How to File Bankruptcy for Free in Colorado
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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 March 23, 2022
Colorado is a beautiful state to live in. But, one significant drawback is the high cost of living. If your monthly income isn’t stretching far enough to cover your housing cost, utilities, and groceries, that’s stressful enough. If you have debt to pay as well, you’re likely mentally and emotionally exhausted. It may seem like there’s no way out. But filing bankruptcy can give you a fresh start and help you feel like you can finally get ahead.
If you're a Colorado resident drowning in credit card debt, medical bills, student loans, or other debts and considering your debt relief options, you're in good company — . Only you can determine if filing aChapter 7 bankruptcy is the best solution for you. This guide is the perfect place to start reviewing your options and planning your next steps. In fact, you don't even need an attorney to file for bankruptcy. With some research and documentation, you can file a successfulbankruptcy case on your own in Colorado.
How To File Bankruptcy in Colorado for Free
If you decide to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you could file for free by:
Filing without a lawyer: Hiring a lawyer tends to be themost expensive part of a bankruptcy.
Qualifying for a fee waiver: All Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers must pay the court filing fee of $338. But you may be able to have the fee waived if your income is under aspecific threshold, and you can't afford to pay it in installments.
You don’t have to spend money hiring an attorney — this guide walks you through each step of the bankruptcy process, explaining what to expect and what you need to do to file on your own.
Collect Your Colorado Bankruptcy Documents
Gatheringimportant documents and getting organized early in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process can help ease your stress and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Be aware that official bankruptcy forms require a lot of different information. While it's not hard to obtain, it may take some digging on your part. Even if you hire an attorney, you’ll need to collect the following:
Your last two years oftax returns,
Your paycheck stubs from the last 60 days, and
A bank statement that covers your filing date.
Although they’re not required, these documents will also be helpful to have:
Bank statements for the last 6-12 months can help figure out your expenses.
Creditor statements or bills because you’ll need to list what you owe.
Letters from collection agencies or other third-party debt collectors because you’ll need to list all your creditors.
A recent credit report gives you a snapshot of all your credit accounts. You're entitled toreceive a free report every 12 months from each one of the three consumer credit reporting agencies. If you file using Upsolve’s filing tool, it will pull your report for you.
Take Credit Counseling
To ensure you understand all your debt relief options, bankruptcy law requires all filers to take acredit counseling course in the 180 days before they file bankruptcy. The class will take about an hour of your time. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate. You need to give this to the court with the rest of your bankruptcy paperwork. Your certificate is valid for six months from the date you completed the course.
Credit counseling courses aren't free, but they generally cost less than $50. If you can’t afford the fee and your income is below the federal poverty level, you may qualify for awaiver. You must take a course from a state-approved provider, and most are offered online or by phone.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Bankruptcy forms help the court get a sense of your finances.
Even though you’re filing bankruptcy in Colorado, you should know that most forms are the same for every state because they’re federal forms. You can access the forms as fillable PDFs at no charge fromUSCOURTS.gov. If you file withUpsolve, you’ll complete an online questionnaire that automatically generates the forms for you based on your answers. If you’re hiring an attorney, they or their staff will typically have you complete a questionnaire. Then they’ll fill out the forms on your behalf using that information.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you’re filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado or another state, you must pay acourt filing fee of $338. The fee is due when you submit your bankruptcy petition (aka your paperwork) to the court. If you earn less than 150% of the poverty guidelines, you can apply for afee waiver. The court has to approve the waiver application. You can see if you qualify by looking at the Colorado Fee Waiver Eligibility table below.
If you’re facing wage garnishment, foreclosure, or other serious collection measures, you may want to file your case quickly to take advantage of the automatic stay. This stops creditors from trying to collect from you as soon as you file your bankruptcy case. If you need the protection of the automatic stay, but you don’t qualify for a waiver and you can’t afford to pay the full filing fee, you can request to make a down payment and pay the rest of the filing fee in installments.
The court will tell you the minimum down payment required when you file and how to make the rest of the installment payments. Only use this option if it’s absolutely necessary, though. If you miss an installment payment, you risk having your case dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
First, print the court's document checklist. The list for Chapter filers is on page 6. It includes all the forms you need to file your Colorado bankruptcy petition. This will help you stay on track and ensure you don't overlook anyessential forms or information. It can be an especially helpful guide for you if you have different forms saved in different places on your computer.
When printing your forms, use regular, white letter-size paper and print in black ink. Also, print each form single-sided, and don’t staple them together. It's natural to want to stay organized and keep your documents in order by stapling them together. But this increases the processing time and effort required by court staff and could also cause the court to reject your documents. If you’re printing individual sections, make sure you don't inadvertently skip any sections or forms. Finally, sign in every designated signature spot.
Upsolve users will receive their Chapter 7 bankruptcy packet as a single download. It includes dividers that flag each signature page.
File Your Forms With the Colorado Bankruptcy Court
In some bankruptcy districts, only attorneys can file bankruptcy cases online. Thankfully, Colorado filers also have an electronic option. If you’re filing bankruptcy on your own in Colorado, here are your options for submitting your forms:
You can mail them to the court.
You can submit them in person at thecourthouse in Denver.
You can file online using a system calledI-File. This was designed for folks filing without a bankruptcy attorney.
If you have access to a computer, using the I-File system is a good way to make sure your case is filed promptly. If you send your bankruptcy petition via mail, you risk delays or having the papers get lost in the mail.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many courts, including Colorado's, have altered their requirements and procedures. The clerk’s office may not be staffed depending on COVID-19’s current impact in Denver. However, a drop box is available whenever the court building is open. You can drop your forms off there or have someone else drop them off for you.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The court assigns a trustee at random to every bankruptcy case. Yourbankruptcy trustee ensures that your creditors are treated fairly. The trustee is responsible for verifying that the information you submit on your forms is correct. They’ll do this by examining some of your financial information and meeting with you in what’s called a 341 meeting.
At least seven days before your 341 meeting, you must send your trustee the following:
Abank statement that includes the date of your filing. The court needs a snapshot of your finances on the day that you filed for bankruptcy. For example, suppose your filing date is 1/15/2022, and your bank statements run from the first of the month through the last day of the month. In that case, you will need to submit your bank statement that ends 1/31/22.
Your two most recent federal income tax returns.
In addition to these two documents, you might be required to submit pay stubs, other bank statements, or other financial documentation to your trustee. In most cases, your trustee will send you a letter telling you what they need from you.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Similar to the mandatory credit counseling course you took before you filed, you must also take adebtor education course before you can get your bankruptcy discharge. This second course focuses on financial management and gives you some helpful tools for managing your finances after your bankruptcy. If you don't complete anapproved course within 60 days of the creditors' meeting and file the certificate with the court, the court can close your case without entering a discharge.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Every bankruptcy filer must attend a 341 orcreditors' meeting. In Colorado, this meeting is typically held about four to six weeks after you file your case. A few days after you file, the court will send you aform 309A notifying you of the date, time, and location of your 341 meeting.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic,341 meetings were typically held at the courthouse or somewhere else in person, depending on where the filer lives. Currently, all 341 meetings are being conducted via telephone or video conference, but there are no guarantees that this policy is permanent. Read any notices you get carefully, so you know how to attend your meeting.
You’ll need to bring your government-issued ID and your Social Security card or other proof of your Social Security number to the 341 meeting. The trustee will review these identifying documents and then place you under oath toask a series of questions about your finances and bankruptcy application. Your creditors can also attend this meeting, but they rarely do. The meeting of creditors usually only lasts about 5-10 minutes. Once it's over, you can move on with thenext steps in your bankruptcy.
Dealing with Your Car
If you finance or lease a car in Colorado, you’ll need to make some decisions about it during your bankruptcy. First, you should know that if you own your vehicle free and clear, it may be an asset in your bankruptcy case. However, if it’s worth less than $7,500 (or $12,500 if you’re disabled or elderly), your car is protected based on the Colorado exemptions, and you can keep it. If your car is paid off or close to being paid off, this exemption will be critical to your case.
If you're still making loan payments on your vehicle, federal bankruptcy law lets you determine how you want to handle it. If your vehicle doesn’t have a high market value, especially when compared to the balance on the loan, you can surrender or redeem it. Either choice eliminates your obligation to pay the loan.
If you surrender your vehicle, you give it back to the loan company and owe nothing further on your loan. However, if you redeem it, you pay the loan company the fair market value of the car or the balance of your loan, whichever amount is lower. You then own the vehicle and don’t need to make any further payments on it.
If you like your loan and car and you’re current on payments (or can get back up to date quickly) you can reaffirm the loan and keep the arrangement basically the same as before your bankruptcy filing. As long as you keep making on-time payments to your loan company, you can keep your car as if nothing happened.
Whichever option you choose, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code lets you deal with your car loan in a way that makes the most financial sense for you and your family. Keep in mind that filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean you won’t ever be eligible to buy a car again.
Colorado Bankruptcy Means Test
The means test is a calculation to determine who can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As part of the means test, you’ll compare yourmedian income with the median income of a similarly sized household in Colorado. If you earn less than the median household income for your household size, you “pass” themeans test.
If you make more than the income limit, you could still qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy based on part two of the means test. Part two looks at your ability to pay your debts over the next five years based on your income and expenses. If you don’t pass part two of the means test, you can look into filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 7.
Data on Median income levels for Colorado
Colorado Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Colorado
Colorado Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Colorado Bankruptcy Forms
You can download or request all required Colorado bankruptcy forms for free online. The main federal forms are identical across the U.S., no matter where you file. You can get the forms for free online as fillable PDFs from the national form bank. All Colorado Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are also available at no cost as a single 85-page packet. If you don’t have 60 days of paycheck stubs (also called “payment advices”) to submit with your bankruptcy petition to the court, you need to submit this local form to explain why.
You’ll also need to submit information about your creditors. In many states, filers are required to submit this as a specially formatted document. Luckily, the Colorado Bankruptcy Court makes this easy to do electronically by using the Online Creditor Entry program.
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Colorado Districts & Filing Requirements
TheUnited States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado is the only Colorado bankruptcy court. It services every county in the state. You can make installment payments for Chapter 7 via debit card, PayPal, or ACH using theironline payment form.
In Colorado, you can make up to four installment payments for the filing fee. Colorado doesn’t require filers to be a minimum amount down to make installment payments, but you must pay something when you file your case. Also, you have to make the last installment payment no later than 120 days after you file your petition. Under limited circumstances, the Colorado bankruptcy court may extend the time of any installment, as long as you pay the last installment no later than 180 days after you file your petition.
You can file bankruptcy by sending your documents and paperwork via mail, using the I-File online system, or by going in person to the court. Keep in mind that there may be changes to these options depending on the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to check forup-to-date information before filing.
Colorado Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions protect your personal property from being liquidated and sold to pay for your debts. If you have non-exempt assets or property that doesn't qualify under Colorado's exemptions, it’s at risk of being taken by the trustee who will sell it and use the proceeds to help pay your creditors. That said, the vast majority of Chapter filers don’t lose any of their property.
Colorado has its own bankruptcy exemptions. It doesn’t usefederal exemptions. For instance, Colorado’s homestead exemption covers up to $75,000 (or $105,000 if the home is occupied or owned by a disabled person or someone 60 years old or older). Other types of exempt assets up to certain amounts include jewelry, furniture, and clothes. Colorado doesn't have awildcard exemption.
Colorado Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Most Colorado bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations and typically charge a flat fee for Chapter 7 cases. Their services cost between $599–$1,200. Cost is often based on how complicated your bankruptcy case is. For example, a lawyer would likely charge more for a bankruptcy with dozens of creditors and assets than for a simple case with a few creditors and few or no assets. Even though the cost is a significant factor, it shouldn't be the only thing you think about whenchoosing a bankruptcy attorney.
Colorado Legal Aid Organizations
Even in the best of circumstances, filing bankruptcy can be stressful. Some filers will feel confident filing for bankruptcy without the help of an attorney. But it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. If you need help but can't afford an attorney, you may qualify forfree or low-cost legal help from a nonprofit legal aid organization in Colorado.
Colorado Legal Services
1905 Sherman Street, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80203
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Colorado Court Locations
United States Custom House
721 19th Street Denver, CO 80202
Colorado Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Colorado||Hon. Michael E. Romero|
|District of Colorado||Hon. Elizabeth E. Brown|
|District of Colorado||Hon. Thomas B. McNamara|
|District of Colorado||Hon. Cathleen D. Parker|
|District of Colorado||Hon. Joseph G. Rosania|
|District of Colorado||Hon. Kimberley H. Tyson|
|Robertson B. Cohenfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Tom H. Connollyemail@example.com|
|Daniel A. Hepnerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jeffrey L. Hillemail@example.com|
|Jeanne Yendrek Jagowfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Dennis W. Kingemail@example.com|
|Kevin P. Kubiefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|David E. Lewisemail@example.com|
|Joli A. Lofstedtfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Lynn T. Martinez|
|M. Stephen Petersemail@example.com|
|Simon E. Rodriguez||Lawyercolo@aol.com|
|John C. Smileyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|David V. Wadsworth, IIemail@example.com|
|Jared C. Waltersfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jeffrey A. Weinman|| email@example.com|
- American Bankruptcy Institute. (2022). Bankruptcy Statistics. American Bankruptcy Institute. Retrieved January 1, 2022, from https://www.abi.org/newsroom/bankruptcy-statistics