10 step guide on how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona without a lawyer. This guide provides an overview of the bankruptcy process for filers seeking debt relief in the Arizona Bankruptcy Court.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 20, 2020
Arizona was one of the hardest hit states during the 2008 recession and lots of folks ended up filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to deal with the resulting issues in their personal lives. One of the most important things to remember when considering your debt relief options is that taking advantage of the bankruptcy protections made available to you is not something to be ashamed of. After all, life happens and when your financial situation is negatively impacted by something completely out of your control - like COVID-19 for example - there is nothing wrong with seeking bankruptcy protection.
Remember, the Arizona Coyotes used the Bankruptcy Code provisions to get debt relief in Arizona, as did Basha's Supermarkets. Sometimes you have to do the hard thing to make things right for you and your family and Arizona bankruptcy laws exist to help you and your family get back on track.
How to File Bankruptcy in Arizona for Free
There are two main costs associated with filing Chapter 7 in Arizona: The court filing fee and attorney's fees. You don't have to have a bankruptcy attorney to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Plus, if your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, the Arizona Bankruptcy Court may waive the court filing fee.
Collect Your Arizona Bankruptcy Documents
Since giving proper notice to everyone you owe money to is critical in any bankruptcy, start by pulling a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Once done, make sure to check the collection letters you've been getting in the mail, so you can add any creditors or debt collectors not on your credit report.
You will also need your federal income tax returns for the last two years, your paycheck stubs, a copy of your divorce decree (if you divorced in the last 10 years) and bank statements for all of your accounts. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process requires filling out forms and providing certain documents to your bankruptcy trustee. Collecting all of your documents first will help you stay organized and on top of things.
Take Credit Counseling
Federal law requires all filers to take credit counseling before submitting their bankruptcy petition to the United States Bankruptcy Court. It's important you take this course from an approved provider. Most of them allow you to complete it online or by phone. If you are more comfortable attending the course in person, you can do so in either Scottsdale or Phoenix.
Unfortunately, at this time, there are no approved providers offering an in-person version of the credit counseling course outside the Phoenix metro area. It will only take you one or two hours to complete this class and the certificate of completion you'll get is good for 180 days, so you have plenty of time to get your case filed before the certificate expires.
If you prefer taking the course in Spanish, don't worry - a number of the companies have a Spanish language option.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy forms are the documents that are filed with the bankruptcy court to start your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. These forms are a combination of official national forms and one local form. You can stop by the court's self help center to get a hardcopy of all the forms, or download them online for free.
Folks that are eligible for help from Upsolve will get the forms directly from us, with their information already populated throughout and ready for filing with the court. Everyone filing "pro se" (without an attorney) also has to complete and file a separate declaration specifically created for folks filing without a lawyer.
If you are filing your Arizona bankruptcy with the help of a bankruptcy lawyer, they will prepare the bankruptcy forms for you, then have a meeting to go over all the information with you. This allows them to make sure you didn't miss anything when filling out their office questionnaire and gives you the chance to review and sign all the documents needed to start your case.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee for filing a bankruptcy case under Chapter 7 is $335. You can pay this fee with either a money order or a cashier's check in that amount, payable to the "Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court." Filers are not allowed to pay filing fee by credit card.
If you are unable to pay the full fee at the time your bankruptcy case is filed, the Arizona Bankruptcy Court will accept a down-payment of sorts in the amount of $80 along with an application to pay the remainder of the fees in monthly installments.
If you have a bankruptcy lawyer, make sure they file the required attorney fee disclosure with your bankruptcy forms. Without that, the Arizona Bankruptcy Court will not consider your application.
If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can avoid having to pay the filing fee completely, instead filing an application to have the fee to file your case waived.
Although the court's website indicates that you have 14 days from the date of filing Chapter 7 in Arizona to either pay the fee, or file the request for a waiver or payment plan, it's best to have a game plan before you file, and have the necessary paperwork ready to hand to the clerk right then and there. If you don't, the court will throw out your case if you miss the 14-day deadline to get this done.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Only bankruptcy lawyers and law firms are allowed to use the court's electronic filing system for new cases. If you're filing without the help of a bankruptcy attorney, you will have to bring all of your bankruptcy forms to the court in person.
The Arizona Bankruptcy Court has put together a list of required forms needed for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona. If you don't have access to a printer, check out your local OfficeMax, or similar store with printing services.
Make sure that everything is printed on regular sized (8.5" x 11") white paper, one page per sheet. Don't print on both sides of the paper, even though that may be cheaper. The court will not accept this. Although you only need one complete set of the forms to start your bankruptcy filing, it's best to print two complete copies. That way, you have one full set of everything that the court has for your own records.
If you want to get notices of what is going on in your bankruptcy case via email, you should also complete and file the DeBN request form, at the same time as your bankruptcy paperwork is filed.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You can file your case in either the Phoenix, Tucson, or Yuma location, though the Yuma location will not accept your court filing fee, instead requiring that it is mailed to the Phoenix location. The clerk's office, where folks filing bankruptcy in Arizona have to go to actually file their case, is open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Its busiest times are during lunch (between 11 - 1 p.m.) and in the last hour of the day (between 3 - 4 p.m.); so if you can, go during other hours to avoid having to stand in a long line. Since bankruptcy is a federal proceeding, and you are going to a federal courthouse, you will be required to show a picture ID and pass through a security check on your way into the building, so be sure to leave your firearms at home when you head out.
Parking at the Phoenix location can be a little tricky, with metered spots and expensive parking garages surrounding the courthouse. However, it is close to a Phoenix Light Rail station, so consider that as an alternative when heading to court. If you printed a second copy of your bankruptcy petition, you could bring it and ask the clerk stamp it for you with all the important details about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. The automatic stay protects you as soon as your bankruptcy filing has been processed.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
About a 7 - 10 days after your Arizona bankruptcy case, you will receive a letter from the bankruptcy trustee handling your case. This letter typically includes a questionnaire for you to complete, along with a request for some additional documents.
Most Arizona bankruptcy trustees will send this letter directly to you, even if you have a bankruptcy lawyer. It's important to keep an eye out for it and follow the instructions with respect to sending everything to the trustee in a timely fashion.
One of the documents you are required to provide is your most recent federal income tax return. Arizona bankruptcy laws make it your job to redact (black out) all sensitive information, like social security numbers and the names of your minor children, before sending your documents to the trustee.
If you don't submit the documents to the trustee in time, you may be required to attend a second 341 meeting after the first one. Although the trustees in this district don't have a uniform document request, all of them typically ask for copies of bank statements (especially the statement that covers the bankruptcy filing date), copies of vehicle titles, and, if you are divorced, a copy of your divorce decree.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
One of the final hurdles you will have to clear before the court can grant you a bankruptcy discharge is the financial management course. The court will even send you a notice about this course shortly after your case is filed, although you can't actually take this course until after your case has been filed.
In fact, it doesn't even have to be completed before the meeting of creditors, but it makes sense to get it out of the way. This way, you know you are completely done with all of the minimum requirements when you are done with your creditors' meeting.
You have to make sure that you go to a company approved to offer this course to folks filing bankruptcy in Arizona. If you liked the company you used for your first class, you may want to find out right then and there if they are approved to offer this second course, too. You may even be able to get a package deal!
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting, also called a meeting of creditors, is one of the most stressful parts of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. After all, you have to go to court to answer questions under oath.
In reality, as long as you spend just a little bit of time preparing for it and don't forget your IDs at home, it will be over before you know it. Most folks walk out of their 341 meeting not only relieved, but also surprised about how quick and painless it was.
Under federal law, your creditors may attend this meeting to ask you questions, but that does not happen very often. The meeting is recorded, so make sure you answer loudly and clearly. Additionally, even though you may already know what the trustee is going to ask you, having seen others who are in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona, answer the exact same questions just minutes earlier, let the bankruptcy trustee finish each question before speaking. Otherwise, you end up speaking over them, making it difficult for the recording to catch what everyone is saying.
Dealing with Your Car
Your car plays two roles in your Arizona Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For one, it's an asset of yours. If you own the car outright, and don't have a loan you are still paying on, you can keep the car as long as it is worth less than $6,000. If you're married, you can protect two cars worth up to that amount each, or one vehicle with a value of no more than $12,000.
If you're still making payments on your car loan, you can keep the car, but only if you also pay for it. To accomplish that, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender, agreeing to continue to be responsible for the balance due under the car loan.
If you don't have a bankruptcy lawyer that signs off on the reaffirmation agreement (and a lot of Arizona bankruptcy lawyers won't, if there is no equity), the Arizona Bankruptcy Court will set a hearing to discuss your reaffirmation agreement and make sure it is in your best interest to approve it.
If the monthly car payment is more than you can manage based on your income and other expenses, consider surrendering the vehicle, especially if the loan balance is much larger than the value of the vehicle. Remember, you're filing bankruptcy in Arizona to get a fresh start, so it doesn't make sense to set yourself up for continued struggles due to a car payment that doesn’t make sense for you and your family.
Arizona Bankruptcy Means Test
The Arizona bankruptcy means test determines whether you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona by first comparing your household income to the median household income for a household of your size.
If you make less, you qualify for Chapter 7 relief. If your income is greater than that, the second part of the means test calculation determines whether you qualify based on how much money you have left after paying allowed expenses, including your mortgage, car payment (if you are keeping the car), child support payments, and other living expenses. If you "fail" the Arizona means test, just remember that this means that you are better off than a lot of other folks. Look for a law firm handling both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases and schedule a free consultation to find out whether a Chapter 13 is right for you.
Data on Median income levels for Arizona
Arizona 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 Arizona
Arizona 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)|
Arizona Bankruptcy Forms
The Arizona bankruptcy forms are a combination of national bankruptcy forms, which are the same format in every bankruptcy case in every state, and some local forms. The national forms are made available by theU.S. Courts, and all local Arizona forms can be obtained by going to thecourt's website. Since Arizona is a single district, even the local forms are the same whether you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in the Phoenix, Tucson, or Yuma division.
District of Arizona Requirements
There is only one Arizona bankruptcy district, but the county you live in determines which division of the Arizona Bankruptcy Court will handle your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Phoenix Division will be assigned to your case if you live in Apache, Gila, Maricopa, or Navajo County. The Tucson Division handles cases for folks that live in the counties of Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pinal, and Santa Cruz.
Folks in La Paz, Mohave, or Yuma County will have their case assigned to the Yuma Division, and last but not least, the Prescott Division will handle your Arizona bankruptcy if you live in Coconino or Yavapai County.
The Arizona bankruptcy judges conduct most of their business from the courthouses located in Phoenix and Tucson, but also travel to the outlying counties on a regular basis to hold hearings.
Arizona Bankruptcy Exemptions
Arizona has opted out of the federal bankruptcy exemptions, instead requiring everyone who has lived in the Grand Canyon State for at least two years to use Arizona bankruptcy laws to protect their assets. Unfortunately, Arizona bankruptcy exemptions do not have a wildcard provision that can be applied for otherwise unprotected property. Anything over $300 in your bank account ($600 if you are married) on the date your Arizona bankruptcy is filed is not protected. So, if you're not subject to a wage garnishment, the timing of your bankruptcy filing can make a huge difference.
Arizona Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Folks filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona with the help of a bankruptcy attorney or a law firm typically pay a flat fee for the bankruptcy case. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer ranges from $750 to $1,500 for a standard Chapter 7 case, though depending on how complex your financial situation is, it may be more. The best way to find out how much your Arizona bankruptcy would cost is to take advantage of the free consultation offered by a lot of Arizona bankruptcy attorneys.
Arizona Legal Aid Organizations
In addition to the Arizona Bankruptcy Court’s Self-Help Center providing a lot of guidance for folks considering bankruptcy as an option, Arizona legal aid organizations are available to assist you if you feel more comfortable speaking to someone face-to-face but can't afford an attorney.
Arizona’s Community Legal Services has offices in several locations across the state and routinely advises low-income Arizonans filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona. Additionally, Southern Arizona Legal Aid serves the nine southern counties in Arizona.
Community Legal Services, Inc.
305 South 2nd Avenue, P.O. Box 21538, Phoenix AZ 85036-1538
DNA-Peoples Legal Services, Inc.
Route 12, Highway 264, P.O. Box 306, Window Rock, AZ 86515-0306
Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc.
Continental Building, 2343 East Broadway, Suite 200, Tucson, AZ 85719
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Arizona Court Locations
Arizona Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Arizona||Hon. Brenda Whinery|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Daniel P Collins|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Eddward P. Ballinger|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Madeleine C. Wanslee|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Brenda K. Martin|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Paul Sala|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Scott H. Gan|
|District of Arizona||Hon. George B. Nielsen|
|District of Arizona||Hon. Redfield T. Baum|
|Dina L. Anderson||DAnderson@DLATrustee.com|
|David A. Birdsellemail@example.com|
|Roger W. Brownfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jill H. Fordemail@example.com|
|Lothar H. Goernitzfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Eric M. Haleyemail@example.com|
|Stanley J. Kartchnerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Robert A. MacKenzieemail@example.com|
|Anthony H. Masonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Gayle E. Millsemail@example.com|
|Brian J. Mullenfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Trudy A. Nowakemail@example.com|
|David M. Reavesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jim D. Smithemail@example.com|
|Dale D. Ulrichfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Lawrence J. Warfield||Lwarfield@trusteebk.com|