Live in Georgia and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Georgia debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Residents in the Peach State get the benefit of a generous wildcard exemption when filing bankruptcy. A wildcard exemption allows you to protect any property from your creditors even if it is not otherwise covered. When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia, a trustee is assigned to administer (handle) your case. It's the trustee's job to see if you have anything that is not protected by exemptions and if you do, the items will be sold for the benefit of your creditors. However, since filing Chapter 7 in Georgia enables you to use the wildcard exemption, most Georgians filing bankruptcy do not end up losing any of their assets. This is true in all three districts.
How to File Bankruptcy in Georgia for Free
One of the biggest questions most folks trying to figure out how to file for bankruptcy in Georgia face is the question of how much it will all cost. We'll talk a little bit more about how much Georgia bankruptcy attorneys charge and what kind of Legal Aid resources are available in the Peach State later on in this guide. For now, it is important to know that you do not have to hire an attorney when filing bankruptcy in Georgia. If you know that you want to file a Chapter 7 and do not have the ability to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you can file without one (“pro se”) to save on legal fees, either with Upsolve’s help or without it. Each one of the three bankruptcy districts in Georgia provide additional information for folks filing without an attorney on their websites. The Northern District of Georgia encourages you to watch this helpful video while the Middle District of Georgia has prepared a 12 page handout for folks filing bankruptcy in Georgia. The Southern District of Georgia similarly provides information about bankruptcy basics for folks filing bankruptcy in Georgia without an attorney.
Collect Your Georgia Bankruptcy Documents
There is a certain number of documents you will need to collect before filing Chapter 7 in Georgia. Gathering everything early on in the process will help you stay organized and reduce the stress. You will need to provide a listing of all of your creditors, so the first thing you want to do is get a free copy of your credit report from each one of the three credit reporting agencies. You also need a list of all of your assets (everything you own is considered an asset, even if it is not valuable), all the paycheck stubs you and your spouse have received in the last 7 months (including the month you want to file in) and a general overview of your income and expenses. Your Georgia bankruptcy trustee is also allowed to review your tax returns, and may want to review bank statements, vehicle titles, and deeds to real property as well.
Take Credit Counseling
Completing a credit counseling course is one of the steps every individual must take before filing bankruptcy in Georgia. The office of the United States Trustee provides a list of all approved credit counseling providers offering the required course in the Peach State. The list is updated periodically, so it is important to check whether your provider is on the list around the same time that you are taking the course. The class itself only takes about 1.5 - 2 hours and you can choose to take it in person, over the phone, or online. There is typically a small cost associated with taking this course, so when you are getting ready to file Chapter 7 in Georgia it may be a good idea to check out a few of the options out there. It's important that you are comfortable with the provider you choose, but it is equally important that you are able to afford the service. If your provider is charging more than $50, you can probably find a cheaper option. Only take the course when you are ready and have all the information you need on how to file bankruptcy in Georgia because the certificate of completion is only valid for 180 days.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
There are two types of forms when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia:
(1) National Forms: These are the Chapter 7 forms that are the same for folks who file bankruptcy in Georgia and every other state.
(2) Georgia bankruptcy forms: Some forms are required when filing bankruptcy in Georgia even though they are not required in other states. These are the so-called "local forms".
If you are working with an attorney, they will likely use software to generate both sets of forms with the information you provide to them. If you are using Upsolve, we assist you in completing the forms prior to your filing. Either way, both the national forms and the local forms can be downloaded from the court's website in all three districts. While it’s important to check for any additional requirements with the court in your district, the Northern District of Georgia provides a table listing all required forms, with links to download them for free.
Get Your Filing Fee
While it may seem a bit strange that you have to pay more than $300 when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia, or anywhere else for that matter, you do. If your household income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelinesyou may qualify for a fee waiver. The Northern District of Georgia provides a detailed overview of how fee waivers work when filing bankruptcy on their website. Some folks who are not able to qualify for a fee waiver are nevertheless able to lessen the impact of having to pay this fee by applying to pay the filing fee in installments. Make sure to include proposed dates by which you will be able to make the installment payments, otherwise the court may set those dates for you. If you are in the Middle District of Georgia a local court rule makes the filing fee due on or before the date of your 341 meeting, which is generally held within 30 - 40 days from the date your bankruptcy is filed, which does not leave you a lot of time.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When you have everything ready to start filling out the forms you need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia, print your forms. Folks that are comfortable working in fillable pdf forms can simply begin inputting everything on their computer. If you are not that comfortable, print everything out and fill it out by hand first. It will be neater (and thus easier to read for everyone) if you ultimately do type it up in the forms provided by the court, but there is nothing wrong with writing out the hard parts by hand first to make sure you are not missing anything. The court will accept Georgia bankruptcy forms completed by hand as well, so do whatever you are most comfortable with. Filing bankruptcy in Georgia requires quite a lot of forms to be filled out, so work diligently and with care to make sure you have everything you need. Once everything is ready for you to take to the court, print one set of everything for the court and make a copy (or print a second copy) of everything for your own files. Georgia bankruptcy courts will not accept any forms printed on double-sided pages. You must print all documents you are giving to the court single-sided.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Once you have everything ready, it's time to head to court to file everything with the clerk's office. Bring both copies of your forms, and provide one to the clerk for filing. Ask them to stamp your copy, so you have all the pertinent information of when you filed your Chapter 7 in Georgia on your copy. Remember, once you are done filing bankruptcy in Georgia, the automatic stay goes into effect; this means that your creditors cannot collect from you anymore. As soon as the clerk gives you your case number, you can let your creditors know that they are no longer allowed to contact you. Finally, when you plan your trip to the bankruptcy court to file bankruptcy in Georgia, make sure you know exactly where the court is located and, more importantly, what the parking options are near the court. Do not assume that the federal courthouse has any parking available for the public.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
There are a number of Georgia bankruptcy trustees and one of them will be assigned to your case by the court after you have completed all the steps for filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia. You will find out who your bankruptcy trustee is when you receive the official notice from the court. The notice is a standard form and the name and contact information for your trustee is listed under number 5 on page 1 of the form. The Bankruptcy Code requires that you provide a copy of your most recent tax return to your trustee no later than 7 days before your 341 meeting. In addition, your trustee may ask for bank statements and paycheck stubs or other documents and information in preparation for your 341 meeting. Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia means cooperating with the bankruptcy trustee. Your 341 meeting will go much smoother if the trustee knows that you are cooperating by mailing your documents in timely. That is also why, when filing bankruptcy in Georgia, it is important to keep a close eye on your mail and carefully review everything you receive from the court and the trustee right away.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
One of the requirements to obtain your discharge when filing bankruptcy in Georgia is to complete a second bankruptcy course. This course is similar to the credit counseling course you completed before you filed your Georgia bankruptcy. You will probably receive quite a few advertisements from companies that offer the second course shortly after filing Chapter 7 in Georgia. It is important that you take the course from a provider that is approved to offer the course. Once you complete your second course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Some course providers will automatically file the certificate with the court for you, others will send it to you for filing with the court. If you do not take the course and file the certificate you will not receive your discharge. The purpose of this course is to give folks filing for bankruptcy in Georgia tools to manage their finances going forward.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is a meeting with the trustee that takes place about 30 - 40 days after your Georgia bankruptcy is filed. A primary purpose of the meeting is for the trustee to verify your identity, so make sure you are prepared and bring a valid picture ID and proof of your social security number. The Bankruptcy Court's bankruptcy notice will tell you the date, time and location of your 341 meeting. The location of your 341 meeting will be determined by the division that is handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia. In most cases, the 341 meeting takes only a few minutes and most folks walk out of the meeting relieved that it's over but also surprised about how straight forward everything was. Your creditors can attend the 341 meeting to ask you questions about information in your bankruptcy schedules and statements. Remember, when filing bankruptcy in Georgia, your creditors are prohibited from contacting you directly thereafter. The 341 meeting is an opportunity for them to bring to light anything they feel is inconsistent in your paperwork. Don’t worry though, most 341 meetings are completed without any creditors showing up.
Dealing with Your Car
There are several things related to your car that you have to keep in mind when filing Chapter 7 in Georgia. The first question you have to ask is what the car is worth. When you file your bankruptcy, you have to disclose all of your assets, including your car. The value of the car will determine whether the trustee that is handling your case will be interested in it. If you do not have a car payment, then you can keep your car as long as its resale value (in its current condition) is less than the available exemption (more on exemptions below). If you have a car payment you probably don't have non-exempt equity that the trustee might be interested in. In that case, the main question you should ask yourself is whether you can afford the car payment. If it is not a hardship to make the monthly payment (or if you probably would not be able to get a car loan with a lower payment) then it may make sense to keep the car and enter into a Reaffirmation Agreement with the lender. The Northern District of Georgia has a Reaffirmation Project and provides a comprehensive guide for self-represented debtors. If you do not want to keep your car after filing bankruptcy in Georgia, you can surrender the vehicle to the bank. They can't ask you to pay the remaining balance after they sell the vehicle at auction because your discharge prohibits it.
Georgia Bankruptcy Means Test
In order to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia you have to make sure you qualify for it by completing the Georgia means test for bankruptcy. The Georgia bankruptcy means test is a way for the court to make sure that folks who have the ability to pay their debts, actually do so as part of a Chapter 13 case. In other words, you can't make too much money in order to get relief under Georgia bankruptcy laws.
Median Income Levels for Georgia
Georgia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty levels for Georgia
Georgia Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Georgia Bankruptcy Forms
In order to file bankruptcy in Georgia you will have to complete all the official bankruptcy forms that are the same in all states. Additionally, Georgia has a few additional local forms that are required to be filed depending on which division your Georgia bankruptcy is filed. All Georgia bankruptcy forms are available for free online. You should not be purchasing blank forms from anyone.
Northern District of Georgia Requirements
The Northern District is the largest judicial district in Georgia and covers the 56 counties in northern Georgia. If you live in the Northern District when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia, your case will be assigned to one of its four divisions. The county you live in will determine whether your Georgia bankruptcy case will be heard in the Atlanta, Gainesville, Newnan or Rome division. Since it covers so many counties, the Northern District makes figuring out the division your case will be heard in easy with a color coded map. The Northern District does have some local bankruptcy forms that are required regardless of which division your case is filed in. If you are filing without an attorney, it is important to file thePro Se Affidavit required in this District.
Southern District of Georgia Requirements
The Southern District of Georgia covers 43 counties and is broken into 6 divisions. The court provides a listing of each of the divisions and the counties they cover on their website. Interestingly, there is no separate disclosure for folks filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney for the Southern District. However, there is a specific form regarding your paycheck stubs to complete and file with the court. You can also request to get notices from the bankruptcy court via email in this district.
Middle District of Georgia Requirements
The Middle District of Georgia has an office in Columbus and Macon. Even though there are only two offices for this district, you are able to file your Georgia bankruptcy forms in several locations, depending on the county you live in. If you are required to file your Georgia bankruptcy in this district and you do not have an attorney, you will find a detailed overview of what you need to know on the court's website. This district does have some local forms, though none that have to be filed with your Georgia bankruptcy.
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Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions
Exemption laws determine which property you can keep when filing Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia. Georgia has opted out of the federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that when you filed your Georgia bankruptcy case, you have to use Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. If you don't own a home, you can use the wildcard exemption to protect property that does not fit in any of the other categories. Some property is protected by federal non-bankruptcy exemptions that you can claim to protect certain property. Keep in mind, however, if you have not lived in Georgia for at least 2 years, you may not be able to use the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions.
Georgia Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
If you are thinking about a Georgia bankruptcy, you are probably also wondering about how much bankruptcy attorneys might charge. Typically, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer ranges somewhere between $649 and $1,500, depending on where you live and how complex your case is. If there is anything that may be unusual about your case (maybe because you haven't lived in the same state for the last 3 years, or because you have certain assets you want to make sure are protected) investing in a Georgia bankruptcy lawyer may be money well spent because it protects you in the long term from issues that you may not even know exist until the trustee asks you about them. On the other hand, if you are below the median household income and you don't have any fancy assets you want to protect, the wildcard exemption can make filing without an attorney pretty straightforward. Upsolve may be able to help you to make sure you Georgia bankruptcy forms are in order and allow you to avoid the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer.
Attorney cost estimate: $649 – $1,500.
Georgia Legal Aid Organizations
Legal aid in Georgia includes a few organizations that can assist you when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Legal Aid Atlanta, in addition to their headquarters in Atlanta, serve the counties of Clayton, S. Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett. Additionally, folks outside of Atlanta can turn to the Georgia Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services to get help. Finally, if you are a member of the military, the State Bar of Georgia (that's the organization that regulates lawyers) can connect you with an attorney that is willing to provide free or reduced-fee legal services as part of its Military Legal Assistance Program.
Georgia Court Locations
Richard B. Russell Federal Building and United States Courthouse
75 Ted Turner Drive Atlanta, GA 30303
Lewis R. Morgan Federal Building and United States Courthouse
18 Greenville Street Newnan, GA 30263
One Arsenal Place
901 Front Avenue Columbus, GA 31901
433 Cherry Street
433 Cherry Street Macon, GA 31201
Federal Justice Center - The Plaza Building
600 James Brown Boulevard Augusta, GA 30901
Tomochichi United States Courthouse
125 Bull Street Savannah, GA 31401
Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building
801 Gloucester Street Brunswick, GA 31520
Georgia Bankruptcy Judges
|Middle District of Georgia||Hon. James P. Smith|
|Middle District of Georgia||Hon. John T. Laney|
|Middle District of Georgia||Hon. Austin E. Carter|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Wendy L. Hagenau|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Paul M. Baisier|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Paul W. Bonapfel|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Jeffery W. Cavender|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. W. H. Drake Jr.|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Barbara Ellis-Monro|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Lisa Craig|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. James R. Sacca|
|Northern District of Georgia||Hon. Sage M. Sigler|
|Southern District of Georgia||Hon. Edward J. Coleman III|
|Southern District of Georgia||Hon. Susan Barrett|
|Southern District of Georgia||Hon. Michele J. Kim|
|Walter W. Kelley||WKelley@kelleylovett.com|
|Robert M. Matsonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Joy R. Webster||31202|
|James G. Bakeremail@example.com|
|Michael J. Bargar|
|Kyle A. Cooperfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Dale R.F. Goodman|
(404) 996 6190
|Neil C. Gordon|
|S. Gregory Hays|
|Griffin E. Howell IIIemail@example.com|
|William J. Layng Jr.||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|John Lewis Jr.|
|Jordan E. Lubin|
|Theo Davis Mann|
|Martha A. Milleremail@example.com|
|Tracey L. Montz|
|Betty A. Nappierfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Albert F. Nasuti|
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|Edwin K. Palmerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Bradley J. Patten|
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|Cathy L. Scarveremail@example.com|
|Tiffany E. Caronfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Joseph E. Mitchell IIIemail@example.com|
|James C. Overstreet Jr.||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Wendy A. Owensemail@example.com|
|Joelyn R. Pirklefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Robert Michael Southeremail@example.com|