Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
Living in one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the U.S. is unquestionably expensive. It’s not unusual for most hardworking and responsible residents of Atlanta to be one job loss, illness, accident, loss of a loved one, injury or economic downturn away from financial disaster simply because living in an expensive area gives you very little “wiggle room” with which to navigate tough financial times successfully. It’s partially for this reason that Georgia bankruptcy has become such a powerful and popular financial resource among residents of The Big Peach. Given that the Great Recession of 2008 destigmatized filing for bankruptcy and ultimately helped to promote its benefits, many people choose to file for Atlanta bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 when times get particularly tough.
The benefits of bankruptcy vary depending upon an individual filer’s circumstances. For example, households that benefit from a decent income are generally permitted to reorganize their debts under Chapter 13. This debt restructuring process makes monthly debt payments more manageable. After a 5-year repayment plan is complete, the remainder of eligible debts is erased. However, if you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy in Atlanta and you don’t earn much income, you may benefit even more from filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7. This process eliminates many kinds of debt in as few as 90 days and there is no repayment schedule to worry about with a Chapter 7 case. Additionally, most low-income filers who are eligible to file under Chapter 7 can navigate this process without having any of their property sold to pay back their creditors. Not everyone is eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but those who are eligible should strongly consider this option. Getting out from underneath the weight of overwhelming debt can be life-changing for you and your family.
Atlanta Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Ironically, some people hesitate to file for bankruptcy, even though it could result in the elimination of their debts, because they are worried about the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer. This is understandable, given that it’s hard to imagine coming up with the money to pay a lawyer when you’re already struggling to make ends meet. Thankfully, the Court has made filing bankruptcy in Atlanta under Chapter 7 so straightforward that you don’t need to be preoccupied with the question “How much does an Atlanta bankruptcy lawyer cost?” If you choose to hire bankruptcy assistance in Atlanta, that attorney’s services will cost you anywhere from $649 -$1,500, or more if your situation is complicated. However, it’s important to understand that you can complete this process yourself without an attorney’s assistance. The Court understands that low-income filers can’t always afford a lawyer’s help, so they made the process accessible enough that most filers can complete and submit all required paperwork themselves.
How to File Bankruptcy in Atlanta, Georgia for Free
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta might be a great option for you, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Georgia bankruptcy process before you make a decision either way. Please consider the following information about what you can expect if you ultimately choose to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7.
Collect Your Atlanta Bankruptcy Documents
The first thing you’ll need to do after deciding to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta involves gathering financial documents. When filing bankruptcy in Atlanta, you’ll need to answer a lot of questions concerning your income, debt, household expenses, and property. By gathering personal financial documents before you begin filling out your paperwork, you won’t have to stop every ten minutes to track down information requested by the Court. In general, it’s helpful to have a current copy of your credit report, pay stubs from the past several months, recent bank statements, and your most recent tax return handy so that you can reference these documents at any time.
Take Credit Counseling
Most individuals struggling with overwhelming debt don’t have advanced degrees in finance. As a result, they don’t necessarily know what kinds of debt relief options are available to them and which of those options is ultimately the best “fit” for their circumstances. The Court tries to make sure that before someone files for Atlanta bankruptcy, they understand both what this process entails and what other debt relief options may be worthy of consideration. It’s for this reason that during the six months before you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta, you’re required to participate in a credit counseling course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Northern District of Georgia. This course will give you access to the information you need to make an informed decision about your financial circumstances.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
After you’ve completed your pre-filing credit counseling requirement, it’s time to start filling out your bankruptcy paperwork. When you first access all the forms you’ll need to submit to the Court, your eyes may bug out. Yes, there are a lot of forms associated with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta. However, they are far more straightforward than they seem at first glance. Each comes with easy-to-follow directions and can be completed successfully without an attorney’s assistance. Some filers get overwhelmed by the idea of completing forms themselves. But the Court understands that low-income filers eligible to take advantage of this process often can’t afford an attorney’s assistance. Therefore, the Court tries to keep the matter of “How to file bankruptcy in Atlanta” as accessible and straightforward as possible.
Get Your Filing Fee
When you’re already struggling to make ends meet, being told that you have to pay a $335 fee to file for Atlanta bankruptcy under Chapter 7 may be enough to make you want to tear your hair out a little. It’s important to understand that not all filers actually end up having to pay this fee. Yes, filing bankruptcy in Atlanta costs $335 ordinarily. However, filers who earn less than 150% of the poverty line can ask the Court to approve a fee waiver request. When approved, fee waiver requests allow the Court to evaluate cases for free. Even if you earn too much income to qualify for a fee waiver, you can make the process of paying this fee more manageable by asking the Court for permission to make payments in installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Did you know that the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System has 34 different local branches? If you don’t have a printer at home or easy access to a printer at work, you may need to check out the library branch closest to your residence. The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts are behind the times and don’t allow individuals seeking bankruptcy relief to file their paperwork online. Instead, they’re required to physically print their forms out. This is inconvenient for many Atlanta bankruptcy filers as few American households have printers anymore. Thankfully, you can print out your forms at the library for a modest fee. Alternatively, you can head to a commercial printing service provider like Fed-Ex to accomplish this task.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Atlanta is part of the Northern District of Georgia. This District accepts bankruptcy petitions via postal mail, but if you can, it’s generally a good idea to submit your paperwork in person at the courthouse located at 75 Ted Turner Drive Southwest. When you’re filing bankruptcy in Atlanta in person, you can ask the clerk any questions you may have, get a copy of your forms stamped for your records and ensure that the Court has received your documents. The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t often lose envelopes, but it does happen. Note that if you drive yourself to the courthouse, there is no free parking available. Parking options can be found on the Court’s website.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The Georgia Bankruptcy Court will primarily reference the paperwork you just submitted when it tries to make a fair decision in your case. However, it will also appoint a Trustee to conduct a meeting with you so that it can benefit from a broader understanding of your finances. During this meeting, your Trustee will ask you questions about your financial circumstances. The answers you give will help give the Court a better sense of why you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta and how you manage your income, expenses, and debt. Once a Trustee is assigned to your case, you’ll need to forward them some documents so they can prepare for your meeting. You’ll be given instructions on where to send your recent tax returns, recent pay stubs, etc. once you learn who your Trustee is.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
In addition to a credit counseling requirement, you will need to participate in a debtor education course before your Atlanta bankruptcy case is complete. This course in personal financial management can likely be taken either online or at various locations in Atlanta. Much like your credit counseling course, this educational tool will help you to make sure that the benefits of bankruptcy allow you to have a stronger, more stable financial future. Take care that you only choose a course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for the district you’re filing in, or your participation won’t fulfill this requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Many filers understandably have questions about how to prepare for their 341 meetings. Thankfully, this process is usually predictable and low-stress, so there is no need to over-prepare. In general, these meetings only last for 10-15 minutes and creditors don’t usually bother to attend them in person unless a low-income filer’s debts are unusually complex. Expect that you’ll likely be speaking with your Trustee one-on-one and that you’ll be placed under oath before being asked about your finances generally and why you’re filing bankruptcy in Atlanta. Make sure to slip a photo ID and your Social Security card in your wallet before you go, as you’ll be asked for these pieces of identification upon arrival.
Dealing with Your Car
One of the most significant bills many Americans face on a monthly basis is the loan amount due on a family vehicle. Car payments are often very expensive. As a result, many bankruptcy filers choose to surrender their vehicles during the bankruptcy process so that they no longer have to struggle with monthly car payments. Atlanta has an extensive public transportation system, so if you’re saddled with the responsibility of making monthly car payments, surrendering your vehicle may be a feasible option for you. However, you may need to maintain ownership of your car for any number of reasons. The Court will only allow you to reaffirm your debt when you’re filing bankruptcy in Atlanta if you can demonstrate that you’ll have the resources to make payments per the terms of your loan once you no longer have to pay your other creditors. Your final option is redeeming your car, which means paying for the current value of the car to get clear title and eliminating the rest of the loan as part of your Georgia bankruptcy case.
Georgia Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Atlanta
Georgia Means Test
The Court will only allow low-income households that meet specific eligibility criteria to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta. To file for this particular form of bankruptcy relief, you’ll need to pass the Georgia bankruptcy Means Test, which partially hinges on meeting income limits outlined in the Bankruptcy Code and adjusted for household size. If you pass the Georgia bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7, you’ll be able to file with confidence. But if you don’t pass, you may benefit from exploring alternative bankruptcy options with the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney.
Median Income Levels for Georgia
Georgia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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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.
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Georgia Bankruptcy Forms
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlanta requires the submission of some specific Georgia bankruptcy forms that are unique to the Northern District. While most of the forms you need are standard, federal forms, the Northern District also mandates that filers submit a Pro Se Affidavit if they are filing without an attorney’s assistance.
As you complete your Atlanta bankruptcy forms, you’ll be asked to fill out a document called Schedule C which deals with Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. This form is one of the most important documents you’ll submit to the Court because you’ll use it to identify which Georgia bankruptcy exemptions the Court will use to protect your eligible property from being sold by your Trustee to pay back your creditors. If you don’t own much especially valuable property, the available exemptions available should protect most or all of your property from being sold by your Trustee.