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Filing Without an Attorney

Only an individual may file a bankruptcy case without the assistance of an attorney. This is also known as filing pro se. Any formal business entity, including a corporation, a limited liability company, or a partnership, must engage an attorney to file a bankruptcy case.

The Bankruptcy Judge and her staff, the Bankruptcy Clerk and his staff, and the case trustees and their staffs cannot give legal advice to any party in a bankruptcy case, including pro se debtors.

Before deciding to file bankruptcy without an attorney, please read this Important Information from the United States Courts.

Every document, including the petition, submitted by a debtor who is representing himself or herself (a "pro se debtor") must be typewritten, excluding the signature. This is to ensure the documents are legible and easily viewed on the Court's on-line docket. Be sure each document is complete and accurate. A debtor who files an incomplete or inaccurate document may face criminal charges.

Every document, including the petition, must contain the debtor's original signature–in blue ink is ideal–and the date the document is signed. A signature on a document the pro se debtor is submitting to the Court should never be typed, stamped, or electronically signed.

If a married couple is filing pro se, each spouse must sign each document on his or her own behalf and each must appear at any meeting, conference, hearing, or trial that involves the debtors. One spouse may not sign a document for another spouse or appear at a meeting, conference, hearing, or trial for the other spouse. The only exception is a spouse who holds a power of attorney or is a legal guardian for the other spouse. As provided by local bankruptcy rule 9004-1(g), a copy of the power of attorney or the guardianship order must be filed with the Court.

A pro se debtor should deliver or mail the original of each document (no copies) he or she is filing to the Bankruptcy Clerk. If the debtor is facing a deadline to file a specific document and will be mailing the document to the Bankruptcy Clerk, the debtor must allow ample time for mailing. Overnight or even two-day mail service within South Dakota should not be assumed.