Filing for bankruptcy almost seems like a contradiction in terms – to file, you must pay a filing fee and attorney’s fees. But you’re filing for bankruptcy in the first place because you don’t have enough money to pay your bills. How can you file for bankruptcy with no money? First: schedule a free consultation with a Cleveland bankruptcy lawyer. That way, you can learn how to make your bankruptcy affordable.
Currently, the fee to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $335, and the fee to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy is $310. In some cases it’s also necessary to pay your attorney up front because attorney’s fees can become part of a bankruptcy estate and therefore may be discharged in bankruptcy, leaving them little to nothing in the form of payment. However, some fees can be spread out over the time it takes to obtain a bankruptcy.
But you should consider how much money you can save by hiring legal counsel. A skilled bankruptcy attorney knows the ins and outs of consumer bankruptcy law and can handle all administrative aspects of your case. Because your attorney knows what is needed, your case can move quickly through court. There’s no need to wait for years while your debts continue to pile up and your creditors become more demanding. In fact, you could be awarded your discharge, and become debt-free in three or four months.
Bankruptcy Fees, Waivers, and Payment Plans
If you’re unable to pay your filing fees, the court will usually try to work with you. For Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may be able to roll your court fees into your repayment plan, paying the court in monthly installments. If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you’re unable to pay off the fee in installments over 120 days, you might be able to request a fee waiver. The bankruptcy court bases fee waivers on income limits, so your combined family income will need to be less than 150 percent of the poverty limit. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you may want to consider applying to pay in installments.
Filing Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you’re looking to save money, the obvious choice is to file your bankruptcy case by yourself. There is no law that says you have to hire an attorney. In this case, however, going the “DIY” route may not be the best option. Very few bankruptcies are successful with pro se litigants, and there are many ways to misstep when filing a bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy can be a complicated process, involving steps such as:
- Determining your chapter. Study each chapter of consumer bankruptcy to correctly determine which one you should file. Is Chapter 7 better for your situation, or Chapter 13? You must make sure you qualify for the chapter you choose via a means test or your case could get dismissed.
- Learning your state’s exemptions. Bankruptcy laws allow you to keep some of your property through exemptions. These exemptions vary by state, so you will want to study yours. It’s very important that you know exactly what can be exempted to avoid liquidating something you could have legally kept.
- Gathering all the paperwork need to file. This includes both the court documents and the personal information you’ll need to include, such as pay stubs, bills, and descriptions of all your assets. If you don’t have everything, the court could reject your documents or, if you fail to complete your filing, dismiss your case.
- Attending the Meeting of the Creditors. At a Meeting of the Creditors, your creditors may ask you questions about how you plan to pay them back. This meeting can get stressful, especially if a creditor rejects your repayment plan or disputes a discharge if they feel it is unfair or doesn’t fully reimburse them. Additionally, if your bankruptcy trustee doesn’t think your plan is sufficient or finds discrepancies in your paperwork, they can recommend that the judge dismiss your case.
- Making any other court appearances. Hiring an attorney means you only need to go to court once, for your Meeting of the Creditors. After that, your attorney handles every other court appearance. But if you’re representing yourself, it means you have to make arrangements with work, school, or home so you can attend every court session.
You may find it takes too much time away from your job and family to research the state laws, file the paperwork, and go to court. If you’re unable to put in the time and you want to make sure your case goes smoothly, consider hiring a personal bankruptcy lawyer.
Call A Cleveland Bankruptcy Lawyer
The lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have extensive experience with Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Schedule your free consultation and let us walk you through the process. Call us at (216) 586-6600 or contact us online.