Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated September 29, 2023
Many Arizonans have faced serious financial struggles in recent years. These setbacks can cause long-term financial hardship. You’ve probably worked hard to recover from these setbacks and may have even tried other types of debt relief.
If you’re still struggling despite your best efforts, you’re not alone. It may be time to file bankruptcy to get the fresh start you deserve. Arizona bankruptcy laws exist to help you and your family get back on track. So taking advantage of bankruptcy protections is nothing to be ashamed of.
This article will walk you through how to file bankruptcy in the Grand Canyon State and how Upsolve’s free tool and educational resources can help you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for free.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Arizona
There are two main costs to file Chapter 7 in Arizona: The court filing fee and attorney fees. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, the Arizona Bankruptcy Court may waive the court filing fee. The more expensive cost is usually the attorney fees. But you don’t have to have a bankruptcy attorney to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
This guide will walk you through the 10 steps to file your case on your own.
Collect Your Arizona Bankruptcy Documents
To file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll need to collect certain documents. This is true whether you’re working with an attorney, using Upsolve, or taking care of everything by yourself. Collecting all of your documents first will help you stay organized and on top of things
Here are the documents you need to have:
The last two years of your federal tax returns.
The last 60 days of your paycheck stubs.
A current bank statement that covers the filing date. Pull a statement from every bank account you have after filing.
Here are some documents that aren’t required but will be helpful:
Older bank statements. If possible, pull the last 6-12 months of bank statements for all your accounts.
A current copy of your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from all three of the major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. If you use Upsolve’s tool, it’ll pull this for you.
Statements or bills from all your creditors.
Letters you’ve received from collection agencies or third-party debt collectors.
Take Credit Counseling
When you file bankruptcy, you’re required by federal law to take an approved credit counseling course in the 180 days before you submit your bankruptcy petition to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. This course does have a fee, but you may be able to get the fee waived.
You must take the course from an approved provider. Most course providers will allow you to complete the course online or by phone. It usually takes one to two hours. When you finish the course, you’ll get a certificate of completion, which you’ll submit to the court with the rest of your bankruptcy paperwork.
If you’re more comfortable attending the course in person, you can normally do so in either Scottsdale or Phoenix. Unfortunately, at this time, no approved providers are offering an in-person version of the credit counseling course outside the Phoenix metro area. If you prefer taking the course in Spanish, don't worry, many companies have a Spanish language option.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filing for bankruptcy comes with a lot of paperwork. Most of the forms you’ll file are federal forms, so no matter which state you live in, you’ll fill out the same ones. You can get the forms online as fillable PDFs for free from the Bankruptcy Court or find them on the District of Arizona's page.
If you file pro se (which means without an attorney) you’ll have to complete and file a declaration along with the other paperwork. If you file with Upsolve, we make this paperwork process easier for you. You’ll answer an online questionnaire and our software will generate the forms you need based on the information you provide. This includes any state-specific forms for Arizona.
If you file with the help of a bankruptcy lawyer, they will probably have you fill out a questionnaire. Then they’ll prepare the bankruptcy forms for you based on that information and review them with you in a meeting. This allows them to make sure the information is complete, and it 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 $338. You can pay this fee with either a money order or a cashier's check. You can’t pay the filing fee by credit card. You can pay the full fee when you file your bankruptcy petition. If you’re unable to pay the full fee when you file your bankruptcy case, you have a few options.
You may be eligible for a fee waiver. If your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you’ll be eligible to apply for a fee waiver. To see if your income falls within the guidelines for a fee waiver, see the Arizona Fee Waiver Eligible table below.
You may be able to pay the fee in monthly installments. If you need to file your case quickly, you can make a down payment of $80 to the Arizona Bankruptcy Court. You’ll submit this along with an application to pay the remainder of the fee in monthly installments.
You might need to file quickly if a creditor has gotten a wage garnishment order against you. Filing bankruptcy triggers an automatic stay, which will stop wage garnishment and most other collections activities.
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.
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’re filing with Upsolve, your bankruptcy packet and all required forms will be available to use as a single download. It will also include a flag for each signature needed from you. If you’re printing on your own, here are some things to keep in mind:
Make sure that everything is printed in black ink on regular letter-size (8.5" x 11") white paper.
Only print one page per sheet. Don't print double-sided, even though that may be cheaper, because the court won’t accept your paperwork.
If you’re printing each section out individually, take care not to miss any sections.
Once you’ve printed your packet, make sure to sign everything in the appropriate signature spots.
Although you only need one complete set of the forms to start your bankruptcy filing, it's best to print two complete copies, so you can file on with the court and keep one for your records. If you’re filing with Upsolve, you can simply save a copy of your packet digitally to keep for your records. If you don't have access to a printer, you may be able to print your packet at your local library or a store that offers printing services.
If you want to get notices of what is going on in your bankruptcy case via email, you should also complete the Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (DeBN) request form and file it with your other bankruptcy paperwork.
File Your Forms With the Arizona Bankruptcy Court
To file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in Arizona, you can either mail everything to the courthouse or go in person to one of Arizona Bankruptcy Court’s division offices. They’re located in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma. You’ll need to pay the filing fee when you file. This can be paid by cashier’s check or money order. You can’t pay with cash or a credit card. Also, the Yuma division office doesn’t accept payments, but you can mail your payment to the Phoenix or Tucson office. Though there are some parts of the bankruptcy process you prepare for online, only lawyers can file bankruptcy cases electronically.
To file your case in person, take your paperwork to the clerk's office. It’s open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m and is typically the busiest between lunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and in the last hour of the day (between 3 - 4 p.m.). Since bankruptcy is a federal proceeding, and you’re 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.
The in-person filing process has been amended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll still need to bring your paperwork to one of the locations listed above, but you’ll need to leave your paperwork and filing fee (as a cashier’s check or money order) in a dropbox at the court. The clerk will process your forms on the next business day. That will be your official filing date and when the automatic stay kicks in. The court provides up-to-date information on these procedural changes.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
You’re required by bankruptcy law to send certain documents to the bankruptcy trustee handling your case at least seven days before your 341 meeting (covered below). About 7–10 days after you file your case, you should receive a letter from your trustee. It typically includes a questionnaire for you to fill out, along with a request for the documents they want you to send. 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 exactly.
You’ll be required to provide your two most recent federal income tax returns. Under Arizona bankruptcy laws, you’re responsible for redacting (blacking out) all sensitive information, like Social Security numbers and the names of your minor children, before sending your documents to the trustee. You’ll also need to send a bank statement that covers the date of the bankruptcy filing. This allows the trustee to see how much money you had in your bank on the date you filed your bankruptcy case.
Beyond this, trustees may want to see more previous months’ bank statements, copies of vehicle titles, and, if you are divorced, a copy of your divorce decree. 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.
Take a Debtor Education Course
One of the final hurdles you’ll have to clear before the court grants your bankruptcy discharge is completing a debtor education or financial management course. If you don’t take this course within 60 days of your 341 creditors’ meeting (and file the certificate with the court), your case may be closed without a discharge.
Like the credit counseling course, the debtor education course you take will need to be from an approved provider in your state. 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, may feel like one of the most stressful parts of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. You’ll have to answer questions under oath. This is typically done at the court, but because of the pandemic, all 341 meetings are being held telephonically or through video conference. The good news is that these meetings are usually quick and painless, especially if you take some time to learn what to expect at your 341 meeting and how to avoid having something go wrong. One thing you can expect is that you’ll need to show a valid form of photo ID and your Social Security card.
The main point of this meeting is to verify the information you provided in your bankruptcy paperwork. The trustee will ask you a series of mostly “yes” or “no” questions. Under federal law, your creditors may attend this meeting to ask you questions as well, but that doesn’t happen often. The meeting is recorded, so make sure you answer loudly and clearly. Always let the bankruptcy trustee complete their question before you begin to respond. Otherwise, you end up speaking over them, making it difficult for the recording to catch what everyone is saying.
The most important thing is to answer every question honestly. Try not to stress out. It’ll be over in no time, and you can move on to the next step.
Dealing with Your Car
Most people worry about losing important things like their vehicle when they file bankruptcy. After all, a car is an asset. Luckily, there are many Arizona bankruptcy exemptions that protect certain assets, including cars under a certain value. How your car is treated in your Arizona Chapter 7 bankruptcy depends on:
Whether you own it outright or if it’s financed through an auto loan or leased
How much your vehicle is worth
If you’re a single filer and you own your car outright — which means you don't have a loan you’re still paying on — you can keep your car as long as it’s worth less than $6,000. If you're married, you can protect two cars worth up to $6,000 each, or one vehicle valued at $12,000 or less.
If you're still making payments on a car loan, you’ll need to decide whether to keep your car or surrender it. To keep your car, you must be current on your loan and you’ll need to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender where you agree to continue to be responsible for the balance due on the car loan.
If you can’t get a bankruptcy lawyer to sign 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’s in your best interest to approve it.
If the monthly car payment is more than you can manage based on your income and expenses, consider surrendering the vehicle, especially if the loan balance is higher 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 by having a car payment that’s too high.
That said, many people need a car to get around, get to work, and take their kids to school and activities. You’ll be able to buy a car after you get your bankruptcy discharge, and there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success with this.
Arizona Bankruptcy Means Test
The means test determines whether you’re eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Arizona by first comparing your household income to the median 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’re 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. And it doesn’t mean you can’t file bankruptcy. You may be better suited to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. You can schedule a consultation with an experienced Arizona bankruptcy attorney 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 In 2024
Data on Poverty levels for Arizona
Arizona Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2024
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|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 the U.S. Courts, and all local Arizona forms can be obtained by going to the court'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.
Arizonans can also prepare and file their bankruptcy forms through the court's Electronic Self-Representation Tool online.
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Arizona Districts & Filing Requirements
There is only one bankruptcy district in Arizona, but the county you live in determines which division of the Arizona Bankruptcy Court will handle your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Phoenix Division will handle your case if you live in Apache, Gila, Maricopa, or Navajo County.
The Tucson Division will handle your case if you live in Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pinal, or Santa Cruz Country.
The Yuma Division will handle your case if you live in La Paz, Mohave, or Yuma County.
The Prescott Division will handle your case 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 these judges also travel to the outlying counties regularly to hold hearings. Some judges hearings are being conducted telephonically or via videoconferencing.
No matter where you live in the state, you can file your bankruptcy case in the Phoenix, Tucson, or Yuma Division court or online through the court's Electronic Self-Representation too. If you file online through the eSR, you'll still need to hand-deliver or mail your filing fee or waiver application (and your Declaration and State of Social Security) to the court.
You can only pay your filing fee in person in Phoenix or Tucson, and you must use a money order or cashier’s check made payable to U.S. Bankruptcy Court. If you file in Yuma, you can mail this payment to either the Phoenix or Tucson clerk of court’s office. If you’re paying in installments, you must make an $80 down payment. You can’t pay your filing fee in cash or with a credit card.
Arizona Bankruptcy Exemptions
Every state provides bankruptcy exemptions, which protect certain property or assets you own. Some states use the federal bankruptcy exemptions, but Arizona has opted out of the federal exemptions. Instead, everyone who’s lived in the Grand Canyon State for at least two years must use Arizona’s state bankruptcy exemptions to protect their assets.
Some states also have a wildcard exemption that filers can use to protect property that isn’t protected by state exemptions. Unfortunately, Arizona doesn’t have a wildcard exemption. This means if you’re a single filer, anything over $300 in your bank account on the date your Arizona bankruptcy is filed is not protected. If you’re married, this is anything over $600. This is why the timing of your bankruptcy filing can make a huge difference.
Arizona’s bankruptcy exemptions do protect most household goods, clothing, tools used for work. They also protect many kinds of retirement accounts and benefits including workers’ compensation benefits, disability benefits, and welfare benefits.
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. If your financial situation is complex, it could be more. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer free consultations. Take advantage of this! Not only can you find out how much the attorney charges, but you can also see if they’re the right choice for you.
Arizona Legal Aid Organizations
The Arizona Bankruptcy Court’s Self-Help Center provides a lot of guidance for Arizonans considering bankruptcy. But if you still have questions or want to meet with someone in person, an Arizona legal aid organization can assist you if you 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 Chapter 7 bankruptcies 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
|David A. Birdsell
|Roger W. Brown
|Jill H. Ford
|Lothar H. Goernitz
|Eric M. Haley
|Stanley J. Kartchner
|Robert A. MacKenzie
|Anthony H. Mason
|Gayle E. Mills
|Brian J. Mullen
|Trudy A. Nowak
|David M. Reaves
|Jim D. Smith
|Dale D. Ulrich
|Lawrence J. Warfield