While the information presented below is accurate as of the date of publication, it should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is highly recommended that legal advice be obtained from a bankruptcy attorney or legal association. For filing requirements, please refer to the United States Bankruptcy Code (title 11, United States Code), the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Bankruptcy Rules), and the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona.
What is Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a set of federal laws and rules that can help individuals and businesses who owe more debt than they can pay. In bankruptcy, the person, corporation, or partnership that owes money is called the debtor. Bankruptcy permits the debtor to work out a plan to repay some or all of the debt, to liquidate assets, or to have some of the debt forgiven (“discharged”) in an effort to obtain a “fresh start”. The bankruptcy laws give the debtor protection and benefits not available outside of bankruptcy, such as requiring that creditors stop all collection efforts while the debtor is in bankruptcy, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court. In bankruptcy, a debtor must make full disclosure of all assets, liabilities, and other financial information, and must either (1) surrender non-exempt (protected) property for liquidation and distribution to creditors, or (2) formulate a plan providing creditors at least as much as they would receive if the assets were liquidated.
What is the Bankruptcy Code?
Created in 1979, the Bankruptcy Code provides help for businesses or persons in financial difficulty in the form of bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies are the most commonly filed chapters. The Bankruptcy Code is available at legal libraries.
Is the Bankruptcy Court state, or federal?
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is part of the federal judiciary. Each of the 94 federal judicial districts handles bankruptcy matters, and in almost all districts, bankruptcy cases are filed in the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in state court.
Bankruptcy Trustee, U.S. Trustee, who are they? What is the difference?
The Office of the U.S. Trustee is an Executive Branch agency that is part of the Department of Justice. Its responsibilities include monitoring the administration of bankruptcy cases and detecting bankruptcy fraud. It is also responsible for appointing interim trustees to administer Chapter 7 cases from a previously appointed panel of private individuals, lending support to and overseeing the Debtor-in-Possession in Chapter 11 cases, and appointing a standing trustee in Chapter 13 cases.
The individuals appointed by the U.S. Trustee to serve as interim or standing trustees in individual bankruptcy cases changes over time. A current list of trustees may be obtained by contacting the U.S. Trustee's office at the number below. If you want any additional information regarding either the trustee program in general or individual trustees, you should contact:
The Office of the U.S. Trustee
230 North 1st Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85003-1706
What is an adversary proceeding?
An Adversary Proceeding is a lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case, filed by a party called a "plaintiff" against a party called a "defendant." Adversary proceedings are initiated by filing a document called a "complaint" with the court to resolve both federal and state law issues. Certain types of disputes cannot be handled by motion in the bankruptcy case, but instead require the commencement of an adversary proceeding. Federal Bankruptcy Rule 7001 lists certain types of actions that require an adversary proceeding. Adversary proceedings are governed for the most part by Part VII of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. These rules incorporate most of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and are designed to make practice before the bankruptcy and district courts as similar as possible.
Do I need an attorney to file bankruptcy?
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case 'pro se,' that is, without the assistance of an attorney, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully. Unincorporated associations, partnerships and corporations must appear though an attorney in Federal Court. Hiring a competent attorney is highly recommended. You may contact the Maricopa County Lawyer Referral Service at 602-257-4434 for further information. The Court also provides walk-in Self Help Centers for visitors who are seeking more information about how the bankruptcy process works. The Bankruptcy Section of the State Bar of Arizona provides volunteer attorneys, who will consult with individuals for 20 - 30 minutes without charge concerning their bankruptcy situation. The volunteer attorneys are available by appointment only. For more information or questions, please contact our front counter staff or call 602-682-4000 (Phx), 520-202-7500 (Tuc) or 800-556-9230 and select 0 (zero) for the receptionist. Court staff are unable to provide legal advise and the Court does not provide legal counsel to pro se parties.
What if the case I am interested in has been archived? How do I request an old bankruptcy case file?
Most case files with documents filed on paper have been shipped to the Federal Records Center (FRC). You can either request copies directly from the FRC or you can request the closed case be returned to the Clerk’s Office. To request copies directly from the FRC, please use the Archive Request Form which can be downloaded from the "Forms" section of this website. If you choose to download this form, you MUST first obtain the locating numbers by either viewing the docket or contacting the Clerk's Office (Sharon Leary at 602-682-4202). Written requests must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope and must contain the case name and case number. In addition, please include your telephone number.
To order a closed file from the FRC to be delivered to the Clerk’s Office for viewing, please submit the Archive Retrieval Form. If you wish to review the case file, it will be returned to the Clerk's Office from the FRC at a cost of $64 to retrieve the first record from the FRC. For retrievals involving multiple boxes, there is a fee of $39 for each additional box (copy fees are additional).
How do I get admitted to practice in the Bankruptcy Court?
The Bankruptcy Court does not have a bankruptcy bar. To practice in the Bankruptcy Court, an attorney must be admitted to the District Court Bar. An out-of-state attorney who desires to appear in a particular bankruptcy case is required to apply for limited admission. The application form is available in pdf format:
There is no fee for filing this application in the Bankruptcy Court. For admission requirements and forms for admission to the District Court Bar, contact the District Court at (602) 322-7200 or via their website.