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How to File Bankruptcy for Free in Georgia

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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 Attorney Andrea Wimmer
Updated March 22, 2022


If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your financial obligations and considering your debt relief options, a Georgia bankruptcy filing is worth exploring. Bankruptcy is a surprisingly common strategy for people trying to get on sound financial footing after a spate of bad luck. Even Oscar winner Kim Basinger, who used some of her movie earnings to purchase the town of Braselton, Georgia, had to file for bankruptcy after she lost a lawsuit. But bankruptcy isn’t just for stars. It’s meant to provide a fresh start and can be a relatively straightforward process if you have your papers in order. 

The steps you need to take to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Georgia will vary slightly based on which bankruptcy district you live in. So, take a second to look at the table below and identify your district.

Which Georgia Bankruptcy District Do I Live In? This is important to know as rules may vary slightly between districts. Georgia bankruptcy districts are so large they are separated into divisions.
DivisionsMy District Is…
The Gainesville Division The Atlanta Division The Rome Division The Newnan Division Northern District
The Athens Division The Macon Division The Columbus Division The Americus Division The Albany Division The Valdosta Division The Thomasville Division Middle District
The Augusta Division The Dublin Division The Savannah Division The Waycross Division The Brunswick Division The Statesboro Division Southern District

Keep reading as we take a bird’s-eye view of how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy with or without an attorney and to see if you might be ready to have your debts discharged in bankruptcy in the next year.

How to File Bankruptcy in Georgia for Free

One of your biggest questions about the bankruptcy process is probably how much it will all cost. A bankruptcy attorney is the biggest ticket item when it comes to filing bankruptcy (see more details in the Georgia Bankruptcy Lawyer section below). The good news is, it’s absolutely possible and common to file for bankruptcy without an attorney. This guide walks you through the process in 10 steps.


Collect Your Georgia Bankruptcy Documents

Gathering the documents you need early on will help you stay organized and reduce stress.  

Need to have documents include:

  • The last two years of tax returns to help report your income.

  • Paycheck stubs for the past 60 days (including the month you want to file in) to help create a picture of your income and expenses. 

  • Bank statements for the last six months. You also need your most recent statement that includes your filing date when you file your case..

Nice to have documents include:

  • Additional bank statements for the past 6-12 months will help to create a clearer picture and provide a foundation for your post-bankruptcy budget.

  • A copy of your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report every year from each one of the three consumer reporting agencies. This will help you make a list of your creditors called the creditor matrix. It might take time to get this together, but this is the list of people who will get a letter from the bankruptcy court saying they can’t call you about your debt anymore, so make sure you include everyone!

  • Creditor statements/bills like credit card bills, medical bills, and student loan statements. These will help with your creditor list.

  • Letters from collection agencies or other third-party debt collectors. This could include foreclosure and repossession notices. These will help with your creditor list.

Take a Credit Counseling Course

Once you have your documents, you’re ready for the next step: a credit counseling course! Sign up with a Georgia-approved course provider and plan to complete the course in the 180-day period before you file. There is a fee, but you can apply for a waiver if you need it. The class itself only takes about 1.5–2 hours and you can choose to take it over the phone or online. (In-person classes are not currently available due to COVID-19). Once you’ve taken the course, you should receive a certificate of completion. Keep this certificate with your other bankruptcy documents as you’ll need to submit it with your petition when you file.

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 across the country. You can download the forms for free as fillable PDFs. 

  2. Georgia bankruptcy forms: Some forms are required when filing bankruptcy in Georgia even though they’re not required in other states. They’re called "local forms.” You find find a list of required local forms by district in the Georgia Bankruptcy Forms section below.

If you’re working with a law firm, they’ll ask you questions and use the information you provide to generate your forms. If you use Upsolve’s free filing tool, you’ll answer an online questionnaire and our software will prepare your forms. 

Get Your Filing Fee

The bankruptcy court charges a $338filing fee for Chapter 7. If your household income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may qualify for a fee waiver (see the Georgia Fee Waiver Eligibility table below). The Northern District of Georgia provides a detailed overview of how fee waivers work

If you can’t pay the full filing fee and you can’t wait to file due to ongoing wage garnishment, you can apply to pay the fee in installments when you file your case. If you’re facing wage garnishment or other serious collection measures, filing a case sooner can provide important breathing room because of the automatic stay. This goes into place as soon as you file and stops creditors’ collections.

If you would prefer to submit your paperwork electronically, all three districts are currently allowing it due to COVID-19. Check the table in the next section for more detail.

If you choose to submit a paper copy of your petition, take your time to make sure you have every form you need. Once you’ve filled everything out, print each form on regular letter-size paper, one side only, in black ink. Sign where needed. Then make a copy for your own records. If you use the Upsolve tool to file, you’ll receive your forms in a downloadable packet with dividers where you need to sign.

File Your Forms With the Georgia Bankruptcy Court

Once you have everything ready, it’s time to give the documents to the court and officially file your bankruptcy case. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia bankruptcy courts have made some changes on how to submit the forms to the court. Make sure you check out the information for your district, so you have a game plan for filing your case.  

If you’re interested in submitting your petition online rather than printing a paper petition, here are your options depending on where you live:

  • Northern District: Debtors without attorneys are currently allowed to file by mail, drop off their petition in person, email their petition, or submit via online form. Complete details can be found here.

  • Middle District: Debtors are encouraged to submit via email or fax.

  • Southern District: Mail, dropbox, and email are currently offered. The dropbox option may be used to have someone else drop off your petition for you.

Once you’ve submitted your papers, take a deep breath and a moment to celebrate. As soon as your case is filed, the automatic stay protects you from your creditors.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

You’ll find out who your bankruptcy trustee is when you receive Form 309A from the court after you file. The notice is a standard form. The name and contact information for your bankruptcy trustee is listed on the first page of the form. 

The Bankruptcy Code requires you to give your trustee a copy of your two most recent tax returns and a bank statement that includes the date of your filing. You need to do this no later than seven days before your 341 meeting. (More on this later.) Your trustee may also ask for paycheck stubs and other documents. You’ve likely already pulled anything they’ll ask for together for your filing. Review everything you receive from the court and the trustee carefully, and as soon as you can. Your 341 meeting will go much smoother if the trustee gets the documents on time. 

Take a Debtor Education Course

You have to complete a second bankruptcy course before you can get your Georgia bankruptcy discharge. This financial management course is similar to the credit counseling course you completed before you filed. You’ll receive quite a few advertisements from companies that offer the second course shortly after signing up for the first one. It’s important to take the course from a provider that’s approved to offer it in Georgia and to take it within 60 days after your 341 meeting. 

Once you’re done with the class, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. You or the course provider need to file it with the bankruptcy court within 60 days of your 341 meeting.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The 341 meeting, also known as the meeting of creditors, is a meeting with the trustee that takes place about 30–40 days after you file your Georgia bankruptcy. You can find the exact date and time on Form 309A. One purpose of the meeting is for the trustee to verify your identity, so make sure you’re prepared and bring a valid picture ID and proof of your Social Security number. This is usually the one time all debtors are required to come to court in person, but due to COVID-19 all 341 meetings are currently being held via video conference or phone.

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 straightforward everything was. Your creditors have the right to attend the 341 meeting to ask questions about your petition, but this rarely happens. It’s totally normal to feel nervous and think about what could go wrong, but you can also take a minute to think about how good you’ll feel when it’s over.

Dealing with Your Car

If you file Chapter 7 and you have a car, you’ll have the option to keep it or get rid of it to discharge your car debt. Your choice depends on your preferences and situation. If you own your car outright, then you can keep your car as long as its current resale value is less than the $5,000 exemption (more on Georgia bankruptcy exemptions below). 

If you can afford your monthly payment and you're current on your car loan, you can choose to keep your car. Your lender may ask you to enter a reaffirmation agreement. The Northern District of Georgia has a comprehensive reaffirmation guide that can help.

If you have a car loan and you don’t want to keep your car after filing bankruptcy, you can surrender the car. If you do, the outstanding debt will be discharged in the bankruptcy. If you’re thinking of buying a new car after bankruptcy, try to wait a bit to give your credit time to bounce back so you can get a better deal on financing.  

You have similar choices if you’re leasing your car. If you’re current on payments and want to continue the lease you can “assume” the lease. Otherwise you need to return the car. Note that since you don’t own the car, you’ll list your car lease in a different place on your bankruptcy forms.

Georgia Bankruptcy Means Test

You have to qualify under the Georgia bankruptcy means test to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test is a way for the court to make sure that folks who have the ability to pay their debts actually do so. In other words, you can't make too much money if you want to get relief under Georgia bankruptcy laws. 

The means test compares your household income to the median income for a similarly sized Georgia household. If your income is lower than the median, you “pass” the test and can file your Chapter 7 case. If it’s higher, you move on to the next part of the test, which looks at your expenses and disposable income to see if you’re able to repay even a portion of your debts.

If you don’t qualify for Chapter 7, your debt can still be restructured as part of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. The Chapter 13 filing will create a repayment plan to give your creditors partial payment on what you owe.

Georgia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,633.33$55,600.00
2$5,958.67$71,504.00
3$6,665.00$79,980.00
4$8,051.83$96,622.00
5$8,876.83$106,522.00
6$9,701.83$116,422.00
7$10,526.83$126,322.00
8$11,351.83$136,222.00
9$12,176.83$146,122.00
10$13,001.83$156,022.00

Poverty levels for Georgia

Georgia 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

Georgia Bankruptcy Forms

To file bankruptcy in Georgia you’ll have to complete all the main official bankruptcy forms that are the same nationwide under federal law. Depending on where you live in Georgia and which division you file your bankruptcy petition in, you may need to submit certain local forms as well. All Georgia bankruptcy forms are available for free online. 

Northern District: Required Local Forms

The Northern District requires filers to submit a combination of federal and local forms. Local forms required for Chapter 7 filers are as follows:

You’ll also need to submit a list of creditors (sometimes called a creditor matrix), which needs to be formatted per the court’s requirements. The court also has an example document you can view to see the proper formatting.

Middle District: Required Local Forms

The Middle District only has one required local form called a Statement of Assistance form. It tells the court whether or not you got assistance filing your bankruptcy case.

The Middle District’s introductory guide encourages filers to contact the Clerk to be sent a full filing packet.

Macon Office: 478-752-3506 

Columbus Office: 706-649-7837 

Southern District: Required Local Forms

The Southern District requires pro se filers to submit a local form called Transmittal of Pay Advices. If you received pay from an employer, you’ll include your employer's name and the dates of the pay stubs or other proof of pay you’re including with your petition. If you didn’t receive any pay or don’t have proof of pay, you still need to fill out the form to explain why.

Which Georgia Bankruptcy District Do I Live In? This is important to know as rules may vary slightly between districts. Georgia bankruptcy districts are so large they are separated into divisions.
DivisionsMy District Is…
The Gainesville Division The Atlanta Division The Rome Division The Newnan Division Northern District
The Athens Division The Macon Division The Columbus Division The Americus Division The Albany Division The Valdosta Division The Thomasville Division Middle District
The Augusta Division The Dublin Division The Savannah Division The Waycross Division The Brunswick Division The Statesboro Division Southern District

Northern District of Georgia Filing Requirements

The Northern District covers 56 counties and is the largest judicial district in Georgia. If you live in the Northern District, 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 your division easy with a color-coded map. The Northern District requires certain local bankruptcy forms that are the same in all divisions. If you’re filing without a bankruptcy attorney, make sure to file the Pro Se Affidavit required in this district.

As of Oct. 15, 2020, anyone filing in the Northern District of Georgia can pay the court filing fee with a debit card or PayPal using this online system. Cashier’s checks and money orders are also accepted. If you’re applying to pay in installments you can choose the payment increments, but they need to be approved by the court.

Information on any procedural changes due to COVID-19 can be found here.

Middle District of Georgia Filing Requirements

The Middle District of Georgia has offices in Columbus and Macon. Even though there are only two offices for this district, you can file your Georgia bankruptcy forms in several locations, depending on the county you live in. If you’re filing in this district and don’t have an attorney, you’ll find a detailed overview of what you need to know on the court's website. 

If you’re 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 about 30–40 days after your filing date. Fees can be paid by certified check or money order. The installment amounts for an installment fee payment plan can be chosen by the debtor. 

Changes to court operations due to COVID-19 can be found here

Southern District of Georgia Filing Requirements

The Southern District of Georgia covers 43 counties and is broken into six 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 without a bankruptcy lawyer in this 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.

Payment can be made by money order or certified check made out to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” These payments can be submitted to the drop box via the provided envelopes on the first floor of the court. Cash is not currently accepted due to COVID-19. Further guidelines can be found here.

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Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Exemption laws determine which personal property you can keep when filing bankruptcy. They essentially protect your personal property like clothes and household goods, as well as real property like equity in your home. They also protect some sources of income. For example, child support, alimony, and Social Security often cover essential expenses. Because of that, there’s no limit to how much money from those sources you can protect with an exemption in your bankruptcy proceedings. 

Georgia has opted out of the federal bankruptcy exemptions. If you’ve lived in the Peach State for at least two years, you have to use the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. If you don't own a home, you can use Georgia’s generous wildcard exemption of up to $11,200 ($1,200 per item) to protect property that doesn’t fit in any of the other categories. Thanks to the wildcard exemption, most Georgians don’t lose any of their belongings. This is true in all three bankruptcy districts.

Georgia Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

If you’re thinking about filing Chapter 7, you’re probably wondering how much a Georgia bankruptcy attorney costs. Typically, the cost of a Georgia bankruptcy lawyer ranges between $649 and $1,500, depending on where you live and how complex your case is. Most lawyers charge a flat fee rather than an hourly rate for bankruptcy cases.

If you’re interested in getting legal advice from a bankruptcy lawyer, scheduling a free consultation with a local firm can’t hurt. If your case is complicated, investing in a Georgia bankruptcy lawyer may be money well spent. When hiring a lawyer, the cost is an important factor, but there are several other things to consider as well.

If you can’t afford attorney fees but would still like some legal advice or guidance, it’s worth calling around to see if any legal aid organizations can assist you.  

In addition to their headquarters in Atlanta, Legal Aid Atlanta serves the counties of Clayton, South Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett. Additionally, folks outside of Atlanta can turn to Georgia Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services to get help. If you’re a member of the military, the State Bar of Georgia (that's the organization that regulates lawyers) can connect you with an attorney who’s willing to provide free or reduced-fee legal services as part of its Military Legal Assistance Program.

Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.
(404) 524-5811
54 Ellis Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303

Georgia Legal Services Program
(404) 563-7710
104 Marietta Street, Suite 250, Atlanta, GA 30303-2848

Upsolve
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Georgia Court Locations

Tomochichi United States Courthouse

Tomochichi United States Courthouse
912-650-4100
125 Bull Street Savannah, GA 31401

Lewis R. Morgan Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Lewis R. Morgan Federal Building and United States Courthouse
678-423-3000
18 Greenville Street Newnan, GA 30263

Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building

Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building
912-280-1376
801 Gloucester Street Brunswick, GA 31520

Richard B. Russell Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Richard B. Russell Federal Building and United States Courthouse
404-215-1000
75 Ted Turner Drive Atlanta, GA 30303

Federal Justice Center - The Plaza Building

Federal Justice Center - The Plaza Building
706-823-6000
600 James Brown Boulevard Augusta, GA 30901

One Arsenal Place

One Arsenal Place
706-649-7837
901 Front Avenue Columbus, GA 31901

433 Cherry Street

433 Cherry Street
478-752-3506
433 Cherry Street Macon, GA 31201

Georgia Judges

Georgia Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
Middle District of GeorgiaHon. James P. Smith
Middle District of GeorgiaHon. John T. Laney
Middle District of GeorgiaHon. Austin E. Carter
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Wendy L. Hagenau
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Paul M. Baisier
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Paul W. Bonapfel
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Jeffery W. Cavender
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. W. H. Drake Jr.
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Barbara Ellis-Monro
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Lisa Craig
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. James R. Sacca
Northern District of GeorgiaHon. Sage M. Sigler
Southern District of GeorgiaHon. Edward J. Coleman III
Southern District of GeorgiaHon. Susan Barrett
Southern District of GeorgiaHon. Michele J. Kim

Georgia Trustees

Georgia Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Walter W. KelleyWKelley@kelleylovett.com
(229)888-9128
Robert M. Matsonrmatson@akin-webster.com
(478) 742-1889
Joy R. Webster31202
jwebster@akin-webster.com
James G. Bakerjgbaker@jgbpc.com
(706) 884-3059
Michael J. Bargar
(404) 873-7030
Kyle A. Cooperkylecoopertrustee@gmail.com
(770) 687-2982
Dale R.F. Goodman
(404) 996 6190
Neil C. Gordon
(404)873-8596
S. Gregory Hays
(404) 926-0051
Griffin E. Howell IIInewhow@bellsouth.net
(770) 227-4015
William J. Layng Jr.blayng@wlaynglaw.com
(404) 276-4749
John Lewis Jr.
(404) 891-0948
Jordan E. Lubin
(770)424-8281
Theo Davis Mann
770)253-2222
Martha A. Millermmiller@mmillertrustee.com
(404) 941-7360
Tracey L. Montz
(404)713-6472
Betty A. Nappierbanappier@gmail.com
(770)529-9371
Albert F. Nasuti
(770)925-0111
Tamara M. Ogiertmo@orratl.com
(404) 525-4000
Edwin K. Palmerekpalmerlaw@aol.com
(404)479-4449
Bradley J. Patten
(770)536-3381
Jason L. Pettietrustee@jasonpettie.com
(404) 638-5984
Thomas D. Richardsontrichardson@brinson-askew.com
706)291-8853
Cathy L. Scarverrusteescarver@bellsouth.net
(404)551-5142
Kathleen SteilKs@orratl.com
(404) 525-4000
Robert Traunerrtrauner9@gmail.com
(404) 520-1496
Tiffany E. Carontiffany.caron@hotmail.com
(912) 234-1215
Joseph E. Mitchell IIImitchellje@bellsouth.net
(706) 826-1808
James C. Overstreet Jr.jco@klosinski.com
(706) 863-2255
Wendy A. Owenstrustee@coastalempirelaw.com
(912) 239-9888
Joelyn R. Pirklejoelynpirkle@gmail.com
(912) 427-9067
Robert Michael Southermsouther@mikesoutherlaw.com
(912)265-5544


Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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