Illinois Bankruptcy

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In a Nutshell

If you are filing Chapter 7 in Illinois, there are two ways to get your case filed for free. You can either apply for a fee waiver from the court, or, if your income is too high for that, ask the court to allow you to pay the filing fee for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois in installments after your case is filed.

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.  
Updated July 30, 2020

You are probably reading this because something has happened in your life that made staying top of all of your monthly minimum payments hard, or even impossible. No one ever wants to learn more about their bankruptcy options, but recognizing you have a problem is a good first step. The next step should be to take a deep breath and remind yourself this does not mean that you failed. Nor does it mean that your future is over. Take Abraham Lincoln for example…did you know that he declared bankruptcy in 1833? At the time, this meant that the Illinois bankruptcy laws gave him the 17 years he needed to repay his debts after one of his business ventures failed. But that did not keep him from becoming president and changing the country forever, nor is it something that most people even know happened in the first place. Similarly, Dippin' Dots, the ice cream of the future, was started in a garage in Illinois and is currently experiencing record growth, reporting sales of $300 million in 217 alone, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011. You see, life as you know it is not over if you end up filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois. Rather, it gives you an opportunity to start fresh and live your life without having to make the impossible decision of whether to make a credit card payment or buy food for your family.

How to File Bankruptcy in Illinois for Free

If you are filing Chapter 7 in Illinois, there are two ways to get your case filed for free. You can either apply for a fee waiver from the court, or, if your income is too high for that, ask the court to allow you to pay the filing fee for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois in installments after your case is filed.

Collect Your Illinois Bankruptcy Documents

There are a number of documents you will need as you go through the process of filing bankruptcy in Illinois. There are the documents needed to verify your income. That is done using your federal income tax returns for the last two years and the paycheck stubs you received in the last 6 months. Next, we have the documents you will need to verify your expenses, such as your bank statements. Everyone who is in an Illinois bankruptcy has to provide the court with a complete listing of not only their debts, but all of their creditors, including any collection agencies that may have been contacting you on their behalf. To make sure you cover every angle, collect all the bills you have received in the last 90 days and get a copy of your credit report, if possible one from each one of the three reporting agencies. Other documents that may be needed after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois has been filed are copies of your divorce decree, if you are recently divorces, statements for an investment or retirement accounts, and copies of your vehicle titles. While this sounds like a lot (and it is a lot), the more organized you are in collecting your Illinois bankruptcy documents, the easier it will be for you to find all of the information you need later on in the process. Since this is probably a stressful enough time for you as it is, you may as well set yourself up for the smoothest experience possible by starting off organized.

Take Credit Counseling

Everyone who wants to take advantage of the protections the bankruptcy code offers by filing bankruptcy in Illinois has to first complete a credit counseling class. In fact, without completing this class first, you are not eligible to be a debtor in any bankruptcy case. The course is intended to ensure you know all of your options before you move forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois. If you know that you will file your bankruptcy case at some point in the next 6 months, you can complete this course at any time that works for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you let me more than 180 days pass after completing the course, you will have to take it again as it must be done in the 6 months prior to filing your bankruptcy. Since completing this course is a legal requirement, you can only take it from a company that has been approved to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in Illinois. Most people take the course online or over the phone, but you do have the ability to take the course in person, either through CCCS of Northern Illinois, Money Management International, or Chestnut Health Systems.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

This is the first part of the process that does not have to be done by you personally. If you hire a lawyer their office will complete the bankruptcy forms based on the information you provide to them, then review everything with you in detail before filing the documents for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois with the court. If you can't afford a lawyer, there are other resources to help you complete the bankruptcy forms. First, all of the necessary bankruptcy forms are available online as fillable PDF documents - for free! In addition, since the forms were recently modernized, there is also a brand new instruction manual going through each one of the forms you will need when filing bankruptcy in Illinois, explaining in detail what is expected from you. This is also available online for free. If, after thumbing through the instructions you feel as though this sounds like it's a little much to handle on your own, check if you are eligible to have Upsolve help you with this part.

Get Your Filing Fee

Filing Chapter 7 in Illinois incurs a total fee of $335, which is due at the time you file your case. In light of that, it's important to have a plan for how you will handle the court filing fee well in advance. If you are able to pay this fee, you should go to a post office near you to purchase a money order for this exact amount. The money order itself should only cost you $1.25 and, since not all courts accept cash, is the best way to pay the fee for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois, as money orders are universally accepted by bankruptcy courts. If you are unable to pay the fee, whether that's in full at one time, or at all, you are nevertheless able to file for bankruptcy protection. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, and your income and expenses are such that there is now way you could pay the fee even in installments over a period of four months, you are eligible to have the court filing fee waived. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, make sure you bring a completed application to pay the court filing fee in installments with you to the court, as this is a way to get your  bankruptcy case filed for free, now. You will have no more than four months to pay the full amount, and if you miss any of the payment due dates set by the court, your case will be dismissed. That's why, if you can pay the full fee at the time of filing Chapter 7 in Illinois, it is better to do so and thereby minimize the risk of having your case thrown out due to unexpected circumstances.

The truly hard part of getting ready to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois is now done, and your bankruptcy forms are ready to be filed with the court. If you hired a lawyer, they will print all the forms and go over everything with you, obtaining all of the required signatures in the process, then turn around and file the case electronically. If you don't have lawyer helping you, you will have to submit all your Illinois bankruptcy forms to the court in paper. It's recommended that you first print a checklist like this one, to help make sure you are not missing anything as you go. Don't rush this part; give yourself enough time as you print everything, to make sure all of the information contained in the forms is complete and correct and don't forget to sign where indicated in the process. Since filing bankruptcy in Illinois is a legal proceeding, it is strongly recommended that you print not one but two full copies of your documents and keep one for your own files.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

When you head to the court for the purpose of filing bankruptcy in Illinois, it's important to bring a government issued picture ID with you. The building you are going to is a federal courthouse, and you have to pass through security on the way in. If you are unfamiliar with the area the courthouse is in, make sure you figure out your parking options ahead of time. You are already worrying about plenty of things, getting a parking ticket while literally filing Chapter 7 in Illinois should not be one of those things. Since there may be a line at the clerk's office, it's best not to wait until the end of the day to go there. Actually, since the end of the day and the lunch hour tend to be the busiest times in the clerk's office, if you can, plan to go there any other time, you should. When you are done, the clerk's office will give you the case number assigned to your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois. If any of your creditors contact you now, you can simply give them your case number and tell them the automatic stay now protects you. The automatic stay goes into effect the moment your case is filed, and your creditors have to follow it even if the court hasn't yet mailed a notice of your Illinois bankruptcy to anyone.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

A few days after you go to the court to file you Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois, you will receive a copy of the official notice from the court that is sent to all interested parties. This notice will tell you the name and contact information for the trustee that has been assigned to your case. The trustee's job, among other things, is to verify the information you provided to the court when your bankruptcy case was filed. The Bankruptcy Code requires that everyone filing your bankruptcy in Illinois send a copy of their most recent federal income tax return to the trustee. In order to give the trustee enough time to review the tax return, you have to make sure you send it to your trustee so he receives it at least 7 days before the date set for your 341 meeting. Since the trustees are independent contractors, they each have developed their own process for doing the required due diligence in Illinois bankruptcy cases assigned to them. This mean that your trustee may ask you to send certain other documents, such as paycheck stubs or bank statements to them in addition to your tax return.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

The primary goal of every Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois is for the court to enter a discharge order that will forever prohibit your creditors from attempting to collect from you. It is what wipes your proverbial slate clean. Before the discharge can be entered in their case, everyone filing Chapter 7 in Illinois must complete a course on financial management. This has to be done after the case is filed. Folks who don't comply with this requirement will learn the hard way that there is no way around this requirement when their case is closed without a discharge. The course has to be taken from an approved provider. This list is not necessarily the same list of approved providers for the pre-bankruptcy course, though there is a lot of overlap. In addition to the in person options offered by CCCS of Northern Illinois, Money Management International, or Chestnut Health Systems, the Chapter 13 Trustee for Lisle teaches the class in Park City, Joliet, and Lisle, free of charge. Once done, make sure you file the certificate of compliance with the court, so there is a record of the fact that you took the course.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Everyone filing bankruptcy in Illinois has to attend a 341 meeting approximately 20 - 40 days after their case is first filed. In many cases, this meeting, also called the meeting of creditors, is the only time a person who filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois has to go to court. Although the meeting often takes place at the courthouse, it does not actually take place in a courtroom and no judge is present. The purpose of the meeting is twofold. First, it provides your case trustee with the opportunity to confirm certain information disclosed in your bankruptcy forms by asking you about it while you are under oath. This is not as scary or confusing as it sounds, as all the questions are about your life and your financial situation. The second purpose of the meeting is to give creditors who have questions about your Illinois bankruptcy case an opportunity to ask you those questions without going through the expensive process of scheduling a deposition. While this is a powerful tool for creditors, most 341 meetings are concluded in less than 10 minutes, with not a single creditor appearing.

Dealing with Your Car

Your car will play up to two distinct roles in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois. If you have a car loan, it is a debt that you have to include in your schedules. Since it is a secured debt you will have to disclose your intentions with respect to what you want to do with the car to the court. This is done by filing the so-called Statement of Intentions. While filing bankruptcy in Illinois is not a way to a free car (after all, that wouldn't exactly be fair to the rest of us), it does give you the opportunity to decide what is best for you. To keep your car, you can reaffirm the car loan, basically keeping everything the same it was before your bankruptcy case was filed, or redeem it by paying the creditor the amount your car is actually worth. If you do not want to keep the vehicle for whatever reason, filing bankruptcy in Illinois gives you the chance to surrender it without having to worry about the balance left on the loan. If you are leasing your car, you can similarly choose to keep or surrender the vehicle by either assuming or rejecting the car lease. The second role your car plays in your Illinois bankruptcy case is that of an asset. You have to disclose your ownership interest in the vehicle (even if it is not yet paid off) and claim the appropriate exemption on your Schedule C. As long as the available exemption amount exceeds your equity in the vehicle, everything will stay the same.

Illinois Bankruptcy Means Test

Everyone who wishes to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois has to qualify for it by passing the Illinois means test for bankruptcy. If you are below the relevant income limits, you automatically pass the Illinois bankruptcy means test. If your gross income is higher than the median household income for a household of your size, part two of the means test calculation must be completed to confirm that you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois.

Data on Median income levels for Illinois

Illinois Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Data on Poverty levels for Illinois

Illinois Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Illinois Bankruptcy Forms

The Illinois Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are a combination of the official national forms that are the same in all bankruptcy districts across the country, and certain local forms developed by the court over the years to facilitate a more efficient administration of Illinois bankruptcy cases being heard in their district. Each one of the three districts have local Illinois bankruptcy forms that are available for free on the individual courts' websites. All of the documents initially required to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois are based on the national forms.

Central District of Illinois Requirements

The Central District of Illinois covers 46 of Illinois' 102 counties and is divided into three divisions, the Peoria Division, the Urbana Division, and the Springfield Division. Each division has its own courthouse, located in the cities of Peoria,Urbana and Springfield, respectively. You can find out which division your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois will be filed in using this map. If you are amending any of the documents you filed in your Illinois bankruptcy case in this district, the court requires that you file this verification along with the amendment you are filing.

Northern District of Illinois Requirements

The Northern District has locations in Rockford, Chicago, Joliet, Park City, and Geneva. The county you live in determines which of the two divisions within this district will handle your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois and where the 341 meeting will take place. The most helpful resource available in this district, aside from its comprehensive Pro Se Filing Guide, is a detailed table outlining each of the individual trustee's preferences with respect to which documents they require and how to provide it to them.

Southern District of Illinois Requirements

If you are among the 1.2 million people living in the 38 counties in Southern Illinois, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in Illinois will be assigned to this district. There are three divisions within this district, and court is held in East St. Louis and Benton. Several creditors have provided a preferred address to the court in this district. When you create the creditors' mailing matrix, check this listing and update the addresses for your creditors accordingly.

Illinois Bankruptcy Exemptions

Illinois residents must use Illinois bankruptcy exemptions to protect their assets in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois. While some federal nonbankruptcy exemptions are available, the federal bankruptcy exemptions may not be used. The Illinois bankruptcy exemptions include, among others, exemptions for cars, personal property such as clothing and furniture, and a wildcard exemption of $4,000 that can be used to protect any asset.

Illinois Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

If you are having a hard time matching up your assets with the exemptions available to you in your Illinois bankruptcy, hiring a lawyer may be a good investment. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Illinois ranges from $900 to $1,200 and most Illinois bankruptcy lawyers offer free initial consultations.

  • Attorney cost estimate: $900 – $1,200

If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you may nevertheless be able to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Illinois with the help of one, by going through one of the Illinois legal aid organizations. In 2015 alone, legal aid in Illinois assisted more than 140,000 low-income individuals in a variety of matters, including Illinois bankruptcy cases.

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc.
(618) 398-0574
8787 State Street, Suite 201, East St. Louis, IL 62203

Legal Aid Chicago
(312) 347-8359
120 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60603-3425

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc.
(815) 965-2134
303 North Main Street, Suite 600, Rockford, IL 61101

Justice Entrepreneurs Project
(312) 546-3282
208 S Jefferson, Suite 204, Chicago, IL 60661

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Illinois Court Locations

Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse

Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse
219 South Dearborn Street Chicago, IL 60604

Stanley J. Roszkowski United States Courthouse

Stanley J. Roszkowski United States Courthouse
327 South Church Street Rockford, IL 61101

Paul Findley Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Paul Findley Federal Building and United States Courthouse
600 East Monroe Street Springfield, IL 62701

Melvin Price Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Melvin Price Federal Building and United States Courthouse
750 Missouri Avenue East St. Louis, IL 62201

Illinois Judges

Illinois Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
Central District of IllinoisHon. William V. Altenberger
Central District of IllinoisHon. Mary P. Gorman
Central District of IllinoisHon. Thomas L. Perkins
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Pamela S. Hollis
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Janet S. Baer
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Timothy A. Barnes
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Donald R. Cassling
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Jacqueline P. Cox
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Carol A. Doyle
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Benjamin Goldgar
Northern District of IllinoisHon. LaShonda A. Hunt
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Thomas M. Lynch
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Jack B. Schmetterer
Northern District of IllinoisHon. Deborah L. Thorne
Southern District of IllinoisHon. Laura K Grandy
Southern District of IllinoisHon. William V Altenberger

Illinois Trustees

Illinois Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Charles E. Covey
Andrew S.
(217) 425-1515
Nina R. Gougis
(309) 282-6325
James R. Inghram
Roger L. Prillaman
(217) 384-1300
Jeana K.
(217) 241-5629
Jeffrey D. Richardson
Kristin L.
(217) 345-3079
Richard S.
(312) 977-9235
Joseph A.
(312) 726-8150
Elizabeth C.
(312) 726-8150
(312) 666-2861
Joseph E. Cohen
Eugene R.
(312) 641-6777
Allan J.
(312) 726-3377
Michael K.
(312) 251-5287
(312) 922-3838
Richard M.
(312) 276-1334
Frances F.
(312) 276-1400
John E. Gierum Jr.
(847) 318-9130
Ilene F. Goldstein
(847) 562-9595
Karen R.
(312) 527-4000
Brenda Porter Helms
(773) 463-6427
David R.
(312) 977-1600
Cindy M.
(312) 345-1306
Robert B.
(312) 705-1400
Frank J.
(312) 429-9600
Gina B. Krol
David P.
(847) 249-9100
Phillip D.
(312) 348-9682
Philip V.
(312) 715-5000
Richard J.
(312) 849-8100
Andrew J.
(312) 368-1138
Peter N. Metrou
(630) 551-7171
Alex D.
(847) 884-8282
Bernard J.
(815) 964-4700
Norman B.
(312) 521-2000
Joseph D.
(815) 965-8635
Gus A.
(312) 460-6299
Ronald R.
(312) 222-9350
Steven R.
(312) 346-1935
N. Neville
(312) 224-1245
Thomas E. Springer
Catherine L.
(312) 222-9350
Miriam R.
(312) 855-6109
James E.
(815) 962-6611
Gregg E.
(312) 663-0801
Joji Takada
(773) 790-4888
Zane L.
(312) 276-1405
Robert T. Bruegge
Robert E. Eggmann
(618) 222-1900
Dana S. Frazier
(618) 687-5707
Donald M. Samson

Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer


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 full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea ha... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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