Written by Attorney Jamie Lee Ruiz.
Updated January 14, 2021
Did you know that Denver has 300 days of sunshine per year? That is more days than San Diego or Miami Beach. Sunshine is a natural mood enhancer and stress reliever. But sometimes the sun is not enough, we need a little bit more help than that, especially if creditors won’t stop calling. That's where bankruptcy comes in. Filing bankruptcy in Denver will allow you to experience the sunshine in Denver in a whole new way. Although you may have some preconceived notions about bankruptcy, it’s important to know the help bankruptcy can provide you in getting a fresh financial start. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows those with more debt than they can handle to be relieved of their obligation to pay them. In most cases, you will be able to keep items necessary for basic living such as your car and home. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a repayment plan, allowing those who make a certain amount of money to repay some of their debts. If you're going at it alone, the trickiest parts of filing bankruptcy in Denver is filling out the forms and navigating the bankruptcy process. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases take 4 to 6 months to complete. Obtaining your dischargein bankruptcy will allow you to start rebuilding your credit score from scratch. You will be able to obtain secured credit cards almost immediately, eventually be able to take out loans, and put your financial woes to bed. You may think that filing for bankruptcy in Denver is a last resort, however, depending on your situation, it can be a step in the right direction to gaining financial freedom. The mark on your credit report will not prevent you from starting over, but remind you of the progress you’ve made. With the fresh start you received in your Denver bankruptcy, you may be able to attend Broncos, Avalanche, and Nuggets games all in the same year.
Denver Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
When going through the Denver bankruptcy process your first question is probably how much is this going to cost me? The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer will run you a flat fee of $599 - $1,200 for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver. In addition to the flat fee, you will also be charged $338, which is the court filing fee to file your case with the Court. The total cost will include a free consultation where you will meet with the attorney, and tell them about your debts. This is a good opportunity for you to ask the attorney about their experience representing people in debt, and how successful they have been in the past doing so.
How to File Bankruptcy in Denver, Colorado for Free
Once you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver,it will take approximately 4 to 6 months to receive your discharge. When you are granted your discharge, you are free from your debts and no longer have to pay them back. Before you can get there though, you will need to fill out the bankruptcy forms, take the credit counseling course, and attend your 341 meeting, among other things. Although this may seem like a lengthy process, follow the steps in this guide on how to file bankruptcy in Denver, and remember that the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as the Denver sun on a clear day.
Collect Your Denver Bankruptcy Documents
Luckily everything you need to fill out your Denver bankruptcy forms is at your fingertips in the form of various documents you already have. The personal documents you will need to help you fill out the bankruptcy forms are your pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and monthly bills. If you don’t have your old tax returns, no need to worry, they are available by request from the IRS website. Some of you may already take advantage of online banking and can retrieve old statements on the web and save them to your computer or print them. Monthly bills that are handy when filling out the forms are your cable bill, utility bills, cell phone bill, and getting a copy of your credit report can help you make sure you’re not missing any old creditors.
Take Credit Counseling
Of the two educational courses you will be required to take, the credit counseling course has to be taken before filing bankruptcy in Denver – sometime in the 180 days before to be exact. This one hour course will educate you on your options to deal with your debt. The course is given online by phone, or in person. The nearest local approved credit counseling agency is Money Management International, Inc. in Highlands Ranch. Once you complete the course, you will receive a certificate of completion to be filed with your bankruptcy forms. It’s always a good idea to take a copy of your certificate to keep for your own records.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out the Denver bankruptcy forms is like writing the book of your financial story. You will detail information about your income and expenses. You will list property you own, any expected inheritances, and contracts and leases you are party to. Having your personal information handy like your pay stubs and the last two tax returns will help you expedite filling out the forms. The bankruptcy forms are available online for freeand can be filled out on your computer or by hand. Utilizing your local library is a low-cost or sometimes free way to fill out and print your bankruptcy forms.
Get Your Filing Fee
Bankruptcy fees are collected by the Clerk of the Court upon the filing of your Denver bankruptcy forms. The fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver is $338. The Court understands the fact that people experiencing financial difficulty may not have the means to pay the filing fee. There are two options for those who may not be able to pay the fee. The first option is to file for an application for a fee waiver. This fee waiver is a standalone application that will be filed with your bankruptcy forms. It will require you to fill out information very similar to what was in the bankruptcy forms, like your income and expenses. A judge will decide whether your fee waiver will be granted, depending on whether they think you can afford to pay the fee in installments after filing bankruptcy in Denver. The Court also reserves the right to revoke the fee waiver if it finds that you have become able to pay or propose an installment plan instead. You have the option to propose an alternative installment plan to the one offered by filing a separate request, called a motion, with the Court. If you would like to pay the fee in installments because you’re not eligible for a waiver, you can apply for an installment plan by submitting an application with your bankruptcy forms. The process for submitting an installment plan application is the same as applying for a fee waiver.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once you have reviewed your Denver bankruptcy forms, it is time to print them out and submit them to the Court. It is a good idea to print at least several copies of the forms. Always retain one copy for your records. When printing, remember that you must always print single-sided. Another helpful tip is to sign one set of forms and make a copy of the signed forms. If you do not have a printer at home, consider visiting your local library to print the forms. The Denver area has over 20 public libraries you can utilize. WHile it may not be completely free to use their print services, it may be cheaper than going to Staples or Kinko’s.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you are filing bankruptcy in Denver, you will submit your forms to the Bankruptcy Court located at 721 19th Street in Denver. The Court's website includes a map and directions to the courthouse. Should you have questions regarding your visit to the courthouse, the Court’s phone system opens at 8:30 AM and closes at 5 PM. The Court is open Monday through Friday and closed on weekends and federal holidays. When you arrive at the courthouse, you will need a valid government issued ID to enter and will be screened through security. Cell phones are typically not allowed in the federal courthouse, and will be held by the federal marshals for the duration of your visit. Once you have gone through security, you will go to the bankruptcy clerk's office to file your forms. The clerk's office is where all forms are submitted and made an official record of the court. The filing of your Colorado bankruptcy case and payment of the fee will put your case on the Court's docket and generate a case number you can give to creditors when they call the next time.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing your Denver bankruptcy forms with the Court you will need to send certain supporting documents like your pay stubs, tax returns, and bank statements to the Trustee. The Trustee is an independent third party handling the case on behalf of your unsecured creditors and is responsible for verifying the information contained in your bankruptcy forms, communicating with people you owe, and selling any unprotected propertyto pay back some of your debts. The Trustee will need some time to review your forms, so it’s best to send your documents at least 10 days before your 341 meeting. At the meeting, the Trustee will ask you any questions pertaining to these forms, and then let the Court know whether they expect to make any distributions to your creditors as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing bankruptcy in Denver, it’s your responsibility to take the second bankruptcy course everyone has to complete after their case is filed. This course on financial management will teach you how to budget and plan for your future beyond bankruptcy. Like the credit counseling course, it is available online, by phone, or in person. You can often use the same provider that administered your credit counseling course, so long as it is approved by the US Trustee's office for this post-bankruptcy course as well. You will be required to take this course after you file bankruptcy as a condition of getting your discharge. This course exists to provide a foundation for good financial habits, so that you may not need bankruptcy relief in the future.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is typically the only time you will have to appear before the Trustee. This meeting gives the Trustee an opportunity to ask you any questions about your petition, schedules, or any of the bankruptcy forms you submitted to the Court. This is also your opportunity to include anything you may have forgotten in your Denver bankruptcy forms, e.g. a vacation home or timeshare, an antique collection, or a recent inheritance. As of January 2019, 341 meetings are held at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building located at 1961 Stout Street, Suite 12 – 200, Denver. In the near future, a location for 341 meetings will open in Fort Collins. Since the meeting is being held at the federal courthouse, expect the same security procedures you went through when filing your forms. You can dress business casual for this meeting.
When you arrive to the meeting room, you can expect to see the Trustee, others who have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver, attorneys, and - if they choose to come - one or more of your creditors. The meetings are open to the public, so people may come in and out of the room. You will meet with the Trustee one-on-one, and verify your identity by means of driver's license and your original social security card. The Trustee will ask you any questions he may have about your forms. Some questions the trustee may ask are:
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy before?
Is there anything you would like to include in your bankruptcy forms at this time?
Have you paid any debts listed on your bankruptcy since the time you file?
This meeting should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes.
Dealing with Your Car
There are a few things you can do to protect your car during your Denver bankruptcy. If you own your car, you will need to decide before filing for bankruptcy, what exemptions will best protect your car. Exemptions are a big part of pre-bankruptcy planning, and should be considered carefully as they are what protects your property. If you have a car loan, you have a couple of options as well. The first option is a reaffirmation. A reaffirmation agreement is when you pledge to continue making payments on your lease, with the condition that if you don’t, your lender can not only repossess your car but also come after you personally despite your Colorado bankruptcy. You can also redeem your car for its value. Redemption works when the balance of your loan exceeds the value of your car. This means you can buy your car outright for how much it’s actually worth. The last option is to surrender your car. You may consider surrendering your car as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver if you owe more than the car is worth and have high monthly payments that may be challenging to keep up even after filing bankruptcy.
Colorado Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Denver
Colorado Means Test
The Colorado bankruptcy Means Test can quite possibly be the trickiest part of your Denver bankruptcy forms. There are three key pieces of information you need to know for this form: 1) your income, 2) your expenses and 3) if you qualify for any exemptions. To simplify items one and two even more, you can use the information you filled out in Schedule I for your income and Schedule J along with the national standards established by the IRS for your expenses. Exemptions apply for those who have provided military services and those whose debts are primarily from a business venture that didn’t work out. The Guide for Debtors filing Bankruptcy Without an Attorney published by the Colorado Bankruptcy Court can provide more information about the exemptions. In order to pass the Means Test, your income will either need to fall below the state median income for your family size, or not leave you with enough funds after paying regular and necessary living expenses. If you have money left after deducting your expenses on part two of the Means Test, a presumption of abuse arises. The presumption of abuse means that, based on the numbers, you should be able to pay at least a portion of your debts over five years. If the presumption of abuse arises, you will be required to fill out a supplemental form stating why the presumption of abuse does not apply to you but it is highly recommended that you speak to a bankruptcy lawyer before doing so, as overcoming the presumption is not an easy task.
Median Income Levels for Colorado
Colorado Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for Colorado
Colorado Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Colorado Bankruptcy Forms
Some of the Colorado bankruptcy forms you will be required to fill out are the Voluntary Petition, Schedules A through J, Creditor Matrix, and the Statement of Intention. The key is to be complete and accurate. For example, the Creditor Matrix is a list of all the people you owe. A good trick here is to use your monthly bills to obtain accurate contact information. You will also be required to fill out a Statement of Intention. This is the place you will tell the Court what you would like to do with respect to debts associated with property, like your car loan or lease. In addition to the bankruptcy forms there may be local forms that have to be submitted to the Court. The Guide for Debtors Filing Bankruptcy Without an Attorney has a handy checklist to make sure you complete all the forms to file a successful Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Denver.
The Colorado bankruptcy exemptions are designed to protect your property. You use exemptions so that the Trustee does not have access to sell certain property for the benefit of your creditors. Some states give you the option to utilize either state or federal exemptions. Colorado has opted out of the federal bankruptcy exemptions, so that you may only use the state exemptions. Exemptions exist so that you may retain items that are essential to your daily life such as your house, your car, and personal items like your clothing and furniture, while going through your Denver bankruptcy.
Some notable exemptions include:
Colorado Motor Vehicle Exemption:
You can exempt $ 7,500 of equity in 1 vehicle; OR
$12,500, if the vehicle is used by the elderly or for dependent with disability.
Colorado Homestead Exemption
You can exempt $75,000 of real property; this amount increases if you are over the age of 60 and disabled.
Personal injury recoveries are exempt as personal property.