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 July 12, 2023
Unmanageable debt can come from many situations. It may be the result of unexpected medical expenses, a sudden job loss or layoff, or even the simple inability to find a job after college. The decision to file bankruptcy is never easy, but it shouldn’t cause great distress. Bankruptcy laws exist to help people out of these kinds of financial situations — and to get out from under the stress of wage garnishments, debt lawsuits, and the constant harassment of creditor letters and phone calls.
In Indiana, the Crossroads of America, people trying to get a fresh start through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can seek bankruptcy protection with an attorney or without.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Indiana
One of the biggest decisions you need to make if you’re filing bankruptcy is whether or not to hire an attorney. This is because attorney fees are usually the biggest cost of filing bankruptcy, and an attorney isn’t always necessary — especially in simple Chapter 7 cases. This guide will show you how to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy without one.
- Collect Your Indiana Bankruptcy Documents
- Take a Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the Indiana Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your Indiana Bankruptcy Documents
You have to collect a lot of financial documents before you can file bankruptcy. At a minimum, you’ll need your last two years of tax returns, last 60 days of pay stubs, and any statements or online printouts showing your bank account balances on your filing date. Other helpful documents include creditor statements, bills, letters from collection agencies or debt collectors, and bank statements from the last six to 12 months. The bank statements will help you figure out your average monthly living expenses.
In your bankruptcy papers, you need to list the names and addresses of everyone you owe and the amount you owe. This includes:
Secured debts, like mortgages and car loans.
Unsecured debts, like credit cards, medical bills, student loans*, and even personal/family loans.
Priority unsecured debts, like alimony, child support, and tax debts. Even though priority unsecured debt usually don’t get discharged in bankruptcy, they still have to be included on your forms.
To help you get or double-check the information about all your debts, it’s a good idea to request a copy of your credit report to help you with your bankruptcy paperwork. Just be sure to treat your credit report as extra information since not all debt gets reported to the credit reporting agencies. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three consumer credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Bankruptcy attorneys usually pull your credit for you, and Upsolve pulls a credit report for all filers who use our filing tool.
*A note about student loans: There's a common misconception that you can't get student loans discharged in bankruptcy, but this isn't true. In fact, if you have government student loans, the process for discharging them got easier in late 2022. Private student loans can be trickier to discharge (and often you need to hire a lawyer to help), but it's possible to have your student loans erased through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, along with your other debts.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
You have to complete a credit counseling course within the 180 days before you file. The course is usually offered online or by telephone, and you have to take it from an approved provider. The purpose of this course is to help you look at your financial situation and develop a personalized plan to address your debt. It covers all your debt relief options, including Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
The course fee is usually under $50. When you sign up, you can apply for a fee waiver if you can’t afford the cost. When you get your certificate of completion, it’s critical to send it to the court when you send your bankruptcy petition. The court will dismiss your case if you don’t do this. This rule is very strict, and it causes big problems if you re-file later.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, you’ll usually complete a bankruptcy questionnaire written by the attorney. Then the attorney or their staff uses your responses to complete the bankruptcy forms, usually with special software. If you use Upsolve’s filing tool, you’ll complete an online questionnaire and Upsolve’s software will use your information to fill in the bankruptcy forms.
Get Your Filing Fee
You have to pay a $338filing fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. When you file your petition, you can also apply to have the filing fee waived if you can’t afford it. To qualify, your income must be less than 150% of Indiana’s poverty guidelines (see the table for Indiana Fee Waiver Eligibility below). If the court denies your waiver request, you can apply to pay the filing fee in four installments. This can be helpful if you’re in a tight financial spot and need the automatic stay to start right away, like if your paychecks are being garnished. There’s no minimum first installment amount, but the court must approve the payment plan and can reject an unreasonable plan.
The court can dismiss your case if you don’t make the installments plans as agreed, and you won’t be refunded. That’s why it’s usually best to wait to file until you can pay the filing fee in full, if possible. That way, you don’t risk getting your case dismissed for nonpayment.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
You’ll need to print your completed bankruptcy forms in black ink on white letter-size paper. Print only on one side since the court won’t accept double-sided documents. Print out every required form, and sign every signature line. If you hire an attorney, you’ll probably sign your forms in their office and the attorney will electronically file your case. Upsolve users get their forms in a downloadable packet, with markers showing where to sign.
File Your Forms With the Indiana Bankruptcy Court
Indiana’s Bankruptcy Court is divided into two districts: the Northern District and the Southern District. Each has its own guidelines for bankruptcy filers. Only attorneys can file bankruptcies electronically in the Northern District. But the Southern District has an Electronic Self-Representation (eSR) filing system for individuals filing without an attorney, also called pro se filers. Depending on which district you’re filing in, you may be able to file by mail, in person, or by drop box. Delivery options may change because of COVID-19, so you should check the court’s website or call the clerk to confirm delivery options.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to your Chapter 7 case and will quickly schedule a meeting of creditors (also called the 341 meeting — more on this below). Because you’ll need to send your trustee certain documents at least seven days before the 341 meeting, it’s a good idea to contact your trustee right after you file to ask what documents are needed. Many trustees send letters telling you this information, but it never hurts to be proactive.
The Southern District of Indiana has adopted the Chapter 7 Uniform Document Production List, which requires that you send the following documents to your trustee seven days before the 341 meeting:
Your most recently filed tax return, including W-2s.
Your most recent paystubs.
If you’re married, your spouse’s income information (even if you’re filing by yourself).
The last three monthly statements for all financial accounts, including bank statements, investment account statements, and retirement account statements.
Proof of certain expenses, including private school tuition, education, and extra home heating.
Copies of any complaints, judgments, or property settlement agreements.
Divorce decree and/or property settlement if divorced within the last three years.
Copies of deeds and mortgages.
Appraisal or property tax assessment for real estate.
Information about domestic support obligations.
The Northern District of Indiana hasn’t adopted these requirements, so you should call your assigned trustee to get a list of required documents.
Take a Debtor Education Course
Bankruptcy law requires that you take a second required bankruptcy course — a financial management course — after you file. The purpose of this course is to help you successfully manage your finances after bankruptcy. You must send your course certificate of completion to the court within 60 days of your 341 meeting. If you fail to do this, your debts won’t be discharged. This financial management course, just like the first credit counseling course, has to be from a state-approved provider.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is also called the meeting of creditors. It includes you, your trustee, and any creditors who wish to attend. That said, creditors don’t typically attend, especially in simple cases. At the meeting, the trustee confirms who you are, looks at your bankruptcy papers, and asks you questions about your case. If a creditor is present, the creditor will ask you questions, too. For now, 341 meetings in Indiana are all held by phone because of COVID-19. This measure hasn’t been implemented permanently, though.
Indiana bankruptcy courts don’t specify documents that you’ll have to bring to your 341 meeting. At the very least, you should plan on bringing your photo identification, some proof of your Social Security number (usually just your Social Security card), your pay stubs from the 60 days before you filed, and all financial statements covering your filing date. It’s a good idea to call your trustee’s office ahead of time to see if you need to bring any additional documents.
Sometimes the trustee decides that you need to provide more documentation. If that happens, they’ll probably just reschedule your 341 meeting to a later date. But if your paperwork is in order and your case is simple, the trustee will probably dismiss you after asking a few questions. Most Chapter 7 cases are no-asset cases, so the meetings move pretty quickly
Dealing with Your Car
You can usually keep your car through a bankruptcy if you can protect your equity in it with bankruptcy exemptions. Indiana doesn’t have a specific exemption for motor vehicles, but there is a generous $10,250 wildcard exemption you can use to cover your car. See more on exemptions below.
If you file Chapter 7 and you want to keep a vehicle with an outstanding car loan, you have to be current on your monthly payments. You may need to sign a reaffirmation agreement for the lender, which re-commits you to the loan. If you’re behind on the loan or you can’t afford the monthly payments, it may make sense to surrender the car to the lender. When you surrender a car during bankruptcy, you aren’t responsible for the loan anymore. After your bankruptcy case is finished, you can buy a more affordable vehicle.
If you’re behind on your car payments and want to keep your car, you’ll want to get legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney about Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 is a type of bankruptcy that allows the filer to repay their debt through the court on a structured repayment plan. Chapter 13 plan can help when you’re facing home foreclosure or vehicle repossession because it allows you to catch up on past-due secured debt payments.
If you’re leasing a car, you’ll list the lease on a different bankruptcy form. You can choose to keep the lease or you can choose to end it based on what works best for you.
Indiana Bankruptcy Means Test
You need to take a two-step test called a means test to find out whether you qualify to file Chapter 7 based on your income and ability or inability to repay your debt. First, you’ll calculate your current monthly income. If it’s below Indiana’s median income level for your household size, you pass the test and qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
If your income is too high and you don’t pass the first part of the means test, there’s still a second chance to qualify for Chapter 7 by taking the second part of the test. It’s more involved and takes your living expenses into account to see if you have enough disposable income to repay at least part of your debt. If you still fail the means test, you can look into filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case instead.
Data on Median income levels for Indiana
Indiana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Indiana
Indiana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Indiana Bankruptcy Forms
The primary forms used in bankruptcy filings are federal and used nationwide. The Northern District of Indiana also requires a local form as a cover sheet to your creditor matrix. The Southern District of Indiana requires local cover sheets for your creditor matrix and paystubs that can be found in the court’s Pro Se Debtor Packet.
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Indiana Districts & Filing Requirements
Indiana has two bankruptcy districts: the Northern District of Indiana and the Southern District of Indiana. Filing requirements vary by district, so you’ll want to make sure you know what district you need to file in and what its requirements are.
Northern District of Indiana Requirements
The Northern District of Indiana is divided into four separate divisions:
South Bend Division
Fort Wayne Division
The court has a ZIP code lookup tool to find out where you should file. You’ll need to call the court in the division you’re in to find out how you must file your bankruptcy papers and how you may pay the filing fee because this information isn’t posted on the Northern District’s website. Similarly, you’ll want to call the court to see if there are COVID-19 procedures in place that affect your filing options. There’s no minimum first payment if you request to pay the filing fee in four installments, but the court can reject an unreasonable proposal.
Southern District of Indiana Requirements
The Southern District of Indiana is divided into four divisions:
Terre Haute Division
New Albany Division
The court has a county lookup page to find out where you should file. If you’re filing pro se, you can file your bankruptcy papers by mail, in person, or by drop box at the appropriate clerk’s office. Note that paper filings in the Terre Haute Division must go to Evansville. Pro se filers may also file electronically using the court’s Electronic Self-Representation (eSR) platform.
New petitions must be accompanied by a copy of your government-issued ID. You may pay the filing fee by money order or cashier’s check. If you file in person, you can also pay with cash. If there are COVID-19 protocol changes, they’ll be posted on the court’s website. If you request an installment payment plan, the minimum amount for the first installment is $85.
Indiana Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions protect your property so that the trustee can’t take it and sell it to pay your creditors. In some states, files get to choose between using the federal exemptions or the state’s exemptions. But Indiana filers can’t use the federal bankruptcy exemptions because Indiana has opted out of them. They can only use Indiana’s bankruptcy exemptions.
If you’re a homeowner in Indiana, you can use the homestead exemption to protect up to $19,300 of equity in your home. Indiana doesn’t have an exemption that specifically covers motor vehicles, so people generally use Indiana’s wildcard exemption of $10,250 to cover vehicles. The wildcard exemption is a catch-all type of exemption that can cover any kind of property except real estate.
Indiana Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Many people file Chapter 7 cases successfully on their own, but you may want some legal advice or assistance with your case. If so, you’re probably wondering what it costs. Many bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee for handling Chapter 7 cases. The typical attorney fee for a Chapter 7 case in Indiana starts around $795 and ranges up to $1,450, depending on the case’s complexity.
Some lawyers offer free consultations. You’ll want to consider a lawyer’s experience, reviews and/or reputation, communication skills, and cost before you hire them. Even in a simple case, the bankruptcy process can take four to five months, so you want to make sure you have a good attorney-client relationship.
Indiana Legal Aid Organizations
If you’re not comfortable filing on your own but you can’t afford a bankruptcy attorney, you may qualify for free or low-cost legal assistance from a legal aid organization. Legal aid organizations provide help with civil matters like bankruptcy to low-income individuals.
Indiana Court Locations
Robert K. Rodibaugh United States Courthouse
401 South Michigan Street South Bend, IN 46601
E. Ross Adair Federal Building and United States Courthouse
1300 South Harrison Street Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Charles A. Halleck Federal Building
230 North Fourth Street Lafayette, IN 47901
Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse
46 East Ohio Street Indianapolis, IN 46204
Lee H. Hamilton Federal Building and United States Courthouse
121 West Spring Street New Albany, IN 47150
101 NW Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Evansville, IN 47708
Indiana Bankruptcy Judges
|Northern District of Indiana||Hon. Robert E. Grant|
|Northern District of Indiana||Hon. James R. Ahler|
|Northern District of Indiana||Hon. Harry C. Dees|
|Northern District of Indiana||Hon. Kent Lindquist|
|Hon. Robyn L. Moberly|
|Hon. James M. Carr|
|Hon. Jeffrey J. Graham|
|Hon. Basil H. Lorch III|
|Gary D. Boyn|
|Daniel L. Freeland|
|Gordon E. Gouveia|
|Jacqueline S. Homann|
|Rebecca L. Hoyt-Fischer|
|Yvette G. Kleven|
|Kenneth A. Manning||Ken@kmmglawfirm.com|
|J. Richard Ransel|
|Dustin M. Roach|
|Martin E. Seifert|
|Mark A. Warsco|
|Kimberly A. Wrightfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Stacia L. Yoon|
|Charity S. Birdemail@example.com|
|Richard E. Boston|
|Deborah J. Caruso|
|Kathryn L. Pry Coryellfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Gregory S. Fehribach|
|Joanne B. Friedmeyer|
|Jenice R. Golson-Dunlap|
|Paul D. Gresk|
|Joseph W. Hammesemail@example.com|
|Michael J. Hebenstreit|
|Thomas A. Krudyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|R. Stephen LaPlante|
|Lou Ann Maroccoemail@example.com|
|John J. Petr|
|Gregory K. Silverfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Anastasia M. Wisselemail@example.com|
|Randall Lee Woodruff|