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 Denver, Colorado.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 17, 2020
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy both allow filers to achieve a fresh financial start. One of the main differences between these two types of consumer bankruptcy is that while filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires an attorney’s assistance, many filers can successfully prepare a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case on their own.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
The courts keep the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process straightforward primarily because most people who are permitted to seek this form of debt relief can’t afford expensive legal help. Not everyone is eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Only members of low-income households can apply for this form of debt relief. Because most low-income filers can’t afford an attorney’s help when they’re faced with filing bankruptcy, the courts keep the filing process straightforward enough that individuals can file on their own if they choose to.
With that said, not every filer benefits from the cost-saving approach of filing without a lawyer’s help. Some filers need assistance because they own unusually expensive property that they hope to protect throughout the bankruptcy process or their finances are unusually complex. Others prefer to minimize their stress by seeking help. Some filers with disabilities also prefer to have professional assistance. You can choose to work with an attorney or to file on your own. Both approaches are equally valid and can be equally successful.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
If you earn too much money to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains a viable option. Although you’ll need a lawyer’s assistance to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy (which is far more complex than Chapter 7 bankruptcy is), there’s no need to panic about affording your lawyer’s fees. Most of the time, at least some of the legal fees are integrated into a filer’s 3-5 year Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan. As a result, you’ll be able to pay your attorney using funds that would have been used to repay your other unsecured creditors, no matter what.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
As filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without professional assistance isn’t the right option for everyone, it’s important to know that free legal services are available for those who qualify. Legal aid societies assist filers who are members of particularly low-income households.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
You’ll have a similar experience working with a legal aid society as you would working with a bankruptcy law office. The primary differences between these two experiences are eligibility screenings and waitlists. Legal aid societies are non-profit enterprises, so they don’t always have enough resources to meet demand. Therefore, before you meet one-on-one with an attorney, you’ll be screened to ensure that you meet the organization’s eligibility criteria and you may be placed on a waitlist before a staff or volunteer attorney has the workload capacity to take on your case.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Just as every law firm is different, so is every legal aid society. Each has its own protocols, processes, and eligibility criteria. As a result, you’ll want to call any specific organization that interests you to clarify whether you meet their eligibility standards. Most organizations assist, at minimum, members of households that report an annual income that is below 125% of the poverty line. This is the minimum eligibility standard set by theLegal Services Corporation, which funds many of the legal aid societies located in Colorado and throughout the U.S.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Using the phone numbers and additional contact information listed below, feel free to call as many legal aid societies in the Denver area as you need to, if working with a legal aid organization interests you. Not all may be able to accommodate your case, but one or more might. You’ll never know until you call.
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Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Did you know that you can schedule an initial consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer risk-free and probably at no cost? Most consumer bankruptcy law firms provide prospective clients with free consultations. These meetings are risk-free because they don’t obligate participants to work with the firm nor do they obligate participants to file bankruptcy. You can schedule a free consultation with a law office that provides this service, even if you think you might file on your own. When you meet with an attorney (not a paralegal) you only commit your time. In return, you can receive a case evaluation and ask questions at no charge.
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) features a “find an attorney” page on its website. Here, you can find a licensed consumer bankruptcy attorney located anywhere in the United States. To find a licensed attorney in your area, you can also check in with local bar associations or the Colorado State Bar Association. Friends and family who have previously filed for bankruptcy might also be able to provide a good recommendation.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Although there are benefits to developing an attorney-client relationship as you seek a fresh financial start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, saving money is a must for many filers. Thankfully, this process is straightforward enough that you can file on your own (“pro se”), provided you don’t have special needs that require an attorney’s help.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If the thought of filing bankruptcy without help makes your throat close up, it’s a good idea to take a few deep breaths. Filing bankruptcy pro se does not mean that you won’t have step-by-step resources to guide you. For example, Upsolve provides a free web tool for filers who have “simple cases” that don’t include joint filings. This platform is available to low-income filers who meet specific criteria. The tool provides all the bankruptcy forms you’ll need to file successfully in a single, easy to use, streamlined, and secure space. It is a free resource for those who qualify, so Upsolve will never ask for your credit card information.
Even if you don’t qualify to use Upsolve’s free web tool, you can access hundreds of guides and articles on the Upsolve Learning Center at any time, for free, without a login. Here, in addition to learning about how to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code pro se, you can learn about debt relief alternatives for managing credit card debt, how to report unlawful debt collector harassment, and a host of other debt-related legal issues.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
Although the clerks employed at Denver’s bankruptcy courts can’t provide you with legal advice, they can point out the free guides that the courts provide about bankruptcy law and the bankruptcy process. You can access these free, printed self-filing materials (including guides about filing fee waiver requests and meeting of creditors requirements) any time a courthouse is open.
United States Custom House
721 19th Street Denver, CO 80202
If you’re struggling to manage your credit card debt, medical debts, and other financial obligations, and you’re unsure of whether filing bankruptcy is right for you, you can schedule a credit counseling session, at no cost, with an accredited agency in your area. A qualified credit counselor can help you make an informed decision about your debt relief options. If you’re already committed to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, because you’ve explored your options and have determined it’s the right fit for your financial situation, there are many resources available to help you prepare your bankruptcy petition successfully.
Although Chapter 7 bankruptcy is usually so straightforward that filers can successfully prepare their bankruptcy cases on their own, filing pro se isn’t the best approach for everyone. If you prefer to work with a bankruptcy attorney, there are many reputable resources available to help you find one.