10 step guide on how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado without a lawyer. This guide provides an overview of the bankruptcy process for filers seeking debt relief in the Colorado Bankruptcy Court.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 30, 2020
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado helps people get a fresh start. Rick Upchurch was able to get Chapter 7 relief after his business fell apart during the 1982 player's strike. Chapter 13 bankruptcy also provides debt relief by giving filers the opportunity to reorganize their financial situation.
There is no shame in seeking bankruptcy protection. When Denver Bronco Clinton Portis found himself with more debt than he could handle, even though he was the highest paid running back in NFL history as recently as 2004, he filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize his finances. Chapter 11 is another type of personal bankruptcy, typically used by high-earners and businesses.
This guide will walk you through the 10 steps of a bankruptcy filing. Keep in mind that no two bankruptcies are alike and only you can tell whether filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado is the right path towards lasting debt relief for you.
How to File Bankruptcy in Colorado for Free
You don’t have to have money to get a fresh start through bankruptcy. Even though hiring a bankruptcy lawyer can be a good investment, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without one. The U.S. bankruptcy courts do charge a court filing fee, but if your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, this fee may be waived by the Colorado Bankruptcy Court.
Collect Your Colorado Bankruptcy Documents
Getting organized early can help you feel more in control as you go through the process, so it’s a great place to start. The bankruptcy forms ask for a lot of different information. None of it is hard to figure out, but you’ll need to look some of it up.
Getting a copy of your credit report is both free and a great place to start. That, combined with any recent debt collection letters, credit card bills, and other notices from collection agencies will help you provide a complete listing of all your debts to the bankruptcy court.
To make sure your income is properly calculated, get a copy of every paycheck stub you received in the last 6 months and your most recent federal income tax return.
Take Credit Counseling
To make sure that you understand all debt relief options available in Colorado, you’ll have to take a credit counseling class. It takes about an hour to complete and when done, you’ll get a certificate of completion to give to the court. The certificate is valid for any bankruptcy case filed within 6 months from the date of the credit counseling course.
The U.S. Trustee publishes a listing of every credit counseling agency that is approved to offer this course to people filing bankruptcy in the District of Colorado. There’s one provider who offers the course in person, but if you're not near the Highlands Ranch area it may not make sense to make the trip.
There is a small fee for the credit counseling course, but if your monthly income is below the poverty level, you can ask for a waiver. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, the most you’ll have to pay is $50.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Your bankruptcy forms tell the court and your bankruptcy trustee what they need to know about your situation. Making sure that you get it right, by answering all questions truthfully, will go a long way towards helping your case progress more smoothly. The Colorado Bankruptcy Court has published a form packet that includes all the forms you need to complete when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the District of Colorado. The bankruptcy court also offers Pro Se Clinics to people thinking about filing bankruptcy in Colorado without an attorney, but these clinics are not designed to help you complete the forms.
If you hire a bankruptcy lawyer, their office will do the majority of the legwork related to inputting your information correctly. You can also hire a bankruptcy petition preparer (or BPP) to help you. But, remember they’re not allowed to give you legal advice and don’t hire anyone on this list of BPPs that are not allowed to assist folks filing bankruptcy in Colorado anymore. If you can’t afford to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, see if you’re eligible to use Upsolve’s free web tool to prepare your bankruptcy forms.
Get Your Filing Fee
The U.S. bankruptcy court system charges a $335 filing fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. This is due when the bankruptcy petition is submitted to the court. If you’re trying to stop a garnishment and can’t wait to file your case, you can ask to pay the filing fee in installments by submitting this application with the rest of your documents. But be prepared to pay the first $125 installment within 2 weeks and follow the court’s payment plan for the rest.
If you can’t afford the filing fee even after the automatic stay protects you from wage garnishment and other collection activities, and your household income is less than 150% of the poverty line, you can ask the court to waive your fee. In that case, make sure you submit this application for a fee waiver to the court with your bankruptcy forms.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
The first thing you should print is the first page in the court's form package: A list of all the forms necessary when filing Chapter 7 in the District of Colorado. This will help you stay on track and make sure you didn't miss anything, especially if you have the different forms saved as separate files on your computer.
While it may feel wasteful not to, don’t print your forms double-sided. Additionally, even though it's important to keep all of the documents organized and in order, you don’t staple anything; that makes processing your paperwork harder on the court staff.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The majority of bankruptcy courts in the United States only allow bankruptcy attorneys to submit documents online. Traditionally, bankruptcy filings by unrepresented filers have to be submitted in person or through the mail. Unfortunately, the courthouse is located inDenver, which makes it an inconvenient place for anyone not in the Denver metro area.
Recognizing that a mailing delay can harm filers in the Centennial State, the Colorado Bankruptcy Court has developed a separate online filing system called I-File for folks filing without a bankruptcy lawyer (“pro se”).
Using the I-File system allows you to transmit all the necessary documents to the Colorado Bankruptcy Court online but having to go through the complicated online bankruptcy filing system that bankruptcy lawyers use.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The bankruptcy trustee is the person that is handling your case to make sure bankruptcy law is followed and that your creditors are treated fairly. Bankruptcy trustees are randomly assigned to cases. Among other things, the trustee verifies that the information in forms submitted to the bankruptcy court is correct.
Although the bankruptcy trustee doesn’t work for you, you have to cooperate with them. At minimum, this means you’ll have to send your most recent federal income tax return to your case trustee no later than one week before your 341 meeting takes place. Many trustees across the United States also request additional information, like bank statements or paycheck stubs, during the bankruptcy process.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
To get your Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge, you have to take bankruptcy course 2. This course focuses on financial management and aims to provide you with some helpful tools for managing your finances going forward.
While it’s not really a hard deadline, most folks find it helpful to complete the course before their creditors’ meeting, so as to not forget later. If you do forget to take this course (or to file your certificate of completion after taking it) the bankruptcy court may close your case without entering your discharge first. No discharge = no debt relief.
As before, it’s very important to shop around for a provider that is approved to offer this post-bankruptcy financial management course to folks filing bankruptcy in Colorado.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Everyone filing bankruptcy has to attend a so-called 341 meeting, or creditors’ meeting about a month after filing their case with the bankruptcy court. Although the Colorado Bankruptcy Court is located in Denver, your 341 meeting will be scheduled at a location closer to where you live. You will be notified about your creditors meeting a few days after filing your case when the court sends you Form 309A.
When you receive this notice, make sure you pay attention to the date, time and location of your creditors meeting, so you don't miss it. Other than showing up, bringing your picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number is probably the most important part.
After reviewing your IDs, the bankruptcy trustee puts you under oath and asks you a series of questions. The questions are the same for everyone. Your creditors are allowed to attend your 341 meeting and ask questions, but that rarely happens. Most of these meetings are over in 5 - 10 minutes.
Dealing with Your Car
Your car plays two roles in your Colorado bankruptcy case. First, it’s an asset. As long as your car is worth less than $7,500 (or $12,500 if you or your dependent are elderly or disabled), it’s protected by Colorado exemptions. Exemptions are important for cars that are paid off or close to paid off.
If you’re still making payments on your car, federal law allows you to choose how you want to handle it. If the car isn’t worth much, especially when compared to the balance on your car loan, you can surrender or redeem it. Either way, your obligation to pay the car loan is eliminated.
If it makes sense to keep the car even with the current car loan, you can reaffirm the loan and keep things essentially the same as before your bankruptcy filing. Either way, the Bankruptcy Code gives you the option to deal with your car loan in a way that makes the most sense for you and your family.
Colorado Bankruptcy Means Test
The means test sets the income limits that determine who can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. First, the means test compares your monthly income to the median monthly income for a household of your size. If you make more than the median, you may still be able to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. You’ll have to complete part two of the means test calculation to show the Colorado Bankruptcy Court that you’re eligible for Chapter 7 debt relief.
Data on Median income levels for Colorado
Colorado 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 Colorado
Colorado 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)|
Colorado Bankruptcy Forms
The Colorado Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms can be downloaded from the court’s website for free as a single85-page packet. You can also get fillable pdf copies of all the national forms, with instructions, for free. But, if you’re not using the packet from the Colorado Bankruptcy Court, don’t forget to add this local form to your bankruptcy petition if you’re not submitting any paycheck stubs.
District of Colorado Requirements
Those filing a bankruptcy without the help of a bankruptcy attorney have to provide the court with the name and mailing address of all of their creditors in a very specific format, explained here.
If you’re making any changes - called amendments - to your bankruptcy forms after filing, the Colorado Bankruptcy Court’s local rules require that you also file a detailed notice about the changes you are making.
Colorado Bankruptcy Exemptions
Colorado exemptions protect your property in a bankruptcy filing. One of the trustee’s jobs is to sell nonexempt property - or property not protected by a bankruptcy exemption - and use the money to pay your unsecured creditors.
Colorado Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
On average, Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Colorado costs approximately $900 in legal fees. Keep in mind, however, that every case is different so you won't know how much your Colorado bankruptcy will cost until you speak to a bankruptcy lawyer about it. Most law firms offer free consultations for debt relief matters.
Colorado Legal Aid Organizations
If you can't afford to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, but don’t want to go through the process without one, see if you qualify for Colorado legal aid instead. Organizations throughout the state offer legal aid to assist low-income folks deal with non-criminal legal issues, including Colorado bankruptcy cases.
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|