Even though there is a $338 fee to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, you may be able to file your case for free. If your income is less than a bankruptcy in Delaware, you may be able to file your case for free. If your income is less than a certain amount and the court finds that you can't afford to pay the fee over time, even after filing Chapter 7 in Delaware, the court can waive your fee and allow you to file for free. and the court finds that you can't afford to pay the fee over time, even after filing Chapter 7 in Delaware, the court can waive your fee and allow you to file for free.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated December 18, 2020
The mere thought of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware may give you heartburn. This is not unusual, as a lot of people do everything in their power to avoid having to go down this route. It is also not unusual for people who obtained relief under the Delaware bankruptcy laws to wish they had just done it sooner. The bankruptcy laws exist to help the honest but unfortunate debtor get back on their feet. There is no shame in seeking these protections. Whether you made bad choices when you were young and dumb, or lost control of your finances when an unexpected expense eviscerated a carefully balanced budget, there comes a point where taking care of yourself and your family may require you to do something you never thought you would have to do. The fact is, a lot of folks who seek bankruptcy assistance have never missed a payment in their life until something went horribly wrong. With the odds already stacked against you when it comes to paying down credit card debt, everything can snowball very quickly if you miss just one payment. Delaware bankruptcy cases range from everything to multi-million dollar mega cases to cases filed by regular people like yourself. If companies like David's Bridal or Sears can take advantage of the protections available to them under the Delaware bankruptcy laws and often actually come out stronger than before, why should you continue to struggle?
How to File Bankruptcy in Delaware for Free
Even though there is a $338 fee to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, you may be able to file your case for free. If your income is less than a certain amount and the court finds that you can't afford to pay the fee over time, even after filing Chapter 7 in Delaware, the court can waive your fee and allow you to file for free.
Collect Your Delaware Bankruptcy Documents
As you are preparing to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, make sure to collect your bankruptcy documents. They will be useful in completing your bankruptcy forms, providing you valuable background information that you may not know from memory alone. Additionally, some of your bankruptcy documents, such as your tax return and some of your paycheck stubs will be needed later on in the process. Everyone filing bankruptcy in Delaware should take the time to get a copy of their credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. This will help you make sure to include not only all of your creditors, but also any collection agencies they may be working with that show up on your credit report. Remember, providing notice to your creditors is one of the cornerstones of filing bankruptcy in Delaware and that's why it is important to provide the court with the correct address for each one of your creditors. Additionally, you should gather the last 6 months of paycheck stubs, to calculate your current income, your two most recent federal income tax returns for important historical income data, and a few of your most recent bank statements, to aid in calculating your monthly expenses.
Take Credit Counseling
In order to be eligible to be a debtor in bankruptcy and take advantage of the protections of the Delaware bankruptcy laws, you have to complete a credit counseling class before your case can be filed. The class lasts about 1 - 2 hours and, in addition to providing you with an overview of your specific situation, it will outline a number of options you have to deal with your debts. The course must be completed through one of the companies that has been approved to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in Delaware. Although there are no options to take the course in person, you there are several companies that offer it either online or over the phone. Once you have completed the course, you will get a certificate of completion and, depending on your circumstances, possibly even a proposed debt repayment plan. This certificate is valid for only 180 days so, if you are not filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware right after taking the course, make sure to note the date your certificate expires. Otherwise, you may end up having to pay to take the course a second time.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Although you are the only person that can collect your bankruptcy documents and take the credit counseling course in preparation for filing bankruptcy in Delaware, there are a few options on how to go about completing the bankruptcy forms to be filed with the court. If you hire a lawyer, they will take your bankruptcy documents and ask you questions intended to elicit all of the information they will need. If you are eligible to work with Upsolve, we will guide you through the process of completing the bankruptcy forms. If you are doing it by yourself, you can get each one of the forms you need to complete as fillable PDF files online, for free. The first thing you should review is the instructions manual for the official forms needed for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware. It's important to take your time as you go through this process, and read all the instructions carefully, as you have to sign all forms under penalty of perjury before they can be filed with the court.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you make more than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you do not qualify to have the court filing fee waived. While it may seem a little strange that people filing bankruptcy in Delaware have to pay to file their case, remember, every case is different. The protections of the Bankruptcy Code extend to everyone who is unable to pay their bills as they come due as long as they are eligible to be a debtor. That does not necessarily man that it is a hardship for everyone to pay the $338 filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware. Of course, if you are trying to stay current with your payments or have limited disposable income because your wages are getting garnished, it may not be possible for you to wait until you have the full amount saved. If so, you can ask the court to pay your court filing fee in installments after your case has been filed and the automatic stay has gone into effect. If you are able to pay the full fee when you first go to the court to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, make sure to bring it either in the form of cash (exact change only), money order, or as a cashier's check, as the court does not accept any other forms of payment from debtors.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you have a lawyer helping you with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, they will submit all the documents to the court through a special electronic filing system for lawyers after you review and sign everything. People filing bankruptcy in Delaware without a lawyer are not allowed to file their documents electronically. Instead, you will have to bring your paperwork to the court in person. Technically, you can also submit everything via mail, but if possible, you should drop everything off personally. If you completed all the forms yourself and have them saved on your computer as multiple files, it's best to print a checklist like this one, so you can keep track of all the different forms you need. Even though it may feel a little wasteful not to, don't print the forms double-sided, and don't staple any of them together. It's recommended that you print a second copy of all the documents you will be filing with the court, so you know you have a physical copy of everything the court has. Once you are done, make sure to review all of the information one last time, and remember to sign where necessary, so everything is ready to hand to the clerk when you head to the court to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The Delaware Bankruptcy Court is located in Wilmington and its clerk's office is open to the public from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Since the lunch hour and the last hour of the day typically are the busiest, if you can, arrange your schedule to avoid going during these times. If you are not familiar with the area around the court, make sure to look up what kind of parking is available around it before you head out, so you don't have to worry about it when you get there. Since filing bankruptcy in Delaware is a federal matter, the court is located inside a federal building. This means you will have to pass through a security check on your way inside. If you don't have the full filing fee when you head to the court, remember to bring either an application to pay the fee in installments after filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, or, if you qualify, the application to have your court filing fee waived. Finally, if you bring your own copy of the bankruptcy forms, the clerk can stamp them for you, identifying them as an official copy of the documents you submitted to the court.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
A few things happen once you are done filing Chapter 7 in Delaware. Most importantly, the automatic stay takes effect. That is the law the prevents your creditors from contacting you while your case is pending, until the court enters your discharge. Secondly, a trustee is assigned to administer, or handle, your case. The trustee's job is to make sure no one is trying to hide anything from the court or their creditors, sell items that the Delaware bankruptcy laws don’t protect, and generally act on behalf of unsecured creditors as their independent representative in Chapter 7 bankruptcy matters. As part of their process, the trustees are entitled to a copy of the previous year's tax return you filed with the IRS, and a copy of all paycheck stubs you received in the 60 days before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware. Often times, trustees will send a letter to folks whose Delaware bankruptcy case they are administering with a list of other documents they want you to submit to their office. Even though the trustee does not represent you, you have a duty to cooperate with them and help to ensure the orderly administration of your case.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
At some point after filing bankruptcy in Delaware, every individual must complete a second bankruptcy course. While the credit counseling course you took before your case was filed was intended to make sure you knew all of your options before filing a Chapter 7 case in Delaware, this course focuses on financial management. Although there is no deadline by which to complete this course, it's often recommended that you plan to take it before your 341 meeting. That way, when that is over, you know you are done with all the things you have to do in order for the court to grant you a discharge. If you forget to take the class, or forget to file this certification letting the court know that you did, your case may be closed without it. Since the discharge is the order that tells your creditors that they cannot ask you pay them ever again, having your case closed without it being entered means your creditors are free to contact you again. Like before, it's important to take the course from a company that is approved to offer it to people filing bankruptcy in Delaware.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting, or creditors' meeting as it is sometimes called, takes place about 20 - 40 days after your case is first filed. It is the one time everyone filing Chapter 7 in Delaware has to go to court. What most people don’t realize is that it does not actually involve a judge. Instead, you will meet your trustee, who will ask you the same questions they ask everyone who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware. After verifying your identity by reviewing a government issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number, the trustee will put you under oath and make an audio recording of your answers. Since this will create an official record that can be used later in your case, your creditors are given the opportunity to ask questions as well, though this is not something that happens in most personal bankruptcies. Typically, the meeting lasts less than 10 minutes and taking just a little bit of time to review your bankruptcy documents and prepare beforehand will help you feel less nervous.
Dealing with Your Car
A lot of people are worried about what will happen to their car after filing bankruptcy in Delaware. What they don’t realize is that they will get the chance to do what makes the most sense financially after their case is filed. If your car is paid off when your case is first filed, then you only have to deal with the trustee. As long as the value (or equity, if there is still a balance left owing on the loan) is less than the available exemption, you can keep your car without doing anything else. If you were still paying on a car loan when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware was first filed, then you get the chance to decide what to do with it. If you want to keep the car, you have to keep the loan the comes with it by entering into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender. The only other way to keep your car is to purchase it from the lender for its current fair market value. Such a redemption enables you to get out of a loan with a high balance, a high interest rate, or both. However, you are generally expected to make one lump sum payment for the vehicle, so this is not an option for everyone filing Chapter 7 in Delaware. If you can't afford to make the monthly payments on the loan, and you cannot afford to redeem the vehicle, you get the opportunity to walk away from the loan and surrender the car without having to worry that the creditor can come after you for any balance left owing after the car is sold at auction.
Delaware Bankruptcy Means Test
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware is not an option available to everyone, as it wouldn’t be fair to allow people who make enough money to pay their debts to get the sweeping relief granted in a Chapter 7 case. The Delaware bankruptcy means test aims to prevent this by first checking whether your income exceeds the applicable income limits. If so, you may still qualify to file a Chapter 7, but only if the remaining Delaware bankruptcy means test calculation determines that allowing you to file would not be an abuse of the bankruptcy system.
Data on Median income levels for Delaware
Delaware Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Delaware
Delaware Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Delaware Bankruptcy Forms
The Delaware bankruptcy forms required when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware is first filed are comprised entirely of the official forms used nationwide. The court has also created a number of local forms that attorneys and people without an attorney can (and in some instances are required to) use later on in the case. All of the online bankruptcy forms can be downloaded for free for use in your Delaware bankruptcy case.
District of Delaware Requirements
The local rules for this district impose certain duties on debtors filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, including, but not limited to the requirement that you provide your trustee with a payoff amount for all of your secured debt by the time your 341 meeting takes place. Yet another benefit of filing your Delaware bankruptcy case in person is that it allows you not only to confirm that you have everything you need to initially file the case. It also gives you the chance to find out what other requirements, if any, you must complete under the Delaware bankruptcy laws and procedures in effect in this district.
Delaware Bankruptcy Exemptions
In the context of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, the term "exemptions" refers to the specific laws in place to protect certain property once a bankruptcy case has been filed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions in Delaware are based on state law. Even though you are not able to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware, there are certain federal nonbankruptcy exemptions you may use to protect property, including social security benefits, military group life insurance, and military savings accounts.
Delaware Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware ranges from $955 to $1,450. This is above the national average, but if you are having a difficult time making sure all of your assets are protected by the applicable exemptions, it may nevertheless be a good investment to make.
Attorney cost estimate: $995 – $1,450
Delaware Legal Aid Organizations
Organizations providing free legal aid in Delaware exist to make sure that even those folks that can't afford a lawyer have adequate legal representation while in court on a non-criminal matter. If you need protection under the Delaware bankruptcy laws but can't afford a lawyer, you should contact the Delaware legal aid organizations in your area to find out how you can get the help you need.
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|