Filing Bankruptcy in Chandler, Arizona

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Written by Andrea Wimmer, Esq..  
Updated December 21, 2019

Summary

Since a guide on how to file bankruptcy in Chandler isn't exactly something you can pick up while out for a pint of SanTan Moonshine, we'll try to give just that to you here instead. Keep reading to learn the basics of filing bankruptcy in Chandler, from collecting all your documents to making sure you get yourdischarge and what to watch out for in between!

You're probably relieved school is back in session, if not already, then soon. If the joy of seeing your little move on to the next grade is being dampened by worrying about all the back to school shopping that entails, take a moment to consider whether filing bankruptcy in Chandler may be the answer for your problems. This is especially true if your credit card bills are already getting a little tough to pay each month. Now, if the mere thought of a Chandler bankruptcy stresses you out, keep in mind that large businesses take advantage of the bankruptcy system every day. Just look at Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics. No matter how bad you feel about the bind you're in, if Insys deserves the protections of the bankruptcy laws, then you most certainly do too. Whether you should file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler, or go with Chapter 13 instead depends on your specific situation. Generally speaking, Chapter 13 filers have higher and more regular incomes, own homes, cars and similar items, and simply can't keep up with all the minimum monthly payments anymore. Chapter 7 debtors, by contrast, typically earn less, rent their home and often have a payday loan or title loan. If you're having a hard time just paying rent and putting food on the table, never mind paying Titlemax every week, then filing bankruptcy as a Chapter 7 debtor may be right for you. If you're eligible, you can file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler using Upsolve, or visit one of the local legal aid organizations, if you prefer face-to-face help. If you're not sure that your situation is quite that straight-forward, take advantage of the free consultations offered by most Chandler bankruptcy lawyers. Meet with a few, ask them your questions, and find out how much they’d charge you. Then, go with the option that is right for you. Keep in mind, though, the right option may not necessarily be the cheapest option.

Chandler Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost

Although the signs advertising $200 bankruptcies on half the off ramps in the Valley seems to suggest that the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer should be around that amount, it’s unfortunately is not true. But that’s for a good reason. The folks that advertise $200 bankruptcies are not lawyers, can't give you legal advice, and often do more harm than good. If your financial situation is pretty straight forward, you make less than $52,000 a year, and don't have any tax debts, you can absolutely file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler on your own ("pro se"). If you make more than that, have tax or other priority or nondischargeable debts, or are worried about losing a certain piece of property, then hiring a competent Arizona bankruptcy lawyer may be a worthwhile investment. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in the East Valley averages around $1,125 for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler; same for Phoenix. Don't worry, though, you don't have to come up with any money to talk to a lawyer about your situation; most of them offer free initial consultations for new clients. This means you get the opportunity to talk to a lawyer (make sure it’s a lawyer, not a paralegal or intake specialist) about your situation and discuss your Chandler bankruptcy options.

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How to File Bankruptcy in Chandler, Arizona for Free

Since a guide on how to file bankruptcy in Chandler isn't exactly something you can pick up while out for a pint of SanTan Moonshine, we'll try to give just that to you here instead. Keep reading to learn the basics of filing bankruptcy in Chandler, from collecting all your documents to making sure you get yourdischarge and what to watch out for in between!


Collect Your Chandler Bankruptcy Documents

Collecting your Chandler bankruptcy documents, not to be confused with your Chandler bankruptcy forms, should be the first step you take when getting ready to file bankruptcy. The foundation of a successful and low-stress Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler is doing everything you can to give the Court a full picture of your financial situation. Collecting certain documents, like paycheck stubs and tax returns, first will make answering questions about your income much quicker and more efficient because it’ll all be right in front of you. You should also pull a couple of bank statements, either through your online banking app or by visiting a bank near you. In addition to gathering all bills and collection notices you received in the last couple of months, it’s also recommended that you get a copy of your credit report. Just because a creditor charged off your account and isn’t sending you bills anymore doesn’t mean you’re not still obligated to pay them. The credit report will help you make sure you provide a complete list of everyone you owe money to and their address to the Court. If you leave a creditor off your forms, it’s possible that they can still come after you months or even years after you received a discharge in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler.

Take Credit Counseling

Everyone filing bankruptcy in Chandler has to take a credit counseling class in the 6 months beforehand. Don't worry, this is not a full college level course. It's a single class that will take about an hour or so to complete, depending on whether you head to Phoenix or Scottsdale to take the course in person, or take it online or by phone from any one of the approved course providers. The purpose of the course is to make sure that everyone filing bankruptcy in Chandler knows what their options are before doing so. That's why you have to take the class before you can go to the Court to file your Arizona bankruptcy case. And it's also why it's important to keep track of the certificate you get after completing the full course; that has to be submitted to the Court along with the rest of your Chandler bankruptcy forms.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

This step will probably take you longest as you figure out how to file bankruptcy in Chandler. There are more than 20 different forms you have to fill out as part of this process. The information you'll need ranges from biographical information (address, social security number, etc.) to financial obligations, an inventory of your property, and a chronology of your recent financial transactions. The documents you gathered while completing Step 1 - Collect your bankruptcy documents, have a lot of the information you'll need when filling out the forms. That's why it's good you took the time to collect these documents first! You'll have everything right there in front of you, instead of constantly having to stop working on the forms to go hunting for the information you need to answer one of the questions. Granted, that's a little bit like you're trying to find one of the Valley's many speakeasies, except no fun at all. So, grab your pile of bankruptcy documents and take a couple of hours to get started filling out the forms. A couple of productive sessions, well caffeinated by local gem Peixoto, both a family of coffees and a local coffee shop in downtown Chandler, and you'll be in good shape. Remember, the sooner you complete the forms, the quicker you get to move on to the next step and get closer to the time you'll be protected from your creditors by filing bankruptcy in Chandler.

Get Your Filing Fee

You're probably wondering why there is a filing fee when people filing bankruptcy obviously don't have enough money. Keep in mind, though, not having enough money to pay all of their debts is what drives people to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler. That is not the same thing as not having any money at all. To help pay for the cost of running the bankruptcy system, the Court charges $335 for Chapter 7 cases. If possible, plan on having the full amount as a money order or cashier's check when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler is filed with the Court. If you have a creditor garnishing your wages, making it hard to save up the full fee, you can ask the Court for permission to pay the fee in installments. This lets you get all of the protections that come with filing bankruptcy, including full paychecks again. That should free up enough money to pay the fee for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler. You have to pay at least $80 towards the court filing fee with the request for installment payments and you'll be given up to 4 months to pay the rest. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can also apply for a fee waiver. If your application is granted, you won't have to pay any fee at all.

Even though almost 90 % of all households in Maricopa County have a computer, well over half of which have broadband internet access, filing bankruptcy in Chandler means printing out all of your bankruptcy forms. Only lawyers are permitted to file Arizona bankruptcy cases online. Everyone else has to either mail everything to the Court or visit the courthouse to drop everything off in person. Make sure you're keeping track of all the forms as you print them; they all look a little bit alike, so it's easy to miss one by accident. Don't print double-sided, the Court will not accept that. You should print on regular, white, 8.5" x 11" paper (that's the size of a normal letter) in black, single-sided. If you can, you should immediately print a second copy of everything you are bringing to the Court. Since that version is for you, feel free to print them double-sided if you want. Having a paper copy of all the bankruptcy documents you're submitting to the Court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler will be helpful to have throughout the process.

Go to Court to File your Forms

Depending on where in Chandler you are, it should only take you about 20 - 30 minutes to get to the Arizona Bankruptcy Court indowntown Phoenix. If time is tight, make sure to avoid the 101 and 202 until about 9:00 A.M., if you can. That's when the worst is typically over, and you get to ride in the HOV lane even if it's just you in the car. You'll probably want to avoid going after 2:00 P.M., too, as the 202 - 10 interchange gets significant traffic in both directions after that. The Arizona Bankruptcy Court is at the corner for First Ave. and Van Buren. If you'd rather not drive into downtown, you can catch theLightRail and get off at a stop just down the street from the courthouse. There is no free parking in the area. The cheapest parking option are the meters near the courthouse. Most of them even take debit card payments. You’ll have to enter the courthouse through the door on the east side and pass through building security. Be nice to the guys handling the security; they're federal marshals, after all, and doing their job keeping us safe. The first door on your left immediately after the metal detectors is the clerk's office where people filing bankruptcy in Chandler have to drop off their signed bankruptcy forms. If you remember to bring your second copy you can ask the clerk to endorse - or stamp - the first page for you so you have confirmation that your Arizona bankruptcy case has been filed. 

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler has been filed, a Chapter 7 Trustee is assigned to it. The Trustee's job is to make sure that you are meeting all of the requirements for someone seeking Chapter 7 relief and to look out for the best interests of your unsecured creditors. Even though this makes the Trustee sound like an adversary to you, keep in mind that you both share the same goal of getting your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler processed without problems. You’ll most likely receive a letter from your Trustee shortly after filing bankruptcy in Chandler. In the letter the Trustee will let you know what kind of documents they would like you to provide to their office in preparation for your creditors' meeting. If more than 2 weeks pass from the date your Arizona bankruptcy was filed and you haven't heard from your Trustee, it's recommended that you reach out to them directly to ask about it. You'll find your Trustee's contact information on the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy that you received from the Court a few days after filing your case.  Even if you can't connect with your Trustee, make sure that you send at least your most recent federal income tax return to their office, so they receive it at least a week before your creditors' meeting.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Even though you don't have to do this before your creditors' meeting, now is a good time to get the requirement of taking a second bankruptcy course out of the way. This second course on financial management is intended to make sure that everyone filing bankruptcy in Chandler has the tools and information they need to avoid the same fate in the future. That is why you have to complete the course before the Court will enter your discharge. Most folks filing bankruptcy in Chandler end up taking the course online or over the phone. If you would rather maximize the benefit of this course by taking it in person, you'll have to head to the Scottsdale Entertainment District, near Fashion Square Mall, as the only approved in-person course for Arizona bankruptcy cases is held there. If you'd rather save yourself the headache of driving into Scottsdale, you can pick any of the providers on this list to complete this course. When done, make sure you find out whether your course provider will submit your certificate of completion to the Court for you. If not, you'll have to make sure to send it to the Court right after taking the course, so you don't forget later. 

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The creditors' meeting, also called the 341 meeting because Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code requires it, is usually the most stressful part for folks filing bankruptcy in Chandler. You're going to a federal courthouse, after all. That's where the similarities to an actual hearing end, though, as you won't be going into a courtroom and won't even meet your judge during this meeting. Instead, you'll meet with your Trustee in a meeting room on the first floor of the Arizona Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix. A number of 341 meetings are usually scheduled for each half hour block of the day. When you get to the waiting room, you may notice that each one of the two doors has a piece of paper attached to it (or on the corkboard right next to the door). Find your name on the list to make sure you are going into the correct room when the next group of meetings is called. One of the primary purposes of the meeting is for the Trustee to check your picture ID and original social security card to verify your identity. If you don't know where your social security card is while you're getting ready to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler make sure you have at least a recent original W-2 form with your full social security number shown on it in your bankruptcy documents. The Trustees generally accept that as an alternative method of verifying your social security number.

Dealing with Your Car

One of the most under-appreciated things about filing bankruptcy in Chandler is the options it gives you to deal with your car. Some people don't realize that you can't simply give back the car in order to get out of your car loan. Not matter how easy you make it for the bank to take the car back, even if you drop it off at their lot, they will ask you to pay the balance left on the loan after auctioning your car off to the highest bidder. Not so, if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler. In that case, you simply give the car back and discharge your obligation to pay the loan. Of course, if you want to keep your car because it actually makes sense to do so and it's not a hardship to make the loan payment each month, you can do that too. By entering into areaffirmation agreement. The bank that your car loan is with will send it to you after your case is filed. You should check outthis video about reaffirmation agreements in Arizona to decide whether that's really what you want to do. If so, and you need help navigating the process, go ahead and reach out to the Arizona Bankruptcy Court'sSelf-Help Center, so they can direct you to the resources available to you.

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Arizona Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Chandler 

Arizona Means Test

The Arizona bankruptcy Means Test is what they call the formula that is used to figure out if it would be an abuse of the bankruptcy laws to forgive someone's debts. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler provides almost complete debt forgiveness in as little as 90 days, so certain limits exist to make sure not anyone can get this much relief that easily. The Chapter 7 Means Test first compares your income to the median household income in Arizona for a household the same size as yours. If you're below that threshold, you pass the Arizona bankruptcy Means Test and may file your Chandler bankruptcy as a Chapter 7 case. If you're not, part 2 of the formula will determine whether you actually have the ability to pay your debts, by comparing your living expenses to your income. If it’s clear you don’t, you pass the Arizona bankruptcy Means Test and may file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler.

Median Income Levels for Arizona

Arizona Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,359.92$52,319.00
2$5,476.08$65,713.00
3$5,975.33$71,704.00
4$7,245.83$86,950.00
5$7,995.83$95,950.00
6$8,745.83$104,950.00
7$9,495.83$113,950.00
8$10,245.83$122,950.00
9$10,995.83$131,950.00
10$11,745.83$140,950.00

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 SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
1$1,063.33$1,595.00
2$1,436.67$2,155.00
3$1,810.00$2,715.00
4$2,183.33$3,275.00
5$2,556.67$3,835.00
6$2,930.00$4,395.00
7$3,303.33$4,955.00
8$3,676.67$5,515.00
9$4,050.00$6,075.00
10$4,423.33$6,635.00

Arizona Bankruptcy Forms

Everyone filing bankruptcy in Chandler has to use the same forms – it’s a little bit like one size fits all. The majority of the Arizona bankruptcy forms are the official federal forms used everywhere in the U.S. and some local forms, called "Court Forms." One of the Court Forms is a checklist of Chapter 7 primary requirements that will tell you everything you need to know about any other Court Forms you may need in addition to the official federal forms required for your Chandler bankruptcy case.

Arizona Exemptions

If you've lived in Arizona for at least 2 years, whether that was in Phoenix, Tucson or somewhere else altogether, you have to use the Arizona bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Chandler. If you're married, most of the Arizona bankruptcy exemptions can be doubled in amount, though that does not apply to the homestead exemption. That's only an issue if you have more than $150,000 in equity in your home, though, and that hasn’t really been a problem for many people filing bankruptcy in Chandler.

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About the author

Andrea Wimmer, Esq.

Andrea practiced exclusively as debtors’ counsel in consumer chapter 7 and 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea handled all ban... read more

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

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