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Middle District of Florida (Orlando) - Practical Lessons from a Pro Se Filer


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    Middle District of Florida (Orlando) - Practical Lessons from a Pro Se Filer

    I figured I would use this topic to share things I wish I knew as I file BK here. This won't be a howto or anything, rather just some notes and things I find which might not have been obvious or well documented elsewhere about filing BK here. (I'm doing a Chapter 7 Pro Se for the record)

    - Upon filing (even a skeleton or emergency petition) the clerk will give you a receipt which lists your case number, the trustee, judge, and time and date of your 341 meeting of the creditors. So you will get all this info immediately.

    - If you opt to pay the filing fees in installments I was informed by the clerk that despite the option being listed to specify the payment amount and dates, what they actually do is just break it into three installments and send you notice when it is due. The first payment due is about 30 days after filing. You don't actually get to specify the date it seems. Though she did ask me "if that was okay" so perhaps if I objected they would have changed things for me?

    - For parking there are some free spots around but very hard to find (this is near the Amway center). There is a lot which is $5 for the full day on Grove Park Dr which is just a block and a half away from the courthouse. If an attendant is there they will take cash. If not you will have to pay at the self help machine using a debit or credit card so plan on this.

    Others feel free to share here too. Hopefully the collective information helps others. I'm sure it will.
    Last edited by dlm777; 06-14-2018, 04:51 PM.

    Thank you for sharing these practical tips. Prose filers are charting unknown waters and sharing your experiences will be very valuable to others, likely even those filing in other courts.

    I edited the title of your post to be a bit more descriptive of its contents.
    LadyInTheRed is in the black!
    Filed Chap 13 April 2010. Discharged May 2015.
    $143,000 in debt discharged for $36,500, including attorneys fees. Money well spent!


      This is certainly helpful for many. I was fortunate enough, or not, that I took a taxi to the courthouse, knowing that downtown parking is awful in any major city.

      Thank you for giving back to the community by sharing your experience.
      Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
      Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
      Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

      I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


        Some more notes:

        - The first payment of $75 was due 30 days later. Then about 30 days after that another $75 payment. Then there is the final payment which is for the rest.

        - My trustee sent me a letter via US mail to contact me and advise me of what he needed at least 7 days prior to the 341 meeting. In my case he just wanted the most recent tax return and 3 months of bank statements. I didn't receive this letter until about two weeks after filing however. In my case I filed an emergency or skepeton petition without the schedules so it could be that he waited to get the schedules first to make sure I was serious.

        - As a Pro Se debtor you will be required to fill out a special form either prior to or at the 341 meeting. This is different than the declaration you filed with the schedules. It just asks in more detail if you paid anyone for help or advice in filing and if so asks you many more questions. In my case my trustee sent me the form via email to fill out and send back via email or bring it with me to the 341 meeting.

        - Prior to receiving the letter from my trustee I contacted him via email and asked him how he wanted me to send the payment advices and other documents to him. He was fine with me sending them to him via email as attachments but stated he preferred US Mail. In the paper letter he sent me he also explained that they do not like certified return receipt requested correspondence because it means waiting in line, so he prefers priority mail where you can still get delivery confirmation.

        - When first filing and getting a receipt it shows the name of the trustee. It seems to have "Tee" prefixed to their last name. So for example if the Trustee's last name were "Smith" it might display it as "TEESMITH". This threw me off a bit when I was searching for my Trustee's contact info. Incidentally you can find this information after your case is filed and entered in Pacer. There will be a document with the trustee's information including email, mailing address, full name , and phone number.

        - There is also a page/rss feed you can access for the middle district of Florida - Orlando which will show you the title of all new documents entered within the last 24 hours. Here's the current address: It is free (does not go through PACER - unless you click maybe?) and is neat to see all the activity.

        - There is also a special form you can fill out to get notification of new filings in your case via email. You can find it on the website.

        - Here is the special webpage for the court for Pro Se filers: You will find the information you need there.

        - Despite what it says in some places, the clerk will accept cash (at least in person). It just needs to be exact. They cannot give you change. There is no way to pay online.


          341 meeting

          - Mine was in the room just down the hall on the right hand side from the entrance where security screens you. You can ask the security personal and they will gladly point out the way to you.

          - The accommodations and set up there was that you walked into a room with 2 or 3 rows of chairs. There are 2 or three meeting rooms connected to this room and my trustee's name was on the door.

          - It wasn't immediately clear what to do. If it is your appointment time or near it basically just walk into the inner meeting room even if the trustee is with someone else and the door is closed. Quietly take your seat and the trustee will get to you when he finishes with the previous people. At least this is how it worked for me. There doesn't seem to be any receptionist in the waiting area, so just walk in.

          - There are 3 or 4 rows of seats (Maybe about 20-30 seats altogether) in the inner meeting room where the 341 meeting is conducted. Mine was early in the morning and besides myself there were just two other people there waiting.

          - As for attire it varied. Some were there in suits. Some in jeans. I wouldn't stress this too much. Just don't wear anything outrageous. For example no $10,000 designer suit or no motorcycle gang jackets. ;)

          - As for parking, despite what I said earlier, twice now I have been able to snag some free parking (if you are willing to walk a block or two). To the East (I think) a couple streets there is free 2 hour parking on a first come first serve basis right on the street. The spots go quickly but I've been able to get them around 9-10a (which are probably near the worst times) so you will likely have the same luck. If you cannot get those there are some limited metered parking right in front of the entrance OR as said a couple messages above there is a $5 paid lot on Grove Park.

          - At the end of the 341 meeting my trustee did warn me not to contact him regarding any reaffirmation agreement. He stated he is forbidden by law from helping. He told me this despite my not asking him anything about it so it must be a common issue he sees.


            Filing an amendment

            I had left a creditor off Schedule EF (form 106ef) so I had to file an amendment. The local rules detail this in two places but just in a general way. It says to write amended at the top and only file the added portions (and not the entire form with all information again) but I found this ambiguous.

            What I did was I just checked the boxes on the form where it said it was an amendment and then I filled in the added or corrected portions of only those pages needing to be modified. I also filed the first page of each form with only the header information (case #, name, middle district of florida) filled out where the page I was adding info wasn't the first page. This was so that it was clear that it was an amendment (there is a check off box for an amendment on each page) and to provide the full case header.

            Since I added a creditor to form 106ef and changed the information I also had to modify (amend) form 106sum as well to reflect the new totals. And then I needed to sign a new 106dec (Declaration About An Individual Debtor's Schedules) with a date and a signature. The clerk made it a point to check for this. 106sum is needed again each time you amend your schedules. Make sure not to forget it!

            Since I added a creditor I had to pay a filing fee of $31. Also per the local rules I needed to provide a "certificate of service" affirming that I mailed the required information to the creditor affected as well as the Trustee and the U.S. Trustee.

            The required info needing to be sent to the new creditor in my case was basically just a form 309a (for individual or joint debtors) Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case. The local rules named some other notifications needed but from what I could tell this one provided all of those. To get form 309a I just went on PACER and found it as filed in my case and then sent it out to the new creditor. For good measure I also included the relevant part of the amendment of form106ef where the creditor was mentioned -- I am not sure this was actually required but decided to do it anyway just in case.

            For notice to the US Trustee and the regular trustee I basically just sent them a copy of everything new which I gave to the court. I think really both parties are automatically notified anyway via the electronic filing system but from my reading of the local rules this still was required so I still did it to err on the side of caution.

            For the Certificate of Service you basically just draw up a document with your name and case info for the top header then have a header below that labeled "Certificate of Service". Then you just state the full name and address of each party you mailed something to as well as exactly what you sent them (for example, "form 309a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case"). Then you must state the date you mailed it and the method (e.g. pre-stamped 1st class U.S. mail). Then you provide a spot for you to sign and date it, then you type out your full name and address as well as "Pro Se Debtor". It is actually mentioned in the local rules that you must specify the relation of the party filing out the certificate of service. So do not forget this.

            The clerk took my amendments and seemed happy everything was in order.

            Note: Again, this isn't a "how to" but just some notes from my experience as a Pro Se Chapter 7 debtor which I thought my be helpful to someone filing Pro Se after me. You still should read the local rules and make your own judgment for your case.

            Also a story. While waiting at the counter I overheard the clerk talking to someone on the phone. She was telling him that his case was dismissed because he had not done something within the required 14 days after filing (probably a skeleton filing without filing complete schedules?). She was telling him, "No it is not 14 days after you were notified but instead 14 days after filing". After she hung up I talked about how I was "Pro Se" and hopefully I have everything in order because I really tired my best. She vented a bit about the other party on the phone and stated "He called four times already today!". I guess this is why sometimes Pro Se filers get a bad reputation with the court.
            Last edited by dlm777; 07-24-2018, 12:17 PM.


              Paid the final installment today so now all I have to do is sit and wait. I inquired with the clerk about my reaffirmation agreement and learned that is very likely that the judge will just approve it without my needing to attend any hearing at all (per the local rules the judge may or may not decide that a hearing is required for a Pro Se debtor -- previously I had thought it was mandatory in error). So far though nearly three weeks after the lender filed the signed and completed reaffirmation agreement with the court there has been no movement by the judge to either approve it or schedule a hearing.

              I also confirmed that in the area off to the side at the clerks office there are computers there for FREE PACER access. This is great to know if you would like to research past cases as a Pro Se debtor because paying 10 cents a page when browsing around can get pretty expensive. From memory there was a sign up saying something about there being a limit of 5 pages and 50 cents per page when printing so you probably want to bring your camera phone and just take photos of the screen instead. From what I understand the security personnel will let you in with a camera phone if you are only going to see the clerk. Also I believe it is only access to the middle district of Florida and not other districts. I cannot confirm this though as I didn't test that. I just looked up my own case there to verify that it worked and was free.


                So in my case the judge did finally set a date for the reaffirmation hearing. She set the date the very next day after I paid my final filing fee installment payment. This leads me to suspect that not having paid the fee could delay the setting of the reaffirmation trial date.

                Also I am past 60 days and in theory could be discharged any moment BUT from what I gather the reaffirmation hearing will delay my discharge. My reaffirmation hearing is set for early November so chances are I won't see my discharge until after that. So this is something to keep in mind -- the reaffirmation hearing seems to delay your discharge date until after it is concluded. I suppose this makes sense.

                The good news though is that the automatic stay still seems to be fully in effect for this time.


                  I had my Reaffirmation hearing. It was much easier than I thought it would be. It was held on the sixth Floor at the BK court. You simply walk into the court and sit down at the appointed time. No one comes out to get you. There were about 25 people there all of which either had reaffirmation agreements or were attorneys for the debtors. The judge stated there was a good mix of both Pro Se (like myself) and represented debtors. I wore a suit but it looked like most of the debtors weren't wearing suits so you probably should not feel it is required at the court. Most of the people wearing suits seemed to be attorneys. The judge also confirmed that all Pro Se debtors will have a court time scheduled to approve the reaffirmation agreement. She then went on to explain the options such as redemption, reaffirmation and surrender.

                  To my absolute horror I ended up being first! But in my case it was very easy. The judge asked me about 5 - 7 questions then asked me if I had any questions about my case and offered to answer them for me. Then she wished me well and I left out the door.

                  Here are some of the questions I remember (paraphrased) :

                  - Has your income changed?
                  - Are you current with your payments?
                  - Do you struggle to make the payments?
                  - (she confirmed the year make and model of the vehicle)
                  - Do you feel you will continue to be able to make these payments?

                  In my case my loan was worth about $1500 or so more than the car was worth (around $10,500). In my case though having a good reliable vehicle is critical to my work and I slipped that in there in response to one of the questions so I do not know if that made a difference or not.

                  Unfortunately since I was first and had to leave for work immediately after finishing I did not get to hear what happened with the other cases. I probably should have stayed for at least one or two but then again that might have been seen as bad form.

                  So now it's just a waiting game. The judge stated I will be sent an order approving the agreement in the mail and usually this takes a week or two. Incidentally this is also when the creditor typically receives notice of the outcome. The reason she brought this up was for those having their agreements denied, she wanted to convey to them that they will likely have at least a couple weeks before having to surrender the collateral. I feel very fortunate to have had a nice judge assigned to my case.


                    So I was just discharged the other day. My discharge came about a week after the Reaffirmation hearing. So I guess this brings this topic to a close then unless someone ends up replying with questions or such.

                    I think I addressed most of the things I wish I knew going into this and I hope it helps someone out there.

                    The main things I wish I knew before filing Pro Se:

                    1. The amount of paperwork and the complexity of Chapter 7 bankruptcies has increased considerably since pre-reform (circa-2004). I actually bought a black ink cartridge for my printer in order to print the papers for the initial paperwork. Now today I have found that I am low on ink after printing my discharge. That is how much paperwork there was!

                    2. Paying my filing fees ASAP would have likely made it so my reaffirmation hearing and discharge was sooner (but I'm not 100% sure on this, it is conjecture.) It seemed as though delaying my final filing fee payment (though on time) meant that the judge waited for this prior to setting the reaffirmation hearing court date.

                    3. I went ahead and opted for paying in installments but I was likely eligible to have the fees totally waived due to my income and looking back I wish I would have done that. Not only does it save you from paying the normal filing fees but it also seems to save you from having to pay the fees for amendments. That ~$350 would have been very helpful for me getting back on my feet.

                    4. I was pretty shaky on the requirements to discharge past due taxes. Due to my situation (a lawsuit by a junk debt collector) delaying was not an option but had I filed a past tax return when it was due and waited another year I would have been able to discharge another $2,000+ of tax debt. I would highly advise that any Pro Se debtor with tax debt pays very careful attention to the rules for tax debt discharge prior to filing.

                    5. Looking back if I had an extra $2,000 laying around I almost definitely would have hired a GOOD attorney. I say "good" because after reading some stories here I believe I was better off being Pro Se versus having a overworked attorney who did not care about my case and would not return my calls. Only a good attorney would be worth it and they would have saved me probably 100+ hours and lots of stress.

                    6. If trying to get a reaffirmation agreement approved it appears critical that in the schedules and the reaffirmation hearing you have a positive monthly balance to cover the loan payment. If you do not it seems more than likely your reaffirmation agreement will not be approved. I had $20 left over after paying my reaffirmed loan.


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