Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
There are many reasons why people choose to take advantage of the benefits that filing for Georgia bankruptcy provides. Sometimes, a single major life event, like a job loss, natural disaster, major illness, significant injury, economic downturn or the loss of a loved one can throw a family’s ordinarily stable finances into chaos. Other times, families struggle for years before they seek debt relief because no matter how hard they work or try to cut costs, they just can’t make ends meet and pay their debts at the same time. Whatever the reason your family has fallen on hard financial times, it’s possible that filing bankruptcy in Columbus can change your situation for the better. By eliminating your debt, bankruptcy can allow you the opportunity to focus both on your family’s immediate needs and on building a foundation for a strong and resilient financial future.
There are two primary kinds of Columbus bankruptcy that residents file for if they don’t own a business. These bankruptcy types are referred to as Chapter 13 and Chapter 7. Both processes allow filers to exempt, or protect a significant amount of their property so that it remains safe from the risk of being sold for the benefit of their creditors. Only low-income filers are eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which eliminates many kinds of debt in as few as 90 days. However, Chapter 13 is also a good option for those who don’t qualify for Chapter 7, as this form of bankruptcy lowers your monthly debt payments and eliminates debt after a 5-year repayment plan is complete. If you are eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, it’s likely the best option available to you. Under Chapter 7, you don’t have to pay your creditors back over time. If you don’t earn much income, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an opportunity worthy of consideration.
Columbus Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy in Columbus, you’re probably wondering “How much does a Columbus bankruptcy lawyer cost?” Thankfully, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer isn’t usually an issue for most Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers. Only low-income households are eligible to file for bankruptcy under this Chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. The Court therefore keeps the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy straightforward and accessible because most low-income filers can’t afford to hire an attorney. This process is so clear-cut that you should be able to complete your paperwork and file it yourself without having to deal with the cost of hiring an attorney if you can’t afford to. However, if you feel more comfortable hiring bankruptcy assistance in Columbus, know that a lawyer’s help with a Chapter 7 case will cost between $649 - $1,500.
How to File Bankruptcy in Columbus, Georgia for Free
Because the best debt relief option for one family is not necessarily the best debt relief option for another, it’s important to familiarize yourself with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus before committing to this process. Consider the following information about Georgia bankruptcy to learn more about what you can expect from filing for Chapter 7.
Collect Your Columbus Bankruptcy Documents
When chefs create a meal according to a recipe, they gather their ingredients before they begin to cook. By preparing in this way, they ensure that the process of preparing their meal isn’t constantly interrupted by the need to hunt for necessary ingredients. You’ll similarly need to do some preparation before filling out your bankruptcy paperwork so that you’re not constantly interrupted by the need to track down financial information requested by the Court. When filing bankruptcy in Columbus, you’ll be asked about what you own, what you earn, how you spend your income, and the debts you owe. Gathering recent bank statements, a copy of your most recent tax return, a copy of your current credit report, and recent pay stubs will help to ensure that the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus is as efficient as possible.
Take Credit Counseling
When faced with a choice, sometimes the best way forward is obvious and sometimes it’s not. When deciding whether to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus, you’ll need to make the best choice you can, given the information available to you. The Court helps to ensure that you’ll be able to make an informed decision by insisting that you complete a credit counseling course at any time during the six months before you file for Columbus bankruptcy. This course will allow you to explore the debt relief options available to you at this time, so you can decide whether filing for bankruptcy is in your best interests. Just make sure that whatever course you choose to take has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Middle District of Georgia so that your participation fulfills this requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When learning about how to file bankruptcy in Columbus, you’ll primarily be told about different forms that the Court requires you to fill out before your case can be submitted. This paperwork can be intimidating because, at first glance, it looks highly technical and there is a lot of it. You’ll be pleased to discover that when you read the directions provided by the Court, the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus begins to seem relatively easy and straightforward. The Court understands that many low-income filers can’t afford to seek legal help when filing for bankruptcy so it tries to keep the process as accessible as possible. For this reason, as long as there is nothing especially complex about your case, you should be able to complete your forms on your own without an attorney’s assistance.
Get Your Filing Fee
When you’re filing bankruptcy in Columbus, it can be frustrating to learn that the Court generally requires a filing fee of $338 for each Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition submitted. Thankfully, the Court recognizes that many low-income filers aren’t in a position to pay this fee without enduring unreasonable financial hardship. As a result, filers who live 150% below the poverty line can submit a fee waiver request. When a Columbus bankruptcy filer earns too much income to qualify for a fee waiver, they may ask to pay the fee in installments. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, take note that the Middle District doesn’t accept payments in the form of personal checks, credit cards or cash. The Court only accepts certified checks or money orders from individual filers.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Nowadays, an increasing amount of business is conducted exclusively online. For example, many employers only accept electronic applications. Even if you wanted to drop an application off at a business or send one through the mail, it would only be accepted if transmitted online. The Columbus Bankruptcy Court operates in the exact opposite way. Notoriously behind the times, the Court requires you to physically print out your forms and either submit them by postal mail or in person. If you, like most Americans, don’t have a printer at home, you can print your forms out at a commercial service provider like Kinkos or one of the 7 branches of the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries for a modest fee.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you go to 901 Front Avenue to file your bankruptcy forms in person, note that the Middle District of Georgia has very strict rules regarding cell phone use in the courthouse. As a result, you may want to lock your phone in your glove compartment or leave your phone at home when filing bankruptcy in Columbus. You do have the option of filing your paperwork via postal mail, but it’s generally a better idea to file in person if you can. That way, you can make sure that the Court received your paperwork, have the clerk stamp an extra copy of your forms for your records and ensure that your case is processed more quickly than it would be if you had to wait for your paperwork to be processed and delivered by a postal carrier.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you were filling out your Georgia bankruptcy paperwork, did you ever think that simply writing down numbers and lists of property didn’t allow you to adequately explain why you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus? If so, know that you’re going to be given a chance to explain your situation more fully during a meeting with your Trustee. During this meeting, your Trustee will ask you questions about your financial situation and you’ll be able to clarify things better than simple calculations and lists of debts ever could. Once a Trustee is assigned to your case, you’ll be asked to forward some personal financial documents, like pay stubs and tax returns, to your Trustee so that they can prepare for your meeting.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
When you participated in your pre-filing credit counseling course, you learned about your debt relief options and whether Columbus bankruptcy was likely to be a good option for you. At this point in the process, you’re required to take a second educational course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Middle District of Georgia. This course is focused on personal financial management. Instead of helping you decide whether to file for bankruptcy, this course teaches you how to ensure that your finances remain as strong and resilient as possible now that you’re trying to achieve a fresh financial start.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
At this point in the process, you’re almost done fulfilling all the requirements associated with filing bankruptcy in Columbus under Chapter 7. However, it isn’t time to break out the celebratory champagne (or wine, or coffee, or Netflix binge) quite yet. First, you need to attend your 341 meeting with your Trustee. Your creditors are given the option to attend this meeting, but they probably won’t unless your debts are unusually complex. This meeting will likely last no longer than 20 minutes or so and you’ll need to remember to bring your original social security card and a photo ID along to your meeting place. Make sure to answer all questions honestly as you’ll be placed under oath for the length of this question-and-answer session.
Dealing with Your Car
One of the hardest decisions some filers need to make when seeking bankruptcy relief involves dealing with car payments. Car payments are often a “necessary evil” as many families simply can’t work, go to school and manage medical conditions without steady access to a reliable vehicle. However, car payments are notoriously expensive. When filing bankruptcy in Columbus, you’ll need to tell the Court what you want to do about your car-related debt. If your family can get along without your car, you can avoid the burden of paying for that vehicle by surrendering it to your creditor. You won’t have the car anymore, but you also won’t have to pay your creditor every month either. If you need to keep your vehicle, the Court will let you redeem the car by paying its market value in a single payment. If you can’t afford to pay that amount all at once, you can try to reaffirm your debt by asking the Court if you can keep making payments on your loan. If you choose this path, be prepared to explain how it won’t be a hardship to make your payments on time and per the terms of your loan from now on.
Georgia Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Columbus
Georgia Means Test
Only certain low-income households are eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus. If your household does not meet the income limits and other eligibility criteria outlined in the Georgia bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7, you will benefit from speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney about bankruptcy alternatives to this debt-relief option. However, if you are a member of a low-income household, you’re likely to pass the Georgia bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7, so don’t feel the need to start researching alternatives until you know whether you pass this test or not.
Median Income Levels for Georgia
Georgia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for Georgia
Georgia Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Georgia Bankruptcy Forms
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbus is easier than it is in many cities across the U.S. The Middle District does not require filers to submit local Georgia bankruptcy forms that are unique to the area. All of the forms you need to confidently file bankruptcy on your own are standard, federal forms that are used nationwide and are easily accessible.
When you are preparing your Columbus bankruptcy case, you will be asked to specify which Georgia bankruptcy exemptions apply to your property. This is one of the most important parts of the bankruptcy process, as exemptions keep your eligible property safe from being sold by your Trustee for the benefit of your creditors. As you fill out your exemption-related form commonly referred to as Schedule C, you only need to concern yourself with Georgia bankruptcy exemptions because The Peach State does not recognize federal bankruptcy exemptions at this time.