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 February 15, 2022
If you’re constantly worried about how to deal with an unexpected medical bill or car repair expense or you don’t have any money left to buy groceries after making all of your minimum payments, you’re not alone. You can look into your debt relief options, but sometimes filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best way to get a fresh start. And that fresh start could be here sooner than you realize. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process often takes just a few months.
While you may feel stressed now, many folks feel relieved once they get a better sense of how the bankruptcy process goes, and they take their first steps toward filing. This guide provides an overview of the process of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kansas.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Kansas
Sometimes people don’t file for bankruptcy because they worry about how they’ll be able to afford a bankruptcy lawyer. It’s true that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is expensive. In fact, it’s usually the biggest cost of filing bankruptcy. But fortunately, you can file bankruptcy on your own without a bankruptcy attorney. Here are the steps to do so.
Collect Your Kansas Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in Kansas (anywhere, really) requires quite a bit of legwork. But you can prepare your bankruptcy petition — the packet of paperwork you submit to the court — on your own timeline. Collecting and organizing your bankruptcy documents is the first step in the process.
These documents include:
A copy of your tax returns from the last two years, and
Paycheck stubs you’ve received in the last 60 days.
It’s also a good idea to compile information on what you owe creditors. These documents include:
Bills or statements that have come from your creditors,
A recent credit report,
Any communication you receive from collection agencies, and
Additional bank statements from up to the past year.
You can get a free credit report once a year from each of the three main credit bureaus. Your credit report shows every open credit account you have, the creditor’s name and contact information, and your account balances. All this will be helpful information as your fill out your Chapter 7 paperwork. If you file using Upsolve’s free filing tool, it will pull your credit report for you.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
To file bankruptcy, you must enroll in a credit counseling course. These courses talk about the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy and cover other options to manage your debt. The class takes about 1-2 hours to complete. You can take it online or over the phone. As long as the company you use to complete this course is authorized to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in Kansas, it doesn’t matter which provider or method you choose.
There is a small cost for the course, but you may qualify for a fee waiver if you can’t afford it. Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion, which you need to file along with your other bankruptcy paperwork. You must take the course within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
To file bankruptcy, you have to fill out several forms. Most of these are federal forms, so they’ll be the same, regardless of what state you file in. You can download the forms for free as fillable PDFs from USCOURTS.gov. This part of the bankruptcy process tends to be the most tedious and time-consuming, but you can do it with some patience and perhaps a little help.
If you’re eligible to use Upsolve’s filing tool to help prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kansas, you’ll answer questions online, and the tool will generate the forms for you based on the information you provide. If you hire a lawyer to help you, they’ll ask you questions and then prepare your forms for you.
Regardless of how you complete the forms, you’re the one who has to sign them, so it's important to pay close attention to all of the questions and requests contained in the forms. It’s in your best interest to take your time, be thorough, and make sure you truthfully fill out all the information.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kansas is $338. You should try to have the full amount ready when you go to file your case. You can pay with a money order, cashier’s check, or in cash (in the exact amount) if you file in person at the Kansas Bankruptcy Court. You can purchase a money order from any post office.
If you can’t afford the filing fee and you earn less than 150% of the poverty guidelines, you can apply for a fee waiver. Check the Kansas Fee Waiver Eligibility table below to see if you qualify based on your current income. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you can apply to pay the filing fee in installments, but it’s best not to do so unless you need to file your case quickly.
For example, if you’re facing wage garnishment, you may want to file your case and apply to pay in installments so you can get the protection of the automatic stay right away. As soon as you file, the automatic stay takes effect. This stops wage garnishment and most other collection measures your creditors are pursuing. If you don’t need to file quickly, you should wait until you have the full filing fee, so you don’t risk missing a payment and having your case dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you file for bankruptcy without a lawyer ("pro se") you can’t use the court's electronic filing system to submit your documents to the court. Instead, you need to print all your forms and bring them or mail them to the court. The forms should be printed on regular, white 8.5" x 11" paper using black ink. Only print on one side of the page. To ensure that you don’t miss anything, print out each document individually and check them off on a checklist as you go. Finally, make sure you’ve signed in every required signature spot.
If you file using the filing tool from Upsolve, you’ll receive your whole packet as one download that includes dividers noting the signature pages.
File Your Forms With the Kansas Bankruptcy Court
Without a lawyer, you can’t file your bankruptcy online. You can submit your bankruptcy petition by mail, email, or in person. Bringing the papers to the court clerk yourself in person has several advantages. Filing in person may allow you to fix errors on the spot and ensures your case is filed as quickly and smoothly as possible. The Kansas Bankruptcy Court has locations in Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita.
The filing fee is $338. You can apply to pay in installments. You can make payments by cash, a money order, or cashier’s check. If you’re filing by mail, you can’t pay in cash. The court doesn’t accept personal checks or credit cards.
You can mail or email your forms to any of the following addresses:
Robert J. Dole Courthouse
500 State Avenue, Rm. 161
Kansas City, KS 66101
Frank Carlson Federal Building
444 SE Quincy, Rm. 240
Topeka, KS 66683
Wichita U.S. Courthouse
401 N. Market, Rm. 167
Wichita, KS 67202
The court has remained open during COVID-19, though you should check current procedures before you go to file your petition. If you don't want to go to the court during COVID-19, your best bet is to email your forms to the addresses above.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your bankruptcy case, the court will assign a trustee to handle your bankruptcy. The trustee is an independent third party who reviews and verifies your information. They also run the 341 meeting (more on this later). Once you file for bankruptcy, you’ll receive your trustee’s contact information and the meeting date. Each trustee has a different process, but many send out a letter that explains what they need from you. At a minimum, you’ll need to send your bankruptcy trustee:
Copies of your two most recent federal income tax returns, and
A bank statement that includes your filing date.
You must send these at least seven days before your 341 meeting. The trustee may ask for other documents as well, such as pay stubs, copies of vehicle titles, and mortgage documents.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
To receive your discharge, you must take a debtor education course. If you don’t complete the course within 60 days of the 341 meeting, then the court can dismiss your case before you get the debt relief you’re seeking. The debtor education course covers financial management strategies like budgeting, so you can make the most of your fresh start.
Like with the credit counseling course, you must take the debtor education course from a state-approved provider. These are the same companies that provide the credit counseling courses. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate that you need to submit to the court. Some course providers will send the form to the bankruptcy court for you.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
One of the final steps in the bankruptcy process is attending the 341 meeting. This is also called a creditors' meeting or meeting of creditors because your creditors can attend and ask you questions. However, that rarely happens. More commonly, it’s just you and the trustee. The trustee will verify that your name and Social Security number match the information on your bankruptcy documents. They’ll also ask you questions about your case under oath. Don’t worry, there are no trick questions.
If you’re nervous about your meeting, you can prepare by reviewing your forms. Remember, very little can go wrong. Take a deep breath and answer truthfully it will be over before you know it. Most 341 meetings take less than 10 minutes, and once it’s over, you’re one step closer to having your debts erased.
Due to COVID-19, all of these meetings are currently being conducted remotely.
Dealing with Your Car
You may be worried that filing bankruptcy means you’ll lose important property like your car. The good news is that you get to choose how to deal with your car when you file Chapter 7. To make the best decision, you’ll want to look at how much you still owe (if anything) and whether your car loan or lease is working for you. Here are some of your options:
If you own your car outright you can keep it if it’s worth $20,000 or less and you use it to get to and from work.
If you have a loan on the car, you’re current on your payments, and you want to and can continue to make them, you can enter a reaffirmation agreement with the bank or your lender. In this agreement, you reaffirm that you can continue with the loan as it has been and agree that the debt will not be eliminated.
Alternatively, if you have a loan on the car and you can’t or don’t want to continue paying it, you can surrender the car. If you do this, under bankruptcy laws you won’t have to pay the balance of the loan.
If you’re leasing a car and you’re up to date with your payments, you can keep the lease going on its original terms or terminate the lease and return the car.
If you decide to give up your car when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, remember that you can always get another car later. You may even get a better deal on financing if you wait a little while for your credit score to recover.
Kansas Bankruptcy Means Test
The Bankruptcy Code is a federal law that lays out certain eligibility requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This includes a means test, which compares your average income over the last six months to the median income for a similarly sized Kansas household. If your income is lower, you pass the test. If your income is higher, you can take the second part of the test, which also looks at your expenses to see if you can afford to pay down any of your debt with your disposable income.
If you have enough disposable income to pay some of your debt, you may be required to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. Unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 includes a repayment plan.
Data on Median income levels for Kansas
Kansas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Kansas
Kansas Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2022
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Kansas Bankruptcy Forms
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms you will use for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kansas are a combination of the national forms used across the entire United States and the Kansas bankruptcy forms used only in the Sunflower State. When your Kansas bankruptcy is filed with the court, you will have to use this Kansas bankruptcy form to disclose the income you earned in the 60 days prior to filing your case. All of the Kansas Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms can be downloaded for free from the form section of court's website.
Kansas Bankruptcy Forms
The main forms you use to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Kansas will be the same forms filers in other states use because they’re federal forms. But Kansas also has a specific form filers are required to fill out to disclose their income for the last 60 days. You can find other local forms online.
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Kansas Districts & Filing Requirements
When you go to file your paperwork at the court, you’ll also need to pay your filing fee in cash or with a money order or cashier’s check. The court doesn’t accept personal checks or debit or credit card payments. If you can’t pay the fee you can apply for a fee waiver or installment plan.
Due to COVID-19, filing methods or court procedures may have changed. Check the court’s page on current procedures before you go or file your paperwork.
Kansas Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions are essentially protections for your property. They vary by state and protect personal property like cars, household goods, and tools of the trade up to a certain amount. They also protect real property such as your home and land. In some states, you can choose between using the state’s exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions. If you’ve lived in Kansas for at least two years when you file for bankruptcy, you must use the Kansas bankruptcy exemptions because Kansas is an opt-out state. This means it’s opted out of letting filers choose which set of exemptions they want to use.
Kansas has a generous vehicle exemption of $20,000 as long as you use the vehicle for work. It also has a generous homestead exemption, which protects all the equity you have in your house. Kansas doesn’t have what’s known as a wildcard exemption, though. Wildcard exemptions allow filers to claim an exemption on any property up to a certain value.
If you file a Kansas bankruptcy case but you haven't lived in the state for at least two years, you have to look at the laws of the state you previously lived in to determine your exemptions.
Kansas Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
If you have a complicated case or you just want some help navigating the bankruptcy process, you can hire a bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy lawyers in Kansas usually charge a flat fee between $800 and $1,300 for their services. The fee generally depends on the difficulty of your case and the lawyer’s experience.
Given that you’re dealing with financial problems when going through bankruptcy, you may be tempted to hire the cheapest lawyer. But you want to be sure to make the best choice and get the legal advice that you need to move forward. So there are several other factors to consider in addition to the cost.
Kansas Legal Aid Organizations
No matter how helpful a lawyer may be, you might not be able to afford attorney fees. Fortunately, there are legal aid organizations that offer free or low-cost legal services for eligible Kansans. These organizations exist to help low-income individuals who can’t afford expensive lawyer fees. They specialize in civil legal matters like bankruptcy.
Kansas Court Locations
Frank Carlson Federal Building and United States Courthouse
444 Southeast Quincy Street Topeka, KS 66683
Robert J. Dole United States Courthouse
500 State Avenue Kansas City, KS 66101
Kansas Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Kansas||Hon. Dale L. Somers|
|District of Kansas||Hon. Robert E. Nugent|
|District of Kansas||Hon. Robert D. Berger|
|Robert L. Baer|
|Patricia E. Hamilton|
|J. Michael Morris|
|Linda S. Parks|
|Steven R. Rebein|
|Christopher J. Redmondemail@example.com|
|Darcy D. Williamson|