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 Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 10, 2020
It isn’t easy to find a “free bankruptcy lawyer” to help file a consumer bankruptcy petition. Private law firms ordinarily charge their clients fees because those fees are what keep legal businesses open and operating. It is possible to receive free legal services from a legal aid society, but these nonprofits have limited resources and can’t help everyone who needs assistance. Thankfully, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is such a straightforward process that individuals can almost always prepare their cases successfully without a bankruptcy attorney’s help.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
If you don’t own luxury property, multiple pieces of real estate, a small business, or are otherwise affected by extraordinary circumstances, you can choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without paying for legal advice. Unlike filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires the creation of a complex repayment plan, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is almost always straightforward. You’ll fill out paperwork that will tell the court about your financial situation and take a few required educational courses. Unless a waiver is approved, you’ll submit a minimal filing fee. You’ll also attend a “meeting of creditors.” That’s pretty much it.
Of course, it’s important to follow directions and to meet all requirements to ensure the success of your bankruptcy case. That takes work. As a result, some filers prefer to work with an attorney who can keep track of all the details and “moving parts” so that they don’t have to. That’s a perfectly valid approach. You’ll want to ask yourself whether you’re “up for” a relatively straightforward challenge before you decide on your own. However, if you don’t mind putting in a little time and effort, you can save money by filing on your own and you can do so successfully.
Note that not everyone is eligible to file for debt relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. If you earn too much money to pursue this option, you’ll want to schedule a meeting to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer about whether Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be a good option for you.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy offer filers the opportunity to achieve a fresh financial start. The primary difference between these types of bankruptcy is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for a quick discharge of eligible debts, whereas Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers must pay their debts down for 3-5 years before their remaining eligible debts can be eliminated. The creation of a Chapter 13 repayment plan is a complex process. As a result, most Chapter 13 cases fail when they’re submitted by self-filers who’ve had no professional guidance. If Chapter 13 might be a good option for you, you’ll want to speak with an attorney.
If the thought of paying for an attorney’s help with your legal issues makes your stomach drop, here’s some good news: you can repay your legal fees over time. You’ll be able to treat your lawyer as a creditor. Meaning, you’ll be able to make your legal fees payable over 3-5 years, just like the rest of your debt. You’ll probably end up paying your attorneys’ fees using funds that would have been sent to other creditors anyway!
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
If you’re eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you don’t earn much income. Legal aid societies provide free and low-cost legal services to low-income members of the community. As a result, you may qualify for free or low-cost assistance with filing bankruptcy.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
If you’re interested in working with a legal aid society, know that you may be put on a waiting list for services once you pass an eligibility screening. Legal aid societies are not-for-profit enterprises, so their resources can get stretched when their services are in high demand. Once you reach the top of the waiting list, you’ll be able to meet work on your case in a “one-on-one” capacity with a staff or volunteer private attorney.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Most legal aid societies screen potential clients based on how much income they make. For example, organizations that are funded (at least, in part) by the Legal Services Corporation are held to a specific eligibility criteria standard. They are required, at the very least, to serve members of the community whose annual household income is below 125% of the federal poverty line. However, each organization is independent, so you’ll want to call any legal aid society you’re interested in working with to ask about their eligibility criteria and screening process.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Phone numbers, addresses, and other relevant contact information for legal aid societies in and around Colorado Springs can be found below. Eligibility criteria and waitlist times vary. If one organization doesn’t meet your needs, keep calling. Another organization may be able to help you sooner rather than later.
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Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Did you know that you can ask a bankruptcy attorney questions in a confidential setting for free, even if you plan to file on your own? Check out one of these resources to find a bankruptcy lawyer in your area who offers free consultations:
Local bar association websites
The Colorado State Bar Association website
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) website
Once you find a firm in your area that provides free consultations, call the firm and ask to meet with an attorney, not a paralegal. Paralegals aren’t permitted to give you legal advice but attorneys are. This meeting won’t obligate you to work with an attorney moving forward or even to file bankruptcy. A consultation simply allows you to ask questions about bankruptcy law and allows an attorney to give you a case evaluation in a no-risk setting.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Even if you meet with an attorney in an initial consultation setting, if you ultimately choose to prepare your bankruptcy petition yourself, you’ll be referred to as a “pro se” filer. The Latin translation of pro se is, “in/on one’s own behalf.” Thankfully, filing without the assistance of a bankruptcy law office doesn’t mean you’ll have to file without access to knowledgeable guidance. There are many free filing resources available to guide you as you work through the bankruptcy process.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
Upsolve provides two free online resources designed to help pro se filers. The first is a free online filing tool. This platform only works for “simple cases,” so it’s important to check your eligibility before committing to prepare your bankruptcy forms using this tool. If you do qualify to use this tool, you’ll be able to access and fill out all of your required bankruptcy forms in a secure location. Upsolve is a non-profit organization, so we’ll never use your access to this tool to sell you anything or ask for your credit card information.
Upsolve’s other free resource, which is always available to the public without a login, is the Learning Center hub. This educational platform features articles and guides related to every step of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. You can find information on numerous non-bankruptcy debt relief alternatives and Chapter 13 bankruptcy here as well. These articles and guides are written by lawyers to ensure the accuracy of the information they contain.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
If you head to any bankruptcy court in the United States (during business hours), you can access free printed guides on the different types of bankruptcy. From guides about how to prepare for your meeting of creditors to how to hold debt collectors accountable if they violate the automatic stay, this free information is worth checking out.
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If you’re not yet sure whether you’d like to save money by filing on your own or minimize stress by entering into an attorney-client relationship with a private or legal aid lawyer, that’s okay. You can approach this process as slowly as makes sense, given your unique financial situation. It’s also okay if you’re not yet sure of whether filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best debt relief option for you. If you’re still weighing your options, consider scheduling afree credit counseling session with a certified counselor. This process will allow you to develop a personalized debt action plan.
If and when you decide to move forward with filing for bankruptcy, you can work with a trusted attorney or take advantage of reputable self-filing resources. Both approaches will help you achieve a fresh start. Neither is “better” than the other. The best approach is the one that makes sense for your unique circumstances.