filing the emergency petition with you.

Fill out exhibit D or the credit counseling certification. Attach the certificate you received from a credit counseling agency, if any. If you were not able to do so due to the emergency nature of your case, check the section on the form that states that you requested credit counseling services prior to filing but were unable to start or complete the course. State your reason for not obtaining counseling prior to filing.

Check the instructions for the creditor matrix. You must list all of your creditors and the account information in the manner dictated by the court. Attach the creditor list to the matrix cover sheet and complete the cover sheet. You may be required to submit the creditor list on a computer disc.

Bring all of the forms and the filing fees to the district court. File the papers and pay the filing fee.


  • Consult an attorney if you are unsure about any of the steps to filing a skeletal bankruptcy case or how the bankruptcy will affect your finances.