Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in in San Jose, California.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 16, 2020
Do you like to accomplish tasks on your own when you can to save money? Or do you prefer to hire professionals to minimize stress? Both of these approaches are possibilities when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Unless your financial situation is unusually complex, you can file bankruptcy on your own or hire a bankruptcy attorney to help you.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a pretty straightforward process. It is kept purposefully straightforward so that low-income filers who don’t own a small business, who don’t own luxury property, and don’t have unusual needs can file for bankruptcy without incurring attorneys’ fees. Of course, if you prefer to have your bankruptcy petition prepared by an attorney, you can approach filing for bankruptcy in this way at any time. Doing so may minimize stress and even save you money in the long-run. However, if you can’t afford to work with an attorney, you’ll almost certainly be able to file on your own.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Unlike Chapter 7,Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a complex process. Most filers who attempt to construct their Chapter 13 repayment plan fail without an attorney’s help. If you’re ineligible to file for Chapter 7 because youearn too much income, you’ll want to connect with a bankruptcy lawyer to help you with a Chapter 13 case.
Don’t worry too much about paying attorneys’ fees for a Chapter 13 filing. You’ll likely be able to include at least some of your legal fees in your repayment plan. Thus, you’ll be able to pay your attorney out of funds that would have been used to pay your unsecured creditors anyway.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
If you aren’t comfortable filing bankruptcy on your own but you can’t afford a bankruptcy lawyer, you may be eligible to receive legal services through a legal aid society. Legal aid societies are non-profit organizations that provide legal advice to members of low-income households. Just like you would at a law office, you’ll meet with an attorney one-on-one if you qualify for legal aid.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Working with legal aid is like working with a very busy law firm. Because legal aid societies are funded by grants and donations, their resources are limited. As a result, you may be placed on a waitlist before you can speak with someone about your legal issues. Once you pass the organization’s eligibility screening and move to the top of the waitlist, you’ll develop an attorney-client relationship with the lawyer assigned to your bankruptcy case.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
You won’t know for sure whether you’re eligible for a particular legal aid society’s services until you connect with them. However, most legal aid societies provide counsel to members of households that – at a minimum – earn less than 125% of the federal poverty line annually. This is the eligibility standard set forth by theLegal Services Corporation, which funds many of the legal aid societies in California and across the United States. However, many legal aid societies do offer services to households whose income exceeds this threshold. Every organization is different.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
If you’re interested in working with legal aid, you can use the phone numbers and contact information listed below to get in touch with the organizations located in and around San Jose. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements for one society, don’t panic – you may be eligible for services elsewhere.
Bay Area Legal Aid
1735 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
California Indian Legal Services, Inc.
609 S. Escondido Boulevard, Escondido, CA 92025
California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
1430 Franklin Street, Suite 103, Oakland, CA 94612
Central California Legal Services
2115 Kern Street, Suite 1, Fresno, CA 93721
Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc.
1040 Iowa Avenue, Suite 109, Riverside, CA 92507-2106
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you don’t qualify for legal aid or you’re hoping to file on your own but have questions before you begin the bankruptcy process, it’s a good idea to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced attorney in your area. Most bankruptcy lawyers who take Chapter 7 cases offer free consultations. These no-cost meetings don’t obligate you to file for bankruptcy or even to work with the lawyer you’ll be sitting across from. They are simply designed to ensure that prospective clients have their questions answered before they decide to file for bankruptcy and/or hire legal representation. You have nothing to lose by scheduling a free consultation.
To find an attorney near San Jose who practices bankruptcy law, you can click on the “find a lawyer” page on the website for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) or you can search on local bar association or California State Bar Association websites.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
As you can see, there are many approaches you can take when seeking a fresh financial start through bankruptcy. Whether you file on your own without an attorney (filing “pro se”), you hire a lawyer, or you work with a legal aid society, you can successfully achieve debt relief using whichever approach best works for you.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you opt to file for consumer bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code on your own, you’ll want to utilize as many reputable resources as you can. Using guides, self-filing reference sheets, and even Upsolve’s free web tool can help you to keep your paperwork straight, minimize stress, and complete your petition successfully.
Upsolve’s free web tool is available to low-income filers who meet certain eligibility criteria. This tool allows filers to complete their bankruptcy forms on a secure, streamlined, and guided platform. It is completely free for Chapter 7 filings, although it isn’t available for joint filings currently.
Regardless of whether you’re eligible to use the free web tool, you can always access (without a login) hundreds of free articles on Upsolve’s Learning Center. In addition to a comprehensive list of articles about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se, you’ll find articles about credit counseling, dealing with harassment from debt collectors, halting wage garnishments, managing credit card debt, getting your bankruptcy filing fee waived, and a host of other topics. These resources are available to anyone, at no cost, at all times.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
In addition to online resources, you can pick up self-help filing materials at the bankruptcy courthouse nearest to where you live. Even if you prepare your petition using an online platform, it can be helpful to pick up resources related to your meeting of creditors when you drop your physical paperwork off with the clerk.
Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and Courthouse
255 East Temple Street Los Angeles, CA 90012
21041 Burbank Boulevard Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse
411 West Fourth Street Santa Ana, CA 92701
3420 Twelfth Street
3420 Twelfth Street Riverside, CA 92501
Jacob Weinberger United States Courthouse
325 West F Street San Diego, CA 92101
Robert F. Peckham Federal Building and United States Courthouse
280 South First Street San Jose, CA 95113
Oakland City Center
1300 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94612
Phillip Burton United States Courthouse
450 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102
Robert E. Coyle United States Courthouse
2500 Tulare Street Fresno, CA 93721
1200 I Street
1200 I Street Modesto, CA 95354
Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse
501 I Street Sacramento, CA 95814
Bankruptcy isn’t the right debt relief option for everyone. However, this debt relief option has proven to be life-changing for many Americans. If you have explored your options and determined that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you, you can work with an attorney to prepare your petition, see if you qualify for legal aid assistance, or you can prepare your case yourself. There is no “best” way to file for bankruptcy, so you can’t go wrong with choosing whichever option and resources work best for you.