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 Aurora, Colorado.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 30, 2020
Too often, Americans shy away from filing bankruptcy because they fear that they’re “too broke” to afford legal fees. It’s important to understand that filing for consumer bankruptcy in the United States is almost always very manageable, even when filers aren’t eligible to work with a free bankruptcy lawyer through a legal aid society. Chapter 13 filers are permitted to repay fees for legal services over 3-5 years. Even better? The vast majority of Chapter 7 filers can prepare their bankruptcy petitions successfully without paying for any legal advice at all.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
How is it possible that Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers can prepare their bankruptcy cases successfully without hiring a law firm to complete this work on their behalf? The answer to this question is rooted in eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief itself. Only the lowest income earners in the U.S. are permitted to file for protection from debt collectors and debt discharge through Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The courts (correctly) reason that if these low-income filers can’t reasonably be expected to pay down their debt anytime soon that they also can’t afford the services provided by a bankruptcy law office.
So? The bankruptcy courts keep the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process straightforward and as simple as possible. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is so manageable that unless any of the following scenarios apply to your circumstances, you should be able to file successfully on your own:
You’re a small business owner
You own real estate other than your home
You own luxury property
You have a disability that makes filling out paperwork difficult without assistance
Your financial situation is unusually complex
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the type of bankruptcy widely available to consumers regardless of household income level. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy allow filers to seek a fresh financial start, but the processes progress in different ways. Whereas Chapter 7 filers can have their eligible unsecured debts discharged in a matter of months without repaying any debt first, Chapter 13 filers must successfully complete a 3-5 year debt repayment plan before their remaining eligible debts can be discharged.
Creating a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan isn’t easy. As a result, when filers try to navigate the Chapter 13 bankruptcy process without legal assistance, they tend to fail. If you’re ineligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may want to explore your debt relief options with a credit counselor during a free credit counseling session. If your personalized debt relief action plan includes a recommendation that you file bankruptcy under Chapter 13, you can work with a bankruptcy attorney to successfully achieve this goal. You’ll be able to repay your legal fees over 3-5 years via your bankruptcy repayment plan, which makes this investment manageable.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
Free and low-cost legal assistance with your bankruptcy case may be found at local legal aid societies. These legal nonprofit organizations provide eligible members of the community with access to an attorney at little or no charge.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
If you’ve ever worked with a private law firm before, you already have a good sense of what it’s like to work with legal aid. The major difference between private firms and nonprofit organizations is where they receive their funding. Legal aid societies depend on donations and grants, whereas private enterprises charge their clients fees. As a result, nonprofits tend to have more limited funding. They use waitlists for new clients to manage their resources when their services are in high demand.
Once you pass a legal aid society’s eligibility screening, you may or may not be placed on a waitlist before you can develop an attorney-client relationship with your new lawyer. Your lawyer may be a paid staff member or a private attorney volunteering their time.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
If you don’t earn much income, you’re probably eligible for free or low-cost legal aid services. However, you won’t know if you’re eligible “for sure” until you contact a specific location directly. If the organization you’re interested in working with receives funding from the Legal Services Corporation, you’ll likely qualify for help if your annual income doesn’t exceed 125% of the federal poverty line. However, this standard isn’t used by every legal aid society in the U.S. It’s best to double-check by calling organizations directly.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Phone numbers, addresses, and other useful contact information for legal aid societies located in and near Aurora can be found below. Don’t forget that each organization is independent – if you’re not eligible for assistance at one location, you may be eligible for services at another.
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Although most people aren’t eligible for free assistance from a legal aid society, anyone who wants one can schedule a free consultation from a bankruptcy law firm that offers initial consultations at no cost. In this no-risk setting, you can ask questions about your legal issues without becoming obligated to work with that firm moving forward. The only things you invest when you show up for a consultation are time and energy.
This opportunity can be a valuable resource if you have questions about bankruptcy law that aren’t easily answered by the free online and print resources discussed below. It can also be a helpful opportunity if you’re not yet sure whether you want to hire an attorney or file your bankruptcy forms on your own.
To find a Colorado bankruptcy attorney who offers free consultations, you can start your research on any of the following sites:
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
If you choose to prepare your bankruptcy case yourself, you may feel empowered by your classification as a “pro se” filer. “Pro se” is Latin for “in/on one’s own behalf.” Filing pro se isn’t the best option for everyone and it can be a little tricky at times – but it also affords you complete control over your case and will save you money in legal fees.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
One of the reasons why so many Chapter 7 filers are able to file their cases successfully on their own is that free, reputable self-filing resources can be accessed both online and in print. Using these resources takes the guesswork out of the self-filing process. For example, if you’re filing a simple case (no joint filings, etc.), you may be able to access all of your mandatory bankruptcy forms easily by using Upsolve’s free online filing tool. You can then prepare your forms on this tool’s secure platform using easy-to-understand guidance.
Even if you’re not eligible to use the filing tool, you can find answers to virtually any question you may have about the self-filing process on Upsolve’s Learning Center hub. This resource is available to everyone, is always free, and doesn’t require a login to access. The Learning Center hub features articles and guides (both general and geographically-specific) written by attorneys about the bankruptcy process. There are also articles posted on the hub that help to inform readers about the Chapter 13 process and non-bankruptcy debt management alternatives.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
Either before you begin filling out your bankruptcy paperwork or when you submit your petition with the court, check out some of the printed bankruptcy guides that local bankruptcy courts offer at no charge. You can use them to learn more about your upcoming meeting of creditors, how to request a waiver of your Chapter 7 filing fee, etc.
United States Custom House
721 19th Street Denver, CO 80202
If you’ve been hesitant to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (even though your financial situation could be given a fresh start through this debt relief option) because you’re worried about legal costs, hopefully this guide has put your mind at ease. Whether you become a client of a legal aid society, file pro se, or work with an attorney at a relatively minimal cost, any approach you take can be successful. No matter which approach works best for your needs, there are resources available to help you navigate this process in ways that make sense.