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How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Florida

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In a Nutshell

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 Rohan Pavuluri
Updated March 23, 2022


While there are other options for debt relief, filing bankruptcy in Florida is a lifeline for many people who can’t pay for the essentials to support themselves and their families. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are the most common for individuals filing in the Sunshine State. If most of your debt is unsecured debt like credit cards and medical bills, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can get you the fresh start you need in a matter of months

How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Florida

Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have to come up with the money to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, which is typically the most expensive part of the entire process. Instead, you can file your bankruptcy case on your own. This is also called filing “pro se.” This guide walks you through 10 steps to take to get the relief you need. 


Collect Your Florida Bankruptcy Documents

Florida bankruptcy laws and procedures require you to file certain documents with the court  and to your trustee after your case is filed. You’ll need these whether or not you have an attorney representing you. The documents are:

  • Your last two years of tax returns,

  • Your last 60 days of paycheck stubs, and

  • A recent bank statement. When you go to file your case, you’ll need to include a bank statement that covers the filing date.

There are other documents that aren’t required but are helpful to have as you fill out your bankruptcy forms. They include:

  • Older bank statements from the last 6-12 months.

  • A credit report — you’re entitled to one free report every 12 months from each of the three consumer credit reporting agencies.

  • Creditor statements and bills.

  • Letters from collection agencies or other third-party debt collectors.

Take Credit Counseling

Before you can file your bankruptcy forms in Florida, you have to take a credit counseling course.

Here are some important things to know about this course:

  • The course has to be completed in the 180 days before you file your case.

  • It’s not free, but you may be able to take it online for as little as $10, or you may be able to have the fee waived altogether.

  • You must take the course from an approved credit counseling provider for Florida.

  • You need to submit the course certificate of completion to the court along with the rest of your paperwork when you file your case.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

When you have all of your information ready, you can fill out your bankruptcy forms. These forms are mostly the same nationwide because they’re federal forms. If you’re filing on your own, you can access your bankruptcy forms for free as fillable PDFs at USCOURTS.gov

If you’re working with a law firm, you’ll have the opportunity to fill out paperwork for the attorney that addresses your personal financial situation. They’ll ask you about your monthly income, expenses, personal property, real property, debts, and other personal financial information. Then they’ll fill out your bankruptcy forms for you. If you file using Upsolve’s filing tool you’ll answer a questionnaire and our software will generate your forms based on the answers you provide. 

Get Your Filing Fee

Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers have to pay a $338filing fee to the bankruptcy court. This fee is the same throughout the United States. If you can’t pay the fee, you can request a fee waiver from the court. To qualify for a waiver, your income must be less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. See the Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility table below. 

If you need to file quickly but you can’t yet pay the full fee, you can make a down payment toward the filing fee and ask to pay the rest in installments. The Florida bankruptcy court will tell you how much the down payment and installments will be. Some filers choose to do this if they’re facing wage garnishment or other serious collection measures. As soon as you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect, and the wage garnishment will stop. The one risk to this is that if you miss a payment, the court can dismiss your case without a refund.

So if you don't have to file quickly, wait until you have the full filing fee. That way you don’t risk a dismissal later if you’re late with a payment.

Most people who file for bankruptcy in Florida 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 can go to a local copy shop or public library and print your forms there. Unfortunately, the Florida Bankruptcy Courts don’t allow filers to use the printers at the courthouse. 

Other important things to remember:

  • Use regular, letter-size paper.

  • Forms must be on white paper with black ink only.

  • Do not print double-sided.

  • Sign in all necessary spots.

  • Double-check that you’ve printed everything. Using a checklist can be helpful.

If you use Upsolve to file for bankruptcy, you’ll receive all your forms in a single downloadable packet. All the places you need to sign will be flagged. 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.

File Your Forms With the Florida Bankruptcy Court

At this time, only attorneys are allowed to file online in Florida. If you’re filing without an attorney, you’ll need to print out your forms, then hand-deliver them to the bankruptcy court or mail in your forms. If the courthouse isn’t too far away, it’s good to file your bankruptcy case in person. That way, if there’s an error in your paperwork, the clerk at the court can tell you and you may be able to fix the problem immediately. 

Also, remember this is a federal courthouse, so be prepared for extra security and dress appropriately. Before heading to the court, check to see if there have been changes made due to COVID-19.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

After you file your bankruptcy petition, the court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to your case. You can find the name and contact information of your bankruptcy trustee on Official Form 309A. You’ll receive this form from the court within 1-2 weeks of filing your case. 

The trustee’s job is to verify the information you provided on your bankruptcy paperwork. For them to do this successfully, you must give them some information. You’re required to send the following documents to your trustee at least seven days before your meeting of creditors

  • Your federal income tax return for the last two years, and

  • A bank statement that is good through, at the very least, the date you filed for bankruptcy.

If your trustee requests additional documents, you need to send those as well. If you don’t hear from your bankruptcy trustee within 2-3 weeks of filing, it’s OK to contact their office to ask if they’ll want to see any additional paperwork.

Take a Debtor Education Course

It’s time to take another course! This course is known as the post-filing course or the debtor education course. It teaches financial management skills like budgeting, so you can get the most from your fresh start. 

People filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida have the option of taking this course on the phone, over the internet, or in person. It doesn’t matter as long as it's taken from an approved provider and within 60 days after the creditors’ meeting. You have to file the certificate of completion with the court in the same timeframe.  If you don’t, you won’t be eligible for a discharge. That’s the court order that erases your debt. 

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Your 341 meeting is sometimes called the creditors’ meeting or meeting of creditors. It 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.

Most Chapter 7 filers have simple cases and all their personal property is protected by an exemption. When this is the case, these meetings usually take less than 10 minutes. As long as you’re honest on your bankruptcy forms, you have nothing to worry about. We have a video to help you prepare for your 341 meeting. It runs through the general questions that the bankruptcy trustee will ask. Once your meeting is complete, you should receive your discharge within 60-90 days.

Take note that all 341 meetings are currently being held remotely as a COVID-19 measure. However, this hasn’t been adopted as a standard practice.

Dealing with Your Car

If you have a car, you need to list it on your bankruptcy forms. Even if you don’t drive the car every day or you don’t consider the car “your car,” if 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 depends on a few factors, including:

  • How much your car is worth, 

  • Whether you own it outright or are financing it, and 

  • What exemptions you use. In Florida, the vehicle exemption covers up to $1,000 of equity you have in your car. We’ll discuss exemptions more later. 

If you’re financing your car, you have a few options to deal with your car loan. If your payments are current, you can reaffirm your car loan. If you reaffirm the loan, everything essentially stays the same. You keep the car and keep paying on the loan.

You can also choose to redeem or surrender your car. Redeeming the car means you pay the car’s fair market value as one lump sum to the lender. If the value is lower than the amount you own on the loan, the remainder will be discharged as part of the bankruptcy. 

If you surrender your car, you give it back to the lender and the remaining loan debt will be discharged in the bankruptcy. If you can’t afford your current monthly payments or you’re underwater on your car loan, you may want to consider this option. Keep in mind, you can always purchase another car after your bankruptcy is over.

Leased vehicles are treated differently than those you own or are financing. They still need to be listed in your bankruptcy paperwork, but they are listed on Schedule G instead of Schedule B. That’s where financed cars are listed. If you have a leased car, you can choose to keep the lease or get rid of it.

Florida Bankruptcy Means Test

The Florida bankruptcy means test is an income test you take to see if you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your average monthly household income is less than the state’s median income for a same-sized household, you pass the test and are eligible to file Chapter 7. If your income is over the income limit, you can move on to part two of the means test. This looks at your expenses and disposable income to determine your eligibility.

If you aren’t eligible to file Chapter 7, you can look into filing a Chapter 13 case instead. This type of bankruptcy puts filers on a 3-5 year repayment plan.

Median Income Levels for Florida

Florida Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,640.08$55,681.00
2$5,823.67$69,884.00
3$6,254.75$75,057.00
4$7,433.83$89,206.00
5$8,258.83$99,106.00
6$9,083.83$109,006.00
7$9,908.83$118,906.00
8$10,733.83$128,806.00
9$11,558.83$138,706.00
10$12,383.83$148,606.00

Poverty levels for Florida

Florida Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2022

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

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
1$1,132.50$1,698.75
2$1,525.83$2,288.75
3$1,919.17$2,878.75
4$2,312.50$3,468.75
5$2,705.83$4,058.75
6$3,099.17$4,648.75
7$3,492.50$5,238.75
8$3,885.83$5,828.75
9$4,279.17$6,418.75
10$4,672.50$7,008.75

Florida Bankruptcy Forms

Since the Bankruptcy Code is a federal law, filers everywhere use the same federal bankruptcy forms. The Florida bankruptcy court districts also require filers to fill out and submit some local forms along with the national bankruptcy forms.

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Florida Districts & Filing Requirements

Florida’s Bankruptcy Court is split into three distinct bankruptcy districts: the Northern District, the Middle District, and the Southern District. Each district has its own requirements.

Northern District of Florida Requirements

You can file your case in the Northern District at the bankruptcy courts in Tallahassee and Pensacola. This district is further divided into four divisions — Gainesville, Panama City, Pensacola, and Tallahassee — that serve 23 counties. The district also provides a guide for people filing without an attorney and important information about fees. You can pay the filing fee with a money order, cashier’s check, or debit card.

The Northern District of Florida has no special local forms, but you’re expected to keep copies of your bankruptcy forms and the supporting documents. You must also file your pay stubs along with your bankruptcy petition. 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. The Northern District of Florida also has detailed instructions on how to prepare the creditor matrix that you have to submit along with your other bankruptcy forms. 

Before you go to court to file your case, check the latest COVID-19 measures.

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 covers 35 counties. It provides detailed instructions on how to file a Chapter 7 without a bankruptcy attorney, as well as important information regarding fees. Filers must pay the filing fee with a cashier’s check or money order. 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 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 people filing on their own. 

The Middle District of Florida has no special forms.

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 includes Broward, Highlands, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie counties. The district has courthouses located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.

The Southern District of Florida provides extensive instructions for filing without an attorney. You can pay the filing fee with a money order, cashier’s check, or debit card. If you plan on paying your court filing fee in installments, note that this district requires the use of Local Form LF-03 for this purpose. All filers seeking to pay their court filing fee in installments have to pay no less than half ($169) of the $338 at the time of filing.

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 form 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.”

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

Bankruptcy exemptions allow filers to keep personal property like household goods and real property like a home up to a certain dollar amount. Exemptions essentially protect bankruptcy filers from losing everything and having to start over completely. Most Chapter 7 filers get to keep all their property.

Florida residents who’ve lived in the state at least two years prior to filing for bankruptcy must use the state exemptions rather than the federal exemptions. Homeowners are often excited to learn that under Florida bankruptcy law, the homestead exemption is unlimited. This means that no matter how much equity you have in your home, it’s protected. Certain types of income, including alimony, child support, and Social Security benefits, are also protected. 

Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

Florida bankruptcy lawyers typically charge a flat fee for their legal services. The cost varies from $999-$1500. If you want to hire a lawyer to help you with your bankruptcy proceeding, the difficulty of your case will be a major factor in what you pay. Though you can file a simple Chapter 7 case on your own, if your case is complicated because you have a lot of non-exempt property or secured debts like a home or car you wish you keep, you may benefit from legal help.

Cost isn’t the only thing to consider when choosing a bankruptcy attorney. You also want to consider their expertise and experience and how well you get along. Most attorneys offer a free consultation, which allows you to get a sense of their fees and how you interact together.

Florida legal aid organizations provide free or low-cost representation and legal advice to low-income families. Some programs, like Community Legal Services of Mid Florida, are large and funded by Congress through the Legal Services Corporation. Other programs may be smaller and more local. 

Overall, legal aid in Florida is robust for low-income Florida residents. Check with organizations near you to see if you may be eligible for legal help, especially if you don’t feel comfortable handling the bankruptcy process on your own. These programs usually provide help in multiple areas of Florida law, including helping you obtain your bankruptcy discharge.

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

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Florida Court Locations

The Flagler Waterview Building

The Flagler Waterview Building
561-514-4100
1515 North Flagler Drive West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building
866-639-4615
100 North Palafox Street Pensacola, FL 32502

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse

C. Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse
305-714-1800
301 North Miami Avenue Miami, FL 33128

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
904-301-6490
300 North Hogan Street Jacksonville, FL 32202

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse
813-301-5046
801 North Florida Avenue Tampa, FL 33602

George C. Young United States Courthouse

George C. Young United States Courthouse
407-237-8000
400 West Washington Street Orlando, FL 32801

United States Courthouse and Federal Building

United States Courthouse and Federal Building
239-461-2110
2110 First Street Fort Myers, FL 33901

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
(904)886-9459
Robert Altmanrobertaltman@bellsouth.ne
(386)325-4691
Gregory L. Atwatergregoryatwater@bellsouth.net
(904)264-2273
Nicole Marie Camerontrustee@tampabay.rr.com
(813) 645-8787
Dawn A. Carapelladcarapellatrustee@gmail.com
(813) 685-8694
Gene T. Chambersgchamberspa@cfl.rr.com
(407)872-7575
Carolyn R. Chaneycarolyn.chaney@earthlink.net
(727)864-9851
Aaron R. Cohenacohen60@bellsouth.net
904-389-7277
Gregory K. Crews
(904)354-1750
Richard Michael Dauvalrdauval@leavenlaw.com
(727) 362-9003
Marie E. Henkel
(407)438-6738
Christine L. Herendeenclherendeen@herendeenlaw.com
(813) 438-3833
Larry S. Hymanlarry@larryhymancpa.com
(813)875-2701
Gordon P. Jonesgordon@jaxtrustee.com
(904)262-7373
Dennis D. Kennedydan@ddkennedy.com
(321) 455-9744
Arvind Mahendru
(407) 504-2462
Stephen L. Meiningerslmeininger@earthlink.net
(813)301-1025
Douglas N. Menchisedmenchise@verizon.net
(727) 797-8384
Carla P. Musselman
(407)657-4951
Emerson C. Nobletrusteenoble@outlook.com
(407) 628-9300
Lori Pattontrustee@trusteepatton.com
(407) 937-0936
Luis E. Rivera33902-0280
trustee.rivera@gray-robinson.com
Beth Ann ScharrerBScharrerTrustee@gmail.com
(727)392-8031
Alexander G. Smith
(904)733-2000
Angela Stathopoulosastathopoulos31@verizon.net
(727)938-8775
Traci K. Stevensontracikstevenson@gmail.com
(727)397-4838
Robert E. Tardif Jr.rtardif@comcast.net
(239)362-2755
Robert E. Thomasrthomastrustee@gmail.com
(407)677-5651
Richard B. Webber IIrwebber@zkslawfirm.com
(407) 425-7010
Angela Welchwelchtrustee@gmail.com
(813)814-0836
Theresa M. Bendertmbenderch7@gmail.com
(850)205-7777
Sherry F. ChancellorSherry.Chancellor@yahoo.com
(850)436 8445
Marybeth W. ColonTRUSTEE@MARYCOLON.COM
(850) 241-0144
Karin A. Garvinkgarvin@kgarvinlaw.com
(850)437-5577
Roberto A. Angueiratrustee@rabankruptcy.com
(305) 263-3328
Michael R. Bakstbaksttrustee@gmlaw.com
(561)838-4539
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
(305)789-3598
Marcia T. Dunnmdunn@dunnlawpa.com
(786) 433-3866
Robert C. Furrtrustee@furrtrustee.com
(561)395-1840
Ross R. Hartog
(305) 670-5000
Soneet R. Kapilatrustee@kapilaco.com
(954)761-8707
Nicole Testa Mehdipourtrustee@ntmlawfirm.com
(954) 858-5880
Deborah C. Menottedmenotte@gmail.com
(561)795-9640
Barry E. Mukamalbemtrustee@kapilamukamal.com
(786) 517-5760
Leslie S. OsborneLes@rorlawfirm.com
(561)368-2200
Chad S. Paivachad.paiva@gmlaw.com
(561) 227-2370
Sonya Lorraine Salkinsls@msbankrupt.com
(954)423-4469
Joel L. Tabasjtabas@tabassoloff.com
(305) 375-8171
Kenneth A. Welt
(954) 368-6682
Maria M. Yip33131
trustee@yipcpa.com


Written By:

Rohan Pavuluri

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Rohan Pavuluri is the volunteer Board Chair of Upsolve, one of America's leading resources helping low-income and working-class families overcome financial distress. Pavuluri served as CEO of Upsolve until May 2022. He graduated from Harvard College in 2018 and was named to the T... read more about Rohan Pavuluri

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