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How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Florida

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In a Nutshell

Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have to come up with the money to pay a bankruptcy lawyer. You can file your bankruptcy case on your own (“pro se”). This guide will walk you through the 10 steps you’ll need to complete to get your bankruptcy discharge.

Written by Rohan Pavuluri.  
Updated November 26, 2021

Filing bankruptcy in Florida is a lifeline for many. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are the most common for individuals filing in the Sunshine State. Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves a repayment plan before unsecured debt is eliminated. If you’re making less than the median income for a household of your size in Florida, Chapter 7 is likely the better of the two two options. Neither one eliminates alimony, child support or student loans, though Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be helpful in paying off past due domestic support obligations

If you don’t have expensive property you’re worried about losing and most of your debt is unsecured debt like credit cards and medical bills, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can get you the fresh start you need. While getting legal advice from a bankruptcy lawyer can be a great investment in your fresh start, Florida has generous exemption laws, so filing bankruptcy without one is definitely possible. 

How To File Bankruptcy in Florida for Free

Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have to come up with the money to pay a bankruptcy lawyer. You can file your bankruptcy case on your own (“pro se”). This guide will walk you through the 10 steps you’ll need to complete to get your bankruptcy discharge

Collect Your Florida Bankruptcy Documents

First, you’re going to need to collect all of the documents required to prepare your bankruptcy petition. If you’re employed, this includes at least 60 days of pay stubs and two years of tax returns. Bankruptcy trustees sometimes ask for bank statements and, if you own a home, they’ll ask for things like your deed and a mortgage statement. It’s good to collect these documents before filing for bankruptcy. If you’re unsure of how much you owe, get your credit report from Equifax, Transunion, or Experian through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Take Credit Counseling

Before you file your bankruptcy forms, you’ll need to take the credit counseling course from a credit counseling agency approved for Florida bankruptcy cases. You can take the course online from the comfort of your own home if you prefer. But you can also take the course in person at a local nonprofit in Florida. 

The Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, Inc. in Jacksonville is one nonprofit that provides this credit counseling course in person. You can take the credit counseling course either before or after you complete your bankruptcy forms, but you will always need to take it before filing your bankruptcy petition. This course can range in cost from $10 to $50.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

When you have all of your information ready, you can fill out your bankruptcy forms. If you’re filing on your own, also known as filing “pro se”, you can access your bankruptcy forms at the U.S. Court Website. If you’re working with a law firm, you’ll have the opportunity to have a conversation with a bankruptcy attorney or a paralegal about your personal financial situation. They’ll ask you about your monthly income, expenses, personal property, real property, debts, and other personal financial information that they’ll transfer to your bankruptcy forms. If you go through the Upsolve process, you’ll be able to input this information about your personal finances on your own.

Get Your Filing Fee

Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers have to pay a $338 filing fee to the bankruptcy court. This fee is the same in the entire United States. If you earn less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines you can ask the bankruptcy court for a filing fee waiver

If you’re not eligible for a filing fee waiver, but need the protections of the automatic stay that only kicks in after a bankruptcy petition has been filed, you can ask the Florida Bankruptcy Court to pay your filing fee in installments. This allows you to file your bankruptcy petition and stop all collection actions against you while your bankruptcy proceeding is pending in the court.

Most people who file for bankruptcy in Florida will have to print about 23 different forms if they’re filing on their own plus whatever local Florida bankruptcy forms their district requires. If you don’t have a printer at your house, you should go to a local Staples or Kinkos and try to print your forms there. 

You can also try to ask around if a friend has a printer or contact your local Florida public librarian  to let them know that you’re filing bankruptcy in Florida and need their assistance with printing. Unfortunately, the Florida Bankruptcy Courts don’t allow filers to use the printers at the courthouse. If you have a bankruptcy attorney, they’ll file your bankruptcy forms with the court electronically, so you don’t have to worry about printing out the forms yourself.

Go to Court to File Your Forms  

Once you print out your forms, you can either hand-deliver them to the bankruptcy court, or mail in your forms. If the courthouse isn’t too far away, we suggest filing your Florida bankruptcy case - assuming they’re open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out the status of your bankruptcy court here.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

Most of the steps in your journey to a fresh start are done before your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed with the court. But, do you have some obligations after filing your case. The first such task is to send your bankruptcy trustee the paperwork that they request. 

The bankruptcy trustee will be assigned to your case by the court after your bankruptcy petition has been filed. They’re also the person you’ll be dealing with at your meeting of creditors. You can find the name and contact information of your bankruptcy trustee on Official Form 309A which you’ll receive from the court within 1 - 2 weeks of filing your case. 

If you don’t hear from your bankruptcy trustee within 2 - 3 weeks from filing, it’s ok to contact their office to find out what paperwork they require.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Bankruptcy Course 2 is a lot like Course 1. It’s also known as the “post-filing course” and the “debtor education course.” People filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida have the option of taking Course 2 on the phone, over the internet, or in person. Just make sure you take it from a credit counseling agency approved to offer this course in the Sunshine State.

Just like after Course 1, you’ll receive a certificate when you finish Course 2. You can submit the certificate to the bankruptcy court yourself, or you can ask the credit counseling agency to file the certificate for you. Either way, the certificate is important as it lets the Florida bankruptcy judge know that you’ve completed this step of the bankruptcy process.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Your 341 meeting, sometimes called the creditors’ meeting or meeting of creditors will take place about a month or two after your bankruptcy filing. Even though it’s called a creditors’ meeting, don’t expect to see your creditors - they rarely show up for these meetings. 

For people with a simple Chapter 7 with where all personal property is protected by an exemption, these meetings usually take less than 10 minutes. As long as you are honest when completing your bankruptcy forms, you have nothing to worry about. We have a video to prepare you for your 341 meeting, which runs through the general script of the questions that the bankruptcy trustee will ask.

Dealing with Your Car

If you have a car, the first important thing you need to do is make sure to list it on your bankruptcy forms. Even if you don’t drive the car everyday, and you don’t consider the car “your car,” as long as your name is on the title, you need to list it on your bankruptcy forms. 

Whether or not you’re going to be able to keep your car when filing bankruptcy in Florida depends on a few factors, including how much your car is worth and what exemptions you choose to apply. 

In Florida, some bankruptcy trustees do not permit the Kelly Blue Book valuation and, instead, require a valuation from the National Automobile Dealers Association. After you list your car on your forms, you have a few options on how to deal with your car loan. You’ll have to choose between reaffirming your car loan, or either redeeming or surrendering your car.

Florida Bankruptcy Means Test

The Florida bankruptcy means test is an income test used to determine who qualifies for Chapter 7 and who should be in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. If your household income exceeds the income limits, you’ll have to complete the full means test calculation to find out if you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida.

Median Income Levels for Florida

Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2022
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Poverty levels for Florida

Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2022

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Florida Bankruptcy Forms

Since the Bankruptcy Code is a federal law, filers everywhere use the same federal bankruptcy forms. Some districts - including the Florida bankruptcy court districts - require additional local forms to be submitted along with the national bankruptcy forms.

Northern District of Florida Requirements

The Northern District of Florida provides detailed instructions on how to prepare the creditor matrix that has to be submitted along with the other bankruptcy forms. If you don’t have any paycheck stubs for the 60 days before filing your case, the Northern District requires you to file this form with your bankruptcy petition. You can file your case in the Northern District at the bankruptcy courts in Tallahassee and Pensacola, depending on the county you live in.

The Northern District of Florida has no special forms.

Other Details
  • Expect to keep copies of your documents.
  • You will need one copy of your forms.
  • Expect to file your paystubs.

Middle District of Florida Requirements

The Middle District of Florida has detailed instructions on how to file a Chapter 7 without a bankruptcy attorney on its website. This bankruptcy court requires all filers to submit their creditor matrix in electronic format on a USB drive or a CD

The Middle District’s Jacksonville Division (covering these counties) requires all bankruptcy filers to participate in a telephone conference with their bankruptcy trustee before their 341 meeting takes place. This requirement applies to people filing with the help of a bankruptcy lawyer as well as folks filing pro se.

The Middle District of Florida has no special forms.

Other Details
  • Expect to keep copies of your documents.
  • You will need one copy of your forms.
Middle District of Florida Forms
  • Statement of No Payment Advices

Southern District of Florida Requirements

The Southern District of Florida also provides extensive instructions for filing on its website.

If you plan on paying your court filing fee in installments, note that this districts requires the use of Local Form LF-03 for this purpose. All filers seeking to pay their court filing fee in installments has to pay no less than half of the $338at the time of filing.

The Court includes the nine counties of Broward, Highlands, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie. The district includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. It comprises 15,197 square miles and about 6.3 million people.

In addition to the national bankruptcy forms described above, the Southern District of Florida Bankruptcy Court requires you to file your pay stubs for the 60-day period before filing. If you don’t have pay stubs for that period, you must file a local Florida called the Declaration Regarding Payment Advices. On this local form, you explain the reason you don’t have pay stubs, such as “I was unemployed” or “I am self-employed and don’t receive pay stubs.”

Other Details
  • Expect to keep copies of your documents.
  • You will need one copy of your forms.
  • Expect to file your paystubs.
Southern District of Florida Forms

Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions

Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions are quite unique. You’ll have the choice of the federal exemptions and the exemptions set forth in Florida law. Folks who don’t own any real estate often choose the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Homeowners often use the exemptions under Florida bankruptcy law because the Florida homestead exemption is unlimited in amount.

Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

The cost of a Florida bankruptcy lawyer varies widely. We’ve heard of lawyers charging only a few hundred dollars for simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. It can go up to the $3,000 range. If you’re curious to know the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Florida near you, we suggest calling a few different attorneys to get quotes, as most of them provide free consultations.

Florida legal aid organizations provide free representation to low-income families who make below a certain amount of income per year, which is usually 200% of the poverty line. Some programs, like Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, are large and funded by Congress through the Legal Services Corporation, while other programs may be smaller and more local. 

Overall, legal aid in Florida is robust for low-income Florida residents and you should check in with organizations near you to see if you may be eligible. These programs usually provide help in multiple areas of Florida law.

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
(813) 232-1343
1302 N. 19th Street, Suite 400, Tampa, FL 33605

Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc.
(954) 736-2400
491 North State Road 7, Plantation, FL 33317

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.
(386) 255-6573
128 Orange Avenue, Suite 300, Daytona Beach, FL 32114-4310

Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.
(863) 688-7376
1321 E. Memorial Boulevard, Lakeland, FL 33801

Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.
(850) 385-9007
2119 Delta Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32303-4209

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Florida Court Locations

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
300 North Hogan Street Jacksonville, FL 32202

George C. Young United States Courthouse

George C. Young United States Courthouse
400 West Washington Street Orlando, FL 32801

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse
801 North Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33602

United States Courthouse and Federal Building

United States Courthouse and Federal Building
2110 First Street Fort Myers, FL 33901

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse
301 North Miami Avenue Miami, FL 33128

The Flagler Waterview Building

The Flagler Waterview Building
1515 North Flagler Drive West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building
100 North Palafox Street Pensacola, FL 32502

Florida Judges

Florida Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
Middle District of FloridaHon. Karen S. Jennemann
Middle District of FloridaHon. Cynthia C. Jackson
Middle District of FloridaHon. Arthur B. Briskman
Middle District of FloridaHon. Michael G. Williamson
Middle District of FloridaHon. Catherine McEwen
Middle District of FloridaHon. Caryl E. Delano
Middle District of FloridaHon. Roberta A. Colton
Middle District of FloridaHon. Jerry A. Funk
Middle District of FloridaHon. Paul M. Glenn
Northern District of FloridaHon. Karen K. Specie
Southern District of FloridaHon. Laurel M. Isicoff
Southern District of FloridaHon. Jay Cristol
Southern District of FloridaHon. Paul G. Hyman
Southern District of FloridaHon. Erik P. Kimball
Southern District of FloridaHon. Robert A. Mark
Southern District of FloridaHon. Mindy A. Mora
Southern District of FloridaHon. John K. Olson
Southern District of FloridaHon. Raymond B. Ray

Florida Trustees

Florida Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Doreen R. Abbottjaxtrustee@gmail.com
Robert Altmanrobertaltman@bellsouth.ne
Gregory L. Atwatergregoryatwater@bellsouth.net
Nicole Marie Camerontrustee@tampabay.rr.com
(813) 645-8787
Dawn A. Carapelladcarapellatrustee@gmail.com
(813) 685-8694
Gene T. Chambersgchamberspa@cfl.rr.com
Carolyn R. Chaneycarolyn.chaney@earthlink.net
Aaron R. Cohenacohen60@bellsouth.net
Gregory K. Crews
Richard Michael Dauvalrdauval@leavenlaw.com
(727) 362-9003
Marie E. Henkel
Christine L. Herendeenclherendeen@herendeenlaw.com
(813) 438-3833
Larry S. Hymanlarry@larryhymancpa.com
Gordon P. Jonesgordon@jaxtrustee.com
Dennis D. Kennedydan@ddkennedy.com
(321) 455-9744
Arvind Mahendru
(407) 504-2462
Stephen L. Meiningerslmeininger@earthlink.net
Douglas N. Menchisedmenchise@verizon.net
(727) 797-8384
Carla P. Musselman
Emerson C. Nobletrusteenoble@outlook.com
(407) 628-9300
Lori Pattontrustee@trusteepatton.com
(407) 937-0936
Luis E. Rivera33902-0280
Beth Ann ScharrerBScharrerTrustee@gmail.com
Alexander G. Smith
Angela Stathopoulosastathopoulos31@verizon.net
Traci K. Stevensontracikstevenson@gmail.com
Robert E. Tardif Jr.rtardif@comcast.net
Robert E. Thomasrthomastrustee@gmail.com
Richard B. Webber IIrwebber@zkslawfirm.com
(407) 425-7010
Angela Welchwelchtrustee@gmail.com
Theresa M. Bendertmbenderch7@gmail.com
Sherry F. ChancellorSherry.Chancellor@yahoo.com
(850)436 8445
(850) 241-0144
Karin A. Garvinkgarvin@kgarvinlaw.com
Roberto A. Angueiratrustee@rabankruptcy.com
(305) 263-3328
Michael R. Bakstbaksttrustee@gmlaw.com
Marc P. Barmatbarmat.trustee@furrcohen.com
(561) 395-0500
Scott N. Brownsbrown@bastamron.com
(305) 379-7904
Jacqueline Calderincalderintrustee@gmail.com
(786) 369-8440
Drew M. DillworthDDillworth@stearnsweaver.com
Marcia T. Dunnmdunn@dunnlawpa.com
(786) 433-3866
Robert C. Furrtrustee@furrtrustee.com
Ross R. Hartog
(305) 670-5000
Soneet R. Kapilatrustee@kapilaco.com
Nicole Testa Mehdipourtrustee@ntmlawfirm.com
(954) 858-5880
Deborah C. Menottedmenotte@gmail.com
Barry E. Mukamalbemtrustee@kapilamukamal.com
(786) 517-5760
Leslie S. OsborneLes@rorlawfirm.com
Chad S. Paivachad.paiva@gmlaw.com
(561) 227-2370
Sonya Lorraine Salkinsls@msbankrupt.com
Joel L. Tabasjtabas@tabassoloff.com
(305) 375-8171
Kenneth A. Welt
(954) 368-6682
Maria M. Yip33131

Written By:

Rohan Pavuluri


Rohan Pavuluri is the CEO and Co-founder of Upsolve, one of America's leading resources helping low-income and working-class families overcome financial distress. He graduated from Harvard College in 2018 and was named to the TIME100 Next list in 2021. He is also a member of the... read more about Rohan Pavuluri

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

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