Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated July 28, 2020
In the nautical city of Stamford, you can take advantage of a lot of outdoor adventures. Swimming at Cove Island Park. Fishing and crabbing at Cummings Park. Plus, with 90% of residents having graduated high school, it’s a highly educated city. It was also where Jim Halpert from The Office was transferred to, and where the show My Wife and Kids took place. National statistics put the Stamford unemployment rate at 3%, close to the national average, but local surveys put unemployment at 7%. Job loss is one reason bills pile up. Medical bills and divorce are other reasons creditors call. Are your bills piling up? Do you ask yourself how your debt got so high wonder what to do? The worry of debt is more common than you think, but Bridgeport County folks just like you have decided to take on the challenge of their debt by filing bankruptcy in Stamford. You may wonder whether a Stamford bankruptcy is for you, and you may also have heard some unsettling things about it. After filing bankruptcy, most people wish they’d known the facts sooner. Let's clean up the myths and look at the facts about bankruptcy.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes away most, if not all, of your debt in as little as 4 months. Chapter 13 bankruptcy establishes a payment plan to pay down your debt in 36 to 60 months. Studies show that bankruptcy can help repair your credit score because, under Chapter 7, you can start fresh. A Stamford bankruptcy stops creditors from garnishing your pay, and studies show that those who filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy earn up to 25% more than they had before filing.
You may wonder how to file your Stamford bankruptcy. Don’t worry, you can find free help to file your bankruptcy if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Connecticut has a program to help you apply for a free lawyer. Connecticut Legal Services in Stamford also helps underserved communities with their legal issues. Statewide Legal Services is another nonprofit that helps people like you with their Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford.
Stamford Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
If you experience problems while filing bankruptcy in Stamford, you may want the help of a lawyer. If you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, things are a little more complicated, so it’s recommended that you hire an attorney to ensure the success of your case. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Stamford is between $800-$2,400 dollars. The cost depends on the facts of your case and whether you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which costs more. Most lawyers offer free consultations where you can ask questions. You can ask questions about how the costs are calculated, case strategy, and what the lawyer’s bankruptcy experience is. Many Stamfordians weigh how comfortable they are with the lawyer, and if the approach the lawyer is taking makes sense. Those who can afford to hire a lawyer typically find it worthwhile as they get the technical information and legal advice they are seeking.
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How to File Bankruptcy in Stamford, Connecticut for Free
By following the steps below, you can successfully file your Stamford bankruptcy. Others in Fairfield County have done it and so can you.
Collect Your Stamford Bankruptcy Documents
Your Stamford bankruptcy will look at your entire financial situation. It will help you in the long run to prepare and collect all the documents that have to do with what you owe, what you own, and what you make. Print a copy of your credit report. Review your credit report. Ensure you have a full list of your creditor’s names and addresses. The list should have those you owe that didn’t make the list, including the payments you’re still making to the National Independent Soccer Association for your New England season tickets. Find your W2s, pay stubs, and tax returns. You will also want recent copies of all your account statements, including bank, retirement, and investment accounts. Other documents you will need are valuations of any property you own, your car registration, and any court judgments. You will thank yourself later for taking the time to collect everything first, as these documents will be useful in completing your Stamford bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
A credit counseling course approved by the U.S. Trustee's Office is a requirement you have to complete before filing bankruptcy in Stamford. Even if you are not sure about filing for bankruptcy yet, you can use the credit counseling course to explore your options. You will explore how you spend money by making a budget and analyzing whether you have money to pay down your creditors. The course is about an hour, and if your income falls below 150% of the poverty line, you can qualify to have the course cost waived. The credit counseling course is available by telephone and online. After you complete it, you can get a credit counseling certificate to show you completed the course. After the course, many realize that repayment is not feasible and opt to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford. When you are ready to file bankruptcy, you file your credit counseling certificate with your Stamford bankruptcy documents.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
You can get your bankruptcy forms here or from the U.S. Courts forms page. When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford, you will need to describe what you make, spend, owe, and own in the 24 forms. You will be asked to go into details you may never have considered, such as valuing your costume jewelry. Whether you think an item you own is worth listing, for the best outcome keep in mind that everything you own is considered an asset and should be listed. The Court requires this information to fully assess where you are and get a full picture of your financial situation. If you download Adobe, you can type your answers into the forms. However, you complete the forms, do it thoroughly and consistently for the best chance at success in your Stamford bankruptcy.
Get Your Filing Fee
It costs $335 to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and $310 to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The Court will accept exact amounts in cash, cashier's check, or money order. If you’re having a hard time coming up with the money all at once, you can ask for permission to make installment payments after filing bankruptcy in Stamford. This allows you to make up to 4 payments, until you have paid your filing fee in full. If you can’t afford your filing fee, you can request a fee waiver from the Court. For either option, you must complete the required application and submit it with your other Stamford bankruptcy forms. The Court will decide if you qualify based on whether your income is below 150% of the federal poverty line and whether it believes you can pay the fee based on your bankruptcy forms. In some cases, the Court will deny the fee waiver but will allow you to pay it in installments. By taking care of the fee as soon as possible, you’ll be certain that your Connecticut bankruptcy has been successfully filed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Even if it seems like printing 70 pages is a lot of paper, your Stamford bankruptcy forms should still be printed one-sided. If you can’t print your documents at home, you can print them at the library. In Stamford, you can print at the Ferguson Library System and many in Fairfield County print at the County libraries. You can also use a local print shop to print, so make sure to shop around for the best price. You will need to check your Stamford bankruptcy forms extra carefully when printing outside your home to make sure they are complete. Once you review the forms, make sure to sign where your signature is required. You only need to file one copy, but it’s recommended you make a copy of your signed original. You can ask the Clerk's office to file-stamp it, and you will have a copy of everything you submitted to the Court for your Connecticut bankruptcy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You may wonder where to file your Connecticut bankruptcy. By looking at the Connecticut Bankruptcy Court's website, you can check where you need to go based on the county you live in. With other residents of Fairfield County and Litchfield County, you will file your Stamford bankruptcy at the Bridgeport Bankruptcy Court, at Brien McMahon Federal Building, 915 Lafayette Boulevard, Bridgeport, CT 06604. It is a 25-minute drive to the courthouse to file your bankruptcy paperwork. After you pass through security, the staff in the Clerk's office will review your paperwork. If they don’t see an immediate issue, they will file stamp your paperwork and file the original, officially starting your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford, you will get your case number, the name and contact information of your Trustee, and the location and date for your 341 Meeting. The 341 Meeting takes place about a month after your bankruptcy filing, so the Trustee who manages your case will need to work fast. The Trustee will request documents from you, and you are expected to send the Trustee a copy of your taxes and W2s before your 341 Meeting.
Your creditors are informed of your 341 Meeting through Form 309A. If you get a Form 309A Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case marked undeliverable by mail, then one of your creditors did not get the notice about your Stamford bankruptcy. It’s important that your creditors know you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford. This way, your debt can be discharged, and you won’t need to deal with headaches later if a creditor claims they never got notice. To fix the problem, find the correct address, mail the creditor Form 309A and amend your bankruptcy matrix. Make sure that all creditors get notice of your bankruptcy so you can have a successful discharge.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing your bankruptcy in Stamford, the Court requires you to take a pre-discharge bankruptcy course. This will be the second bankruptcy education course you take. It’s a 90-minute course that goes through planning long and short-term goals after your Connecticut bankruptcy. You go through exercises such as seeing if you can budget to save money. To satisfy the course requirement, you must take it from an approved agency. Once you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate of completion. The certificate must be filed with the Connecticut Bankruptcy Court in Bridgeport before you can have your debt wiped away. To save yourself another trip to Bridgeport, you can file it online through a specific portal available on the Court’s website.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
To get your discharge, it’s essential that you attend your 341 Meeting of Creditors. In most cases, creditors do not appear, but this will not affect your discharge, because you provided them notice that you were filing bankruptcy in Stamford. Your 341 Meeting will location will depend on whether you are filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For Chapter 7, you will meet in New Haven at 150 Court Street, New Haven, CT. If you filed your Connecticut bankruptcy as a Chapter 13, you will have your 341 Meeting in Bridgeport instead. Although it’s not in a courtroom, you will want to wear business casual. You don't need to dress up like you are enjoying fine dining at Capital Grille, but you should avoid anything too casual or too flashy. Prepare by bringing your photo identification and original social security card to the meeting. The Trustee will swear you in. Meetings only last five to ten minutes. During that time, the Trustee will ask questions about your Stamford bankruptcy filing. As long as you tell the truth and remember to take a deep breath before answering, it’ll be over before you know it.
Dealing with Your Car
With seven airports, plus the Amtrak and Metro-North Haven Line Service, who needs a car? If you have a car, your daily errands, job, or activities may have taken you down Route 1 or cruising Interstate 95. On the other hand, the City of Stamford takes driving offenses seriously as it dishes out distracted driving tickets to those on their cell phones while driving. Whether you enjoy driving or not, there is some convenience and necessity of having a car. After filing your Stamford bankruptcy, you will weigh your options to make decisions about what to do with your vehicle.
If you no longer make payments on your car and own it, there is an exemption that you can use to keep the vehicle. An exemption is what the law protects even during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford. If you want to keep your vehicle but are still making payments on it, then you can choose to reaffirm or redeem your cars. Reaffirmation requires you to be current on your payments even after filing bankruptcy in Stamford. You agree to be responsible for the debt usually under the same terms of your original agreement and in exchange, you get to keep the car. Redemption is when you and the loan holder agree on how much the car is worth and you pay that amount to them as a lump sum. Many don’t have money to make a lump sum payment and seek out a redemption lender to assist with that part. Both these options require Court approval, and the judge will warn you about the possible consequences. On the upside, instead of traveling on CT Transit (which is still a great way to ride) you can keep the car.
Many decide they would prefer to have the debt wiped away during their bankruptcy and surrender the car. It’s not an easy decision, but after informing the Court of your intentions, you can have the debt discharged in your Stamford bankruptcy.
Connecticut Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Stamford
Connecticut Means Test
Congress created the Means Test to set boundaries and make it more challenging to qualify to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy by comparing your annual income to that of other families of your size in Connecticut. Completing the Connecticut bankruptcy Means Test may be complicated, but others like yourself have done it before successfully filing bankruptcy in Stamford, so it’s definitely possible.
Median Income Levels for Connecticut
Connecticut Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Connecticut
Connecticut Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Connecticut Bankruptcy Forms
When you fill out your Connecticut bankruptcy forms, don't underestimate your monthly living expenses on your Schedule J. Stamford is one of the more expensive cities to live in Connecticut, and it’s important for you to show the Court how the cost of living impacts your ability to pay your debts as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Stamford.
In Connecticut you can protect your property with Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions. You have the choice between federal or Connecticut bankruptcy exemptions. You have the option to pick whichever exemptions suit your situation best.