How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Delaware
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Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated February 9, 2022
It’s not just companies like David’s Bridal or Sears that can make use of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States. Bankruptcy exists to help individuals, too. Whether your mounting debt is from having unexpected large medical bills, using credit cards to pay your basic expenses because of a job loss, or anything else, bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start. Because bankruptcy is controlled by federal law, the general process for discharging your debts is largely the same nationwide. But there are some differences depending on which state and court handles the case.
We created this guide to provide an overview of Delaware Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings for individuals, including how to file your case without an attorney. While there are other types of debt relief available, bankruptcy is the ultimate method for getting rid of most unsecured debts. In this article, we’ll explain some of the costs involved with filing bankruptcy and discuss how long it might take.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Delaware
The standard filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware is $338. But if you make less than a certain amount of money, you may qualify to have this fee waived. The biggest cost for a person filing bankruptcy is often attorney fees, so this guide will explain how to file your case without hiring a lawyer.
- Collect Your Delaware Bankruptcy Documents
- Take a Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the Delaware Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your Delaware Bankruptcy Documents
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, you’ll have to fill out a lot of paperwork to explain your financial situation, including information about your debts and income. Whether you do this paperwork yourself, use Upsolve’s free filing tool, or hire a bankruptcy attorney, you’ll need copies of the following documents:
Your income tax returns from the last two years.
Paystubs from the last 60 days.
Recent bank statements from any open bank account that you have. After you file your bankruptcy petition, you’ll also need bank statements that cover the filing date.
Although they’re not required to file your case, it’ll be helpful to have copies of the following financial documents:
Bank statements from the last 6-12 months. This can help you figure out what your monthly expenses are.
Billing and creditor statements.
Letters from any third-party debt collectors or collection agencies.
Your credit report. Federal law allows you one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months.
Having your credit report lets you confirm the accuracy of your credit history. It also contains information you’ll need to give the court during bankruptcy about your debts and creditors. If you use Upsolve’s free filing tool to prepare your case, it will pull your credit reports for you.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
Before you can file bankruptcy in Delaware, you have to take a credit counseling class. The class lasts about one to two hours and explains other debt-relief options besides bankruptcy. Although there’s a fee to complete the class, you could be eligible for a fee waiver. You’ll also need to enroll in a class that’s been approved for Delaware. For maximum convenience, most of these courses allow you to attend class remotely, online or by phone.
After you’re done with the class, you’ll get a certificate. You’ll need to give this to the court along with other necessary paperwork when you file your bankruptcy. This certificate expires in 180 days, so make sure you file your bankruptcy before the certificate expires. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to take the class again (including paying the fee).
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Most of the bankruptcy forms you’ll need will be the same forms that filers across the country use. If you’ve hired a lawyer, you most likely won’t fill these out yourself. Instead, your attorney will probably have you complete a questionnaire and attach relevant financial documents. Then someone in your attorney’s office will use that information to complete the necessary bankruptcy forms.
If you’re using Upsolve’s filling tool, you’ll complete an online questionnaire. Upsolve then uses special software to generate and fill out the bankruptcy forms you’ll need. If you’re handling your bankruptcy yourself, you can download these forms as fillable PDFs from United States Courts.
Remember to be truthful and complete with all information you put on these forms. If you miss a form, it could disrupt your bankruptcy proceeding. And if it turns out you knowingly lied on any of the forms, you could be charged with perjury.
Get Your Filing Fee
To file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, there’s a court filing fee of $338, although not everyone has to pay it. If you’re having difficulty coming up with this amount of money, you’ve got two options. First, you’re eligible to have the fee waived if you’re below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. There’s a table later in this guide that shows how much income this is for Delaware filers based on their family size.
Second, you can apply to pay your filing fee in four installments within 120 days of filing your bankruptcy petition. To apply, complete Local Form 133 and submit it to the court with a proposed amount and timeline for your installment payments. You’ll notice that the first payment must be made at the time of filing and in the amount of $84.50.
The court will then grant your request as proposed or approve an alternative installment payment plan. Be careful with this option because if you miss a payment, the court could dismiss your bankruptcy case.
If you aren’t in a rush to file, it’s often best to wait and save up enough money to pay the $338 filing fee in full when you file for bankruptcy. Some people need to file their case quickly to stop a wage garnishment, foreclosure, or other collections actions with the automatic stay.
This goes into effect as soon as you file your case, and it stops all creditor collection actions. Using an installment payment plan may be a good idea if you need to file bankruptcy as soon as possible and you can’t pay the filing fee yet.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
This step isn’t something you need to worry about if you have a bankruptcy lawyer handling your case. They’ll usually print out the forms and file them for you using the court’s special electronic filing system. But if you’re handling your bankruptcy yourself, you’ll need to find a way to print out your forms because you can only file them by mail or in person in Delaware.
If you have access to a computer and printer, you can complete the forms on your computer then print them out. Because some of the forms look similar, it’s easy to get them out of order or to forget to include a particular form. So after printing out your forms, make sure you have everything by reviewing a checklist.
After printing out the forms, you’ll need to sign the necessary pages. If you’re using Upsolve’s filing tool, it will give you a packet of all your forms electronically. You can download this packet and look for the dividers that flag where you need to sign.
If you don’t have access to a printer, you can go to your local public library or an office supply or shipping store, and they can usually print out whatever you need for a fee. If you can afford it, print out two copies of your forms. This will give you something to reference during the bankruptcy proceeding to remind you exactly what forms you filed and what information you included on them.
When getting your forms printed, keep the following requirements in mind:
Don’t staple any of the pages.
Only print the forms on regular letter-size paper (8.5” x 11”).
Only print on one side of each sheet of paper.
Print out the forms in black ink on white paper; no color.
File Your Forms With the Delaware Bankruptcy Court
The District of Delaware is like most in that only lawyers can file electronically. This means you’ll have to file your forms either in person or by mail. If possible, file them in person yourself. That way, if there’s a problem, the clerk can tell you and you can address the issue then and there. If someone else drops off the forms for you or you mail them in, you won’t know of any problems until much later, and it could delay your case.
Delaware’s bankruptcy court is a federal building located in Wilmington. Before leaving, find out how parking works and don’t bring anything that could create a problem when going through court security. It’s good to bring the extra copy of the forms you printed with you so the clerk can time stamp them for you. This will indicate they’re an official copy of what you filed and also let you know the time and date of filing.
The coronavirus may alter how bankruptcy filings work, but each court has its own rules in place. For instance, you might be able to file emergency bankruptcy petitions online. To see if that rule is still in effect, it’s best to visit the Delaware bankruptcy court’s COVID-19 page.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file bankruptcy, the court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to your case. This is an independent, third-party who makes sure no one is trying to hide anything from the court or creditors. The trustee will also represent the interests of any unsecured creditors in your bankruptcy matter. You’ll need to send the following documents to the trustee:
Your two most recent federal income tax returns.
A bank statement covering the time period that includes when you filed your bankruptcy petition. If you filed bankruptcy on January 15, you’ll need a bank statement that includes information regarding any banking activity on that date.
Copies of all pay stubs for the 60 days before you filed bankruptcy.
All of these documents must be sent to the trustee at least seven days before the 341 creditors’ meeting. Most of the time, the trustee assigned to your case will send you a letter explaining exactly what they need from you and when they need to have it. When you get this letter, be sure to promptly comply with the trustee’s requests.
Take a Debtor Education Course
Even though you had to take a class before filing bankruptcy, you’ll need to take one more before the court can discharge your eligible debts. The first class relates to your debt relief options while this second class covers financial management. There’s some flexibility in when you take this class, but you must complete the class and file a certification of completion with the court within 60 days of your 341 creditors’ meeting. As with the first class, you’ll need to take it from one of the Delaware-approved providers.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Sometimes called a meeting of creditors, the 341 meeting is required for all Chapter 7 filers. It’s usually scheduled about 20-40 days after you file your bankruptcy case. Although this meeting is for the creditors, most 341 meetings only involve the filer and the trustee. At this meeting, the trustee will first confirm your identity and your Social Security number. Next, they’ll put you under oath and ask you questions about your personal finances to make sure you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Once the meeting is over, your bankruptcy discharge will be just a few months away.
The meeting often lasts less than 15 minutes, but if you’re nervous, you can review your bankruptcy forms and take steps to prepare for it. For most filers, the 341 meeting is uneventful, although issues occasionally arise. Because of the coronavirus, all 341 meetings are currently being held by telephone or video conference. But double-check with your trustee before the meeting to confirm how and when to attend.
Dealing with Your Car
Most people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy can keep their personal vehicle during the bankruptcy process. But depending on whether your car is paid off, under a lease, or subject to a car loan, you might be better off letting it go. If you decide to keep it, there are different approaches to take.
You can keep the car if you’re still paying on a car loan and the equity you have in the car is less than $15,000, the available exemption in Delaware.
You can keep your car if it’s paid off and its fair market value is less than the available exemption in Delaware.
If you’re still paying on a car loan, what you do with the loan depends on whether you want to keep the car or not.
If you want to keep your car, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender. If you choose this option, you’ll need to be current with your monthly car payment and be sure you can stay current with them.
If you want to keep your car, but its market value is a lot less than what you owe on the loan, you can redeem it. This allows you to purchase it from your lender for its fair market value. The catch is that you need to pay the fair market value in one lump sum.
If you don’t want to keep your car, you can surrender the car. This allows you to give up your vehicle without the creditor or lender coming after you for any remaining balance on the car loan after it’s sold at auction. After your bankruptcy is complete, you can work on rebuilding your credit and saving money to purchase another vehicle.
If you’re leasing a car and you want to keep it, you’ll tell the court by providing a Statement of Intentions. If you don’t want to keep it, you’ll have to contact your lessor and make arrangements to return the vehicle. Call your lessor or look at your car’s lease agreement to see how this process works.
Delaware Bankruptcy Means Test
Not everyone can use Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It’s only available to those who don’t have enough money to pay off their debts. To determine if you meet this requirement, the court will use a means test. This test works by first looking at your average monthly income and comparing it with the median income for similar-sized households in Delaware. So, the numbers used for the means test in Delaware are different from the means test in other states. If your income is more than the income limit, the court will do a further calculation to see if you’re eligibile. If you still fail the means test, you can look into filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead.
Data on Median income levels for Delaware
Delaware Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Delaware
Delaware Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
The majority of the forms needed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware are the same forms used in other states. You can find additional required local forms for Delaware online for free from the Delaware bankruptcy court. Most of these won’t be necessary, but some could be needed, such as when you’re asking the court to allow you to pay your filing fee in installments.
Delaware Districts & Filing Requirements
Most states are divided into two or more federal bankruptcy districts, and each district has its own local rules concerning court procedures. But given Delaware’s size, there’s only one District for Delaware. You can file your documents by mail or in person at the Delaware Bankruptcy Court and pay any fees with cash (exact change), a money order, or a cashier’s check.
If you’re paying the filing fee in installments, you’ll need to submit Local Form 133 along with an initial payment of $84.50. This is almost like Official Form 103A, but is partially filled out to indicate that if your installment payment request is approved, your first payment at the time of filing must be $84.50. Local Form 133 is your formal request for court approval and to determine the amount of each of the remaining three installment payments.
If you’re applying for a fee waiver, be sure to include Local Forms 101 and 102 in your application to the court instead.
Any filing requirement changes due to the coronavirus can be found on the Delaware Bankruptcy Court’s COVID-19 page.
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Delaware Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions are special rules that protect your property. The goal is to ensure you can continue living and working during and after the bankruptcy process. Exemptions also exist to prevent you from having to start from scratch once the bankruptcy is over.
For example, household items, disability benefits, job-related tools, and a personal vehicle are often exempt, at least up to certain limits. Not only would some of these assets not be worth much to a creditor, but it wouldn’t make much sense to take away your ability to work or live. And one of the last things the bankruptcy laws want to do is put you or your family in more financial trouble.
There are two types of bankruptcy exemptions, state and federal. In many states, filers get to choose which set to use. But in Delaware, all filers must use Delaware’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions, which are based on state law. Despite this limitation, some federal nonbankruptcy exemptions are still available, such as military group life insurance, military savings accounts, and Social Security benefits.
Delaware Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
In many personal bankruptcies, legal fees are the largest expense. So it’s not surprising that many filers handle their case themselves. But if you need legal advice, it might be worth looking into hiring a lawyer. Most bankruptcy lawyers in Delaware charge a flat fee, which can vary depending on the complexity of your case. If you decide to use a lawyer for your Delaware bankruptcy, you can expect to pay anywhere from $955 to $1,450. When choosing which lawyer to hire, remember to consider the cost as well as other important factors.
Delaware Legal Aid Organizations
If the idea of filing bankruptcy on your own makes you uneasy, hiring a bankruptcy attorney isn’t your only option. If you can’t afford a bankruptcy attorney, you may be eligible for free or low-cost legal assistance from a legal aid organization.
Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc.
100 West 10th Street, Suite 203, Wilmington, DE 19801
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Delaware Court Locations
824 North Market Street
824 North Market Street Wilmington, DE 19801
Delaware Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Delaware||Hon. Christopher S. Sontchi|
|District of Delaware||Hon. Kevin J. Carey|
|District of Delaware||Hon. Kevin Gross|
|District of Delaware||Hon. Brendan L. Shannon|
|District of Delaware||Hon. Laurie Silverstein|
|District of Delaware||Hon. Mary F. Walrath|
|Don A. Beskronefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jeoffrey L. Burtch|
|David W. Carickhoff, Jr.||email@example.com|
|Alfred T. Giulianofirstname.lastname@example.org|
|George L. Milleremail@example.com|