This guide briefly discusses the resources you can use to learn more about filing for bankruptcy. Visit either of the following web sites for definitions of the terms used here:
- Law.com’s Legal Dictionary
- The Washington State Court’s Glossary of Terms
What is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a federal, court-supervised procedure to provide relief from debts. Bankruptcy cases are filed at the United States Bankruptcy Court. Additional information about which bankruptcy court to file your case in is available on the web site for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington.
What Laws Govern Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is governed mainly by the Bankruptcy Code, which is found at Title 11 of the United States Code [Cornell]. Broadly speaking, Chapters 1, 3 and 5 of the Bankruptcy Code apply to all types of bankruptcy. Chapters 7, 11 and 13 each relate specifically to the three most common types of bankruptcy. Your issue may involve federal laws other than the Bankruptcy Code or state law. See also a Redlined version of the Code – as amended by the Bankruptcy Reform Act.
The Bankruptcy Courts in Seattle and Tacoma follow the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Local Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure for the Western District of Washington.
Case law will explain how courts have ruled on issues, and how courts interpret particular statutes or rules. Cases from bankruptcy courts and other federal courts that pertain to bankruptcy are available in the Law Library on Westlaw and LEXIS.
What about the Bankruptcy Reform Act (2005)?
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 109-08, 119 Stat. 23) went into general effect on October 17, 2005. The 500-page bill was designed to close loopholes in the law that allowed possible abuse of the bankruptcy system.
Helpful Web Sites & Forms
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington has a link to Frequently Asked Questions that gives additional information about where to file a bankruptcy case.
- Look under the tab that says Filing Information to find links to forms, filing fee schedule, etc.
- Official bankruptcy forms to file a case under Chapters 7, 11 and 13, as well as a proof of claim form for creditors, may be found on the web site.
- Court opinions beginning in 2005 are now also available.
United States Courts
- The United States Courts Services & Forms Page has a useful pamphlet, Bankruptcy Basics.
- The US Courts provides general information about federal bankruptcy laws and the bankruptcy process on this website, but is not intended to be used as a guide through the bankruptcy process.
- The US courts has created a video series on Bankruptcy to help explain the process. You can find the videos here.
other resources, Websites, & Forms
- The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) maintains a web site that is aimed at professionals in the bankruptcy field, but it has links to useful information and is also a good site for monitoring the progress of bankruptcy legislation and other major developments in bankruptcy law. Some of the information is accessible to members only, but the information listed above is accessible by non-members.
- The Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute has an overview of bankruptcy, as well as links to other web sites with information on bankruptcy.
- The Nolo Press web site has free information on Debt and Bankruptcy in its “law center.”
- The WashingtonLawHelp web site has helpful information on Bankruptcy on its Consumer and Debt page.
Helpful Books at the Law Library
Collier on Bankruptcy, shelved at KF 1524 .C6. This multi-volume treatise is considered by many to be the authoritative treatise on bankruptcy.
Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice, shelved at KF 1524 .N67. This helpful multi-volume series includes forms beyond the official bankruptcy forms.
Washington Lawyer’s Practice Manual, shelved at REF KF 300 .W27 1990. The Washington Lawyer’s Practice Manual series is a great resource for both practicing attorneys and non-lawyers. Volume VII, Chapter XIX, deals with bankruptcy.
Washington Practice, Creditors’ Remedies—Debtors’ Relief, shelved at KFW 80 .W3. Volume 28, Chapter 9 discusses bankruptcy.
Nolo Guides. Nolo Press publishes two self-help bankruptcy books that may be useful for the non-lawyer: How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, shelved at KF 1524.6 .E45, and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Repay Your Debts, shelved at KF 1524.6 .L46. Be aware, however, that the official bankruptcy forms change and it is possible that the forms in the book are no longer current.
If You Need More Help:
Guide to Debt Defense Legal Clinics & Resources in King County
Links Updated: February 2, 2017