Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
With the state’s highest unemployment rate, at 7.7 times greater than the rest of Illinois, living in Rockford presents challenges for its residents. The residents of Rockford are tough, however, and as Transform Rockford makes fast progress to making Rockford a Top 25 Community by 2025, you may worry that you will be left behind. Even if you have good employment or increased your income, it can be hard to catch up once you’ve fallen behind. If you feel like you’re one of those poor, unfortunate souls, as Rockford native Jodi Benson sang in The Little Mermaid, you don’t need to despair. You may be able to join the thousands of other Illinois residents who have found relief from their debts by filing bankruptcy in Rockford. Even better, still, is that you don’t have to do it all on your own - we have provided guides to help you find relief.
If the thought of filing a Rockford bankruptcy fills you with a sense of dread and shame, you should read on to learn how bankruptcy really works. Bankruptcy should not be viewed as a scarlet letter branded upon those who face financial difficulties. Bankruptcy is a right established by the U.S. Constitution to help people find relief from their debts in a “fresh start.” Bankruptcy is not just for the famous - although Illinois natives Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney filed bankruptcy, so have many of your less-well known neighbors. You also don’t have to be wealthy to file and you may even be able to find an attorney who will help you file your Illinois bankruptcy for free.
Bankruptcy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, there are many types of bankruptcy people can file, known as Chapters. The two most common Chapters of bankruptcy that regular people file are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7, “liquidation,” is the most common and is typically the fastest and easiest way to file. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all of your debts are discharged (forgiven), and you don’t have to pay any of them back. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are often known as “reorganizations” because every debt you owe is included in a “plan” that allows you to pay some or all of the debt over up to five years. Whether you file a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, the ultimate goal is to complete your financial transformation along with our great city.
Rockford Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Whether you work at the Belvidere Assembly Plant, are retired, or are looking for a job, you are right to research before you buy. In Rockford, the average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is between $900 to $1,200. If you have a lot of property you want to protect, the IRS is after you, or if your case is otherwise complex, you may want to hire an attorney to assist you. Many people don’t find that their situation is complicated enough to justify what a Rockford bankruptcy lawyer costs, and in those cases they may choose to file their own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford using the information provided by Upsolve.
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How to File Bankruptcy in Rockford, Illinois for Free
If you have decided that filing Chapter 7 is right for you, but are wondering how to file bankruptcy in Rockford, this guide is prepared as a step-by-step guide to completing your own Rockford bankruptcy. Follow this guide from collecting your documents, taking the required credit counseling courses, preparing your packet, filing your case, and addressing your car in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Using this guide, you can feel confidently prepared to file your Illinois bankruptcy.
Collect Your Rockford Bankruptcy Documents
As with all things, good preparation makes it easier to successfully file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford. Your first step is to prepare by collecting your financial documents. These can include the following:
2 years of tax returns (Request a copy online from the IRS)
6 months of paystubs
Details for other income you have, including SSI or unemployment,
Proof of value for property you own, like the tax value of your home
Bank statements for 2-6 months before you file your Rockford bankruptcy
Child Care Expenses
Health Care Expenses
Medical Debt Statements
Credit Card Statements
Student loan records
Court Judgments (Access court records from Winnebago County online)
Credit Report (get a free one at www.annualcreditreport.com)
You should also collect any other financial documents that will help you show an accurate financial record to the Illinois Bankruptcy Court. In addition to financial records, you will also need a photo I.D. and your social security card.
Take Credit Counseling
Unless you’re a student at Rock Valley College, the idea of taking a class may make you break out in hives. However, the credit counseling course required to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford is nothing you need to worry about. First, find a course offered by an approved credit counseling agency. You can take the course online, in person, or on the phone. The nearest course offered in person is at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northern Illinois in Woodstock, so about 30 minutes away. Expect to pay between $10 and $50 for the course, as each agency sets its own rate. While you may not think you will benefit from the course, it is required that you complete the course and receive a certificate of completion. You will need to submit the certificate with the rest of your bankruptcy packet when you file your Illinois bankruptcy case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Now that you have collected all of the documents you need to file your Rockford bankruptcy, including the certificate for completing your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling, you are ready to begin completing your bankruptcy forms. Before you start filling anything in, you may want to review the necessary forms, Upsolve’s helpful guide, and the Illinois Bankruptcy Court’s filing requirements. Once you have downloaded all of the forms and read the instructions provided by the bankruptcy court, start filling out each form with the information requested. Don’t leave blank spaces or skip forms - many people who file Rockford bankruptcies do this and it is a big mistake that can lead to their Chapter 7 being dismissed or delayed. Answer every question, even if that means you write “not applicable” or check a box for “none.” When filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, you can also use the Court’s Creditor Matrix Program to help you complete your list of creditors. You may also request to receive electronic noticing directly from the Court.
Get Your Filing Fee
It costs $338 to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford. Your filing fee pays for the Court, the clerks, and the trustee. You should plan to pay this fee up front, although you may be able to qualify for a fee waiver or installment plan. The Illinois Bankruptcy Court routinely approves installment payments that pay at least ½ the fee within 60 days after the case is filed and the final ½ paid within 120 days after the case is filed. If you can’t afford to make monthly payments, you can request a different payment plan or you may apply for a fee waiver. If your application for a fee waiver is denied, you will need to pay your fee in installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Your Illinois bankruptcy forms will be 60 to 100 pages long. You need to print the forms on one side only of 8.5 x 11” paper in black and white. If you can’t print at home, you can print at any of five Rockford Public Library locations for $0.15/page. Once printed, review each form carefully to ensure it is complete and accurate. Then sign in each designated space. Make a copy of the completed packet for yourself for the clerk of court to stamp when you’re at the courthouse filing bankruptcy in Rockford.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Once your forms are printed, reviewed, and signed, your next step of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, is to make a trip to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division. The Court is located at 327 South Church Street, Rockford, IL 61101 two blocks up from Founder’s Landing by Rock River. The Office of the Clerk is open from 8:30 A.m. until 4:30 P.M. on all days weekdays except federal holidays. Be prepared to spend about an hour at the Courthouse filing your Rockford bankruptcy case. While you can take a bus to Cedar & Court, if you drive, prepare to pay to park at the Concourse Parking Garage on Chestnut. Don’t forget to bring your photo ID and your $335 filing fee or your application for an installment agreement or fee waiver.
Mail Documents to Your trustee
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, your case will be assigned to a judge and a trustee, and a date and time for your meeting of creditors is set. You will learn this information through a “Notice of Bankruptcy” case you will receive from the Court. At least 7 days before your 341 meeting, you must provide your trustee with two years of tax returns and statements showing your income for the 60 days before filing bankruptcy in Rockford Some trustees request additional information and they all have their own preferences. Your trustee administers your Rockford bankruptcy case, verifies the truthfulness of the information on your papers, and makes sure creditors receive as much as they are legally entitled to receive. You may not receive your Chapter 7 bankruptcydischarge if you fail to cooperate with your trustee.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Every person filing bankruptcy in Rockford must take the Post-Petition Bankruptcy Course. This course helps ensure you take advantage of the fresh start filing bankruptcy has provided. It covers financial planning, budgeting, and tools to help you live a life using debt responsibly. You will need to take this course from an accredited provider online, by telephone, or in person. Just like with the first course, you will receive a certificate of completion to file with the Rockford Bankruptcy Court. You should plan to file this certificate no later than 60 days after your 341 Meeting, but it’s recommended to take the course and file the form before your 341 Meeting, so you don’t forget.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
It is likely that the final time you will have to go anywhere for your bankruptcy is when you attend your 341 Meeting. Because you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, your 341 Meeting will be held in the Stewart Square Building on 308 West State Street, Lower Level - Room 40, Rockford, Illinois 61101.This is a couple of blocks from the Rockford Bankruptcy Court and you can plan to park in the BMO Harris Bank Center if you can’t find street parking. This meeting is conducted by the trustee assigned to your case and you must be present with your ID card and social security card for the meeting. Be prepared to answer questions that the trustee may ask you honestly. The trustee does not determine if you “deserve” to file. Instead, the trustee is making sure that the information on your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is accurate and complete. Prepare by reviewing your Rockford bankruptcy forms and supporting documents in advance so you remember everything you told the Court when filing bankruptcy in Rockford.
Dealing with Your Car
All of your property is protected when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford, including your car. Whether you are current on your payments or you have fallen behind, the lender on your car is not allowed to contact you about any missed payments or repossess your car while your Illinois bankruptcy is pending. This protection is not permanent. When you file, you have to tell the Court whether you intend to reaffirm the debt on the car, redeem the car, or surrender it. If you think your car is not worth keeping because the payments are unaffordable or it doesn’t make financial sense, then you can surrender your car, or give it back to the lender. If you choose to surrender your car, the lender must ask permission from the court to retake your car in a “Motion for Relief from Stay” if they don’t want to wait for the automatic stay to expire. The lender will take your car and your obligation to pay the loan will be discharged along with the rest of your debt in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you want to keep the car and owe money on it, you can choose to reaffirm the loan or redeem the car. If you are reaffirming, the lender will send you areaffirmation agreement which you must complete and the Illinois bankruptcy judge must approve. Reaffirming the debt says that you are obligated to pay the debt even after you receive a discharge in your Rockford bankruptcy case. If you are redeeming the car, you will need to pay the lender the amount the car is worth, not how much is owed on the loan.
Illinois Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Rockford
Illinois Means Test
On your Statement of Monthly Income, you provide information regarding the Illinois bankruptcy Means Test. The means test compares your income to your debts and calculates what the law believes you should be able to pay back. To pass the Illinois bankruptcy Means Test, you can show that your income is lower than the median family income for families of your size in Illinois. If your income is higher than the median income, complete Official Form 122A-a to show that you don’t have any money left after paying your reasonable living expenses as calculated by the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation. Report the results when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rockford. If you can’t pass the means test, you may need to consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Median Income Levels for Illinois
Illinois Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
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Poverty Levels for Illinois
Illinois Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2022
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Illinois Bankruptcy Forms
When filing bankruptcy in Rockford, there are many forms that must be completed. The forms are available for free online and the Rockford Bankruptcy Court breaks them into forms that are required on the day you file and additional documents you must file. Upsolve provides all forms required to file your Rockford bankruptcy online for free in one place. We cannot emphasize enough that you must complete your forms carefully and review each answer to make sure it is accurate. When filing a Rockford bankruptcy, the court provides a Bankruptcy Assistance Desk every Monday from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. by appointment only. If you are having trouble reviewing all of your forms, consider contacting the U.S. Bankruptcy Clerk’s Public Service Counter on the 1st floor of the Rockford Bankruptcy Court to make an appointment to ask the free attorney for help.
Some of the forms may be easier, like Schedule A/B, where you list the things you own. Some of the forms are more difficult, though, like the Means Test and the Statement of Financial Affairs, where you have to answer a lot of complicated questions. When filing your Rockford Bankruptcy, carefully review each of the forms to complete them as accurately as possible.
“Exempt” is a legal term for “protected.” Property that is exempt means that the equity (value) of that property is protected and the trustee can’t sell the property for the benefit of your creditors. Illinois bankruptcy exemptions permit you to protect your property, including up to $15,000.00 in a home, your necessary clothing, $1,200 in a motor vehicle, child support payments, retirement accounts, income and $2,000.00 of whatever you want. In a Rockford bankruptcy, you are not permitted to use federal bankruptcy exemptions. As long as your property does not exceed the exemptions, the trustee can’t take your property to pay your creditors. For example, if you have $1,000.00 in the bank when you file, you can use your wildcard exemption of $2,000.00 to protect those funds.