Live in Arkansas and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Arkansas debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 30, 2020
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas can be a scary idea, but if you are having a hard time making ends meet because your bills are more than you can handle, it's smart to start by learning more about it. This guide will take you through a basic outline of what it is like to file an Arkansas bankruptcy. After all, whether you end up hiring a lawyer to help you or not, it's helpful to know what to expect and what is expected of you. The most important thing to remember is that this can happen to anyone, from Walt Disney, who filed bankruptcy in 1923, to one-time Arkansas Razorbacks coach John L. Smith. The fact is, everyone's situation is unique to them, and Arkansas bankruptcy laws exist to give the honest but unfortunate debtor the relief needed to start fresh.
How to File Bankruptcy in Arkansas for Free
You do not have to hire a lawyer, typically the most expensive part of filing bankruptcy in Arkansas, to help you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas. In addition, if your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can file your case completely free by asking the court to waive your court filing fee.
Collect Your Arkansas Bankruptcy Documents
The first step of getting your financial house in order is to collect certain documents that you will need as you go through this process. The Arkansas bankruptcy laws mandate that everyone filing bankruptcy in Arkansas provide a complete listing of all of their debts. If you have lost track of everyone who wants money from you because the debt collector seems to change every month, you can use your credit report to fill in some of the blanks. You can request a free copy of your report once a year. You should take advantage of this, even if you do think you know all of your creditors. It will only cost you time; and, it will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that all of your creditors will receive a notice from the court after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas has been filed. You should also collect all the paycheck stubs you have received in the last 6 months, your bank statements (those can be very helpful in making sure you are putting together a realistic budget for the future), and your two most recent federal income tax returns.
Take Credit Counseling
Since filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas is only one of the options you have to deal with your financial worries, you have to take a credit counseling course to learn more about what else is out there. Everyone filing bankruptcy in Arkansas has to take this class, regardless of which chapter (or type) of bankruptcy they file. You can complete this requirement anytime in the 6 months before your Arkansas bankruptcy is filed with the court. If you are taking advantage of the online course offerings, you can even do it on your own time and from the comfort of your own home. If you prefer to take this course in person, you can do so through either Credit Counseling of Arkansas and Money Management International. Both of these companies have been approved by the United States Trusteeto offer this course to folks filing bankruptcy in Arkansas. Between the two companies, they have locations you can visit in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Little Rock.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The documents that are filed in your Arkansas bankruptcy case are part of the official court record that is made available to the public. The good news is that filing bankruptcy in Arkansas does not mean putting your actual bills, bank statements, or tax information into the record for everyone to see. This is because everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas has to provide this information to the court by completing the official bankruptcy forms. If you are handling all of the legwork on your own, you can find both detailed instructions and the official forms you will need, for free, online. If you have a lawyer, they will do the legwork for you after collecting the required information from you. If you don't think you can afford a lawyer, but do think you could use some help with this part of the process, you should see if you are eligible for help from Upsolve. It's important for everyone filing bankruptcy in Arkansas to be thorough in filling out the bankruptcy forms, as you only get one chance to tell your story. If you leave out one piece of information, possibly by accident, your trustee and the court may wonder if you are leaving out any other information, and thus intensify their review of your case.
Get Your Filing Fee
The court fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas is $335. If your income is low enough to make you eligible for a fee waiver, and you don't have the ability to pay the fee over time after your case has been filed, you should prepare this application for a fee waiver. Making payments on the court filing fee after your case is filed is another option for folks who can't afford to pay the filing fee all at once but have to move forward with filing bankruptcy in Arkansas right away. If this is the situation you find yourself in, prepare this application to pay the fee in installments after your case is filed. Keep in mind, however, that a single missed payment may cause your Arkansas bankruptcy case to be thrown out of court. If you can wait, it's better to collect the full fee first, then bring it to the court in cash (exact change) or as a money order when you go to the courthouse to file your forms.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
This part of the process, while not difficult, can be a bit of an ordeal, especially if you saved all the forms you need to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas as separate files on your computer. This is because by the time they are printed out, all the official forms look very similar, making it easy to confuse one form for another. If you do not have a printer at home, you should visit a store dealing in paper goods, such as the Office Depot to get everything printed. Even though fling bankruptcy in Arkansas is an official court proceeding, the papers are not legal sized. Instead, everything is printed on standard, white, 8.5" x 11" paper. If it is not too expensive to do so, you should print (or make) a second copy of everything you will be handing to the court. This gives you something to refer back to later on in the process, without having to worry about whether any of the information was changed since your filing.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Since only lawyers are able to file Arkansas bankruptcy cases electronically, you will have to either mail everything to the court or go there in person. It is recommended that you take the time to travel to the courthouse and hand your forms in in person. This will help you avoid a delay due to the time of mailing and gives you the opportunity to correct any errors or address any issues right away. It's best to have everything neatly organized in one filing package that you can hand to the clerk when you get there. Folks filing bankruptcy in Arkansas can do so at the court in either Little Rock or Fayetteville, though you should only plan on going to the Fayetteville location if your case will be assigned to either the Fayetteville, Harrison, Fort Smith or Hot Springs Division, which is determined by where you live. Either way, you will be entering a federal building, so be prepared to go through a security check on the way in.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas is filed with the court, a trustee will be assigned to administer (or handle) your case. The trustee is not a judge or anyone's lawyer (though they often are lawyers in addition to being trustees) but an independent third party neutral whose job it is to make sure everything is done according to Arkansas bankruptcy laws and procedures. One of the trustee's primary responsibilities is to make sure that the information you disclosed in your bankruptcy documents is truthful and complete. Another part of their job is to review your income information, specifically your tax returns and recent paystubs. It is your responsibility to make sure that these documents are mailed to the trustee assigned to your case so they receive it at least 7 days before your creditors' meeting. You may actually receive a letter from the trustee reminding you about this requirement and asking you to send in additional documents the trustee wants to review for your case. Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Arkansas has a duty to cooperate with their trustee, so it's important to start your case off by providing the information to them in a timely manner, thereby demonstrating your intent to cooperate in an orderly administration of your case.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Before filing bankruptcy in Arkansas, you took a course on credit counseling. This was required for you to be able to file your Arkansas bankruptcy case in the first place. Now that your case is filed, you have to take bankruptcy course 2 before the court can enter your discharge. The discharge order is the order that tells all of your creditors they can't try to collect from you anymore - the very reason why folks end up filing bankruptcy in Arkansas. The typical length of the course is similar to the first credit counseling class you had to take. However, you can choose to get the most out of it by taking it online through the Chapter 13 Trustee. Their course is free, and is broken into ten topic specific sessions, each less than 30 minutes in length. All sessions have to be completed, but you don't have to do it all at once. When you are done with all portions of the course, the Trustees' Education Network will email you the certificate of completion. They will also file it with the court to let the judge know that you have complied with this requirement and are ready for your discharge when the time comes.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
There are a number of locations where the Arkansas bankruptcy trustees conduct their 341 meetings in Chapter 7 cases. You will find out the location you have to visit when you receive the official notice from the court. This notice will also tell you who your trustee is and the date and time your 341 meeting is scheduled to take place. Your 341 meeting, also called a creditors' meeting, takes place about 20 - 40 days after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas has been filed with the court. It's helpful to take a few minutes to prepare for the meeting, so you know what to expect. One of the most important parts to remember is that the trustee won't be able to conduct the meeting as scheduled, thereby delaying the entry of your discharge, if you do not bring a government issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number to the meeting. Once the trustee has checked your IDs, they will put you under oath, and ask you a few questions about your case. They are not trick questions, and as long as you remember to take a deep breath and listen carefully to what the trustee is asking you, you will know what the answers are as they are all about your life and your financial situation. Even though the creditors are invited to attend this meeting, that's not typical. In typical cases, folks filing Chapter 7 in Arkansas end up both surprised and relieved about how straight forward and simple the 341 meeting went for them.
Dealing with Your Car
Chances are, without a car, life would be very complicated for you. That's true for just about anyone that ends up filing bankruptcy in Arkansas. Even though most people don't realize this, and sometimes even hold off filing their Arkansas bankruptcy, there is no real risk of losing your car in most cases. If your car is paid off, or is worth more than what is left owing on the loan, then you can keep the vehicle as long as it's value or equity, as the case may be, is less than the exemption you claim on your Schedule C. Additionally, you have options on how to deal with your car loan. If the car is not that great, and the only reason you still have it is because you are still paying on a loan that you don't actually want anymore, you can surrender the vehicle because filing bankruptcy in Arkansas protects you from any continued responsibility to pay the loan balance after the vehicle is sold at auction. Some folks filing Chapter 7 in Arkansas are able to come up with enough money to buy the vehicle - at its current value - outright after their case is filed, thereby redeeming the vehicle without actually having to pay the full balance left on the loan. Of course, depending on how much your car is worth, that may not be an option for you. If you do want to keep the car, and the loan makes sense for your budget and your family, you can keep everything basically the way it was before your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas was filed by entering into a reaffirmation agreement.
Arkansas Bankruptcy Means Test
The Arkansas means test for bankruptcy is intended to make sure that folks who really can afford to pay their debts don't end up filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas. If your income is below the median household income for a household of your size in Arkansas, you qualify for relief under Chapter 7. If you make more than these income limits allow, it is still possible for you to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas, as long as the rest of the means test calculation shows that your income does not leave you enough money to pay your debts after you cover your living expenses.
Data on Median income levels for Arkansas
Arkansas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Arkansas
Arkansas Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Arkansas Bankruptcy Forms
The Arkansas Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are made up entirely of the official national forms that folks filing bankruptcy all over the country are required to complete. There are no local forms required for filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas. The court provides has put together this detailed listing of the filing requirements, including all required forms, to folks thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection.
Eastern & Western District of Arkansas Requirements
The Arkansas Bankruptcy Court covers both the Eastern and Western District of Arkansas and is in fact the only bankruptcy court in the nation that spans multiple districts. The county you live in determines which of the divisional offices will be handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas. Neither District lists any specific requirements for Arkansas bankruptcy cases.
Arkansas Bankruptcy Exemptions
Everything you own is considered an asset when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas. Exemption laws determine which assets are protected. You can chose to utilize Arkansas bankruptcy exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property. Even though you can choose between the two, you are not allowed to mix and match, so make sure to carefully review your choices before making a final decision.
Arkansas Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer ranges from $595 to $1,500. Most lawyers that help their clients file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas offer a free initial consultation to potential new clients.
Attorney cost estimate: $595 – $1,500
Arkansas Legal Aid Organizations
These organizations provide free legal aid in Arkansas to individuals and families that cannot afford a lawyer. Even though you don't have to have a lawyer to file your Arkansas bankruptcy, if you are more comfortable having one by your side but can't afford to hire a lawyer, they may be able to help. You should contact the Arkansas legal aid organizations near you to find out if you are eligible for assistance for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arkansas.
Arkansas Court Locations
Arkansas Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Arkansas||Hon. Richard D. Taylor|
|Eastern District of Arkansas||Hon. Phyllis M. Jones|
|Western District of Arkansas||Hon. Ben T. Barry|
|Richard L. Coxfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|James F. Dowdenemail@example.com|
|R. Ray Fulmer||72902-0185|
|Hamilton Moses Mitchellfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|William L. Owensemail@example.com|
|M. Randy Rice||Randyrice2@comcast.net|
|Richard L. Coxfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|James F. Dowdenemail@example.com|
|Jill R. Jacowayfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Bianca M. Ruckeremail@example.com|
|Frederick S. Wetzel||72201|
|Renee S. Williamsfirstname.lastname@example.org|