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Discharge Debt and Start Fresh

This Resource Guide gives you a brief overview of the bankruptcy process, lists some of the resources available in the Sacramento County Public Law Library for both attorneys and self-represented patrons, and finally provides links to websites and community organizations that may be helpful to people considering bankruptcy.



Bankruptcy is a legal process that permits insolvent people or businesses to wipe out their debts and start fresh. Bankruptcy proceedings are governed by federal law and take place in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. In Sacramento, this court is located at 501 I Street (  

Individual debtors may give up assets to pay their creditors as much as possible (Chapter 7 "liquidation"), or may set up a repayment plan (Chapter 13). Other chapters apply in specialized situations. Upon filing, the debtor immediately benefits from the "automatic stay" (an injunction that stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and all collection activity against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed). 

After a successful Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor's debts are "discharged" (the debtor is no longer required to pay them). A bankruptcy stays on the debtor's credit rating for up to 10 years, and some debts, such as child support, taxes, and student loans, normally cannot be discharged. However, some assets are exempt from being liquidated (for example, pensions and 401ks; homes and cars without equity; and the basic means of day-to-day living.)


How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy KF1524 .6 .E4    
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Keep Your Property & Repay Debts Over Time
KF1524 .85 .L46   
Bankruptcy for Small Business Owners  KF1524.85 . E45
These three books are aimed at the lay person who is considering filing for bankruptcy. They contain background information, sections to help you decide if bankruptcy is the right decision for you, step-by-step instructions, and sample forms. All three of these books are from respected self-help publisher Nolo Press.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at

Bankruptcy Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide for Pro Bono Attorneys, General Practitioners, and Legal Services Offices KF1524 .R36. This book is not aimed at the lay person, but is included in "Self-Help" because it contains practical, straightforward information and sample filled-out forms. The very helpful software on the companion website streamlines the initial form-filling process by inserting repetitive information automatically.  
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using National Consumer Law Center.

Additional self help resources. The library also has several books that discuss bankruptcy more generally (such as The American Bar Association Guide to Credit & Bankruptcy) as well as more general financial self-help books such as Solve Your Money Troubles. Check the Self Help collection or the online Legal Information Reference Center ( for these titles.


These books are written for the practicing attorney. They often contain practical information about forms and procedures. Refer to these materials when the self-help books do not address your specific issues or concerns. Here are several of the many bankruptcy practice guides available at the law library:

Collier on Bankruptcy KF1524 .C6 Collier's is a comprehensive and authoritative 24-volume set containing background information, primary source material, an analysis of the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, and some forms. 

Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide KF1527 .A2H4 This practice guide, while still extensive, combines legal analysis with more practical information on procedure, as well as practice aids such as checklists and forms, and local rules of practice.  

California Practice Guide: Bankruptcy (The Rutter Group) KF1524.B3 This practice guide, written by California bankruptcy judges and attorneys, is localized to the four California Bankruptcy Court districts. It contains forms and practice pointers as well as detailed information on bankruptcy law.   
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Consumer Bankruptcy: Law and Practice KF1524 .S65 Guidance and incisive analysis on all consumer bankruptcy topics, and practice tools for the lawyer, such as sample pleadings, annotated sample forms, date calculator, and more.
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using National Consumer Law Center.

Creditors' Rights in Bankruptcy KF1524 .M872 Most bankruptcy books focus on how to declare bankruptcy. This annually-updated book focuses on creditors rather than debtors. Coverage includes automatic stay, use or sale of lease of estate property, obtaining credit, fraudulent transfers, Chapter 11 reorganization plans, loan workouts, use of collateral, and avoiding actions.
Electronic Access: On the law library computers, using OnLaw.

Moving for Relief from the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy: Here's How and When to Do It KFC 366 .A88 .G42 This "Action Guide" from CEB provides step-by-step information for creditors moving for relief from the automatic stay. 


In addition to the sources listed above, you can find additional forms on the website of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California at:

This web page includes links to instructions and information as well as the forms you will need to file a bankruptcy case. Most forms can be filled out online, then printed.  


United States Code Annotated
Electronic Access Only:
On the law library computers, using WestlawNext.
United States Code Y 1.2/5:2006
Electronic Access: on the Internet at
United States Code Service KF 62.L38
The Bankruptcy Code is found in Title 11 of the United States Code, with rules and official forms found in Title 11A.

Collier's Portable Pamphlet, KF1524 .C59. A convenient reference resource for the Bankruptcy Code and Rules, this "pamphlet" (actually a substantial paperback) also has a comprehensive index.

West's Bankruptcy Reporter
West's Bankruptcy Digest
The Bankruptcy Reporter includes the opinions and decisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts as well as decisions from other federal courts dealing with bankruptcy matters. The accompanying digest provides headnote access to the decisions.
Electronic Access Only: On the law library computers, using WestlawNext.


Here are three particularly useful websites for people considering bankruptcy as well as attorneys representing them.

United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California
The Eastern District of California, which includes the Sacramento region, has a fairly in-depth website with case information, forms, and more. Special sections for self-represented debtors, attorneys, and creditors are linked from the home page. Includes "Information for Persons Considering Bankruptcy" (, a 47-page booklet answering frequently asked questions, from "What will I need to do to start a bankruptcy?" to installment plans for paying filing fees.   

"Approved Credit Counseling Agencies" (U.S. Department of Justice)
Before filing for bankruptcy, debtors are required to complete credit counseling from an approved agency. Scroll down to "Eastern District of California" for a list of approved agencies for our area.

Nolo's "Bankruptcy Center" (   
Nolo is a respected self-help publisher. Their website offers a wealth of free information on bankruptcy as well as related topics such as foreclosure and credit repair and debt. If you need a plain-English starting point to decide if bankruptcy is right for you, this website can be very helpful. 


There are several local groups that help individuals considering bankruptcy. Contact the agencies for information about hours of operation and eligibility.

VLSP Debt Collection Defense Clinic  -  916-551-2102
501 12th Street
Two Tuesday evenings a month, by appointment only.
Services provided: Help with problems such as automobile repossession, unfair debt collection practices, credit report problems, bankruptcy evaluation, and assistance with collection agencies.
Eligibility:  Must be low-income. Call for appointment.

Community Legal Services – McGeorge School of Law – Bankruptcy Clinic
3455 Fifth Avenue (916) 340-6080
Monday – Friday During academic year only.
Services provided: The bankruptcy clinic is located on the campus of Pacific McGeorge School of Law and assists low income clients in debtor/creditor matters including debt collection disputes, and the representation of debtors and creditors in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California. Eligibility:  Must be low-income. Call for appointment.

Bankruptcy Pro Se Assistance Desk
501 I Street, Third Floor, Room 3-210
Fridays, 9 am – 12 pm
A volunteer attorney can help select bankruptcy forms, explain your rights and duties during bankruptcy, and answer questions about procedures.                                               


Updated 4/14 kf
Link update 2/13 kf