Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in Wichita, Kansas.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 4, 2020
Finding a free bankruptcy lawyer anywhere in the United States is tough if you’re not eligible for free legal services from a civil legal aid society. However, filing for bankruptcy remains surprisingly affordable regardless. Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers can repay their legal debts through bankruptcy repayment plan installments over 3-5 years. Chapter 7 filers have even fewer costs to worry about. With some exceptions, Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers can often successfully prepare their bankruptcy petitions without any professional assistance.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
If you can’t pay your creditors, chances are that you can’t afford to pay an attorney for legal services either, right? This is the logic that has driven U.S. bankruptcy courts to keep the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing process so straightforward that most filers don’t need to pay for legal advice to prepare their bankruptcy forms successfully. Filers that don’t own a lot of expensive property, a small business, or real estate (beyond their home) can almost always prepare their Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases successfully without an attorney’s assistance. This is true whether filers are individuals or married spouses filing jointly.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
If you earn a decent living, the courts assume that you can pay some portion of your debt back over time. This is why the courts limit the eligibility for filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 to members of low-income households.
If you earn too much money to qualify for debt relief under Chapter 7, you’ll want to explore Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a debt relief option. This process is much more complex than filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is, so Chapter 13 filers need professional legal help when preparing their cases. Thankfully, they can repay their legal fees over 3-5 years, which makes hiring a bankruptcy attorney very manageable under these circumstances.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
The alternative to either preparing a Chapter 7 case on your own or hiring a private attorney to help you with it is to work with a legal aid society. If you don’t earn much money, you may be eligible to receive legal advice for free or at very little cost through one of these legal nonprofit organizations.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Unlike private law offices, which generally “keep the lights on” by charging for their services, civil legal aid societies rely on donations and grant funding to remain operational. As a result, they usually limit access to their services to those who are most in need of free or low-cost legal advice. Therefore, if you contact a legal aid society and ask for help, you’ll likely be put through an eligibility screening based on your income. If demand for services is particularly high, you may be placed on a waitlist before you can meet with a bankruptcy lawyer.
Once you’re cleared to receive services, you’ll develop an attorney-client relationship with your lawyer, just as you would if you hired a private consumer bankruptcy firm to prepare your case. Your lawyer will fill out your required paperwork, prepare you for your meeting of creditors, and otherwise help to ensure that your case is ultimately a success.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Every legal aid organization approaches eligibility questions differently. Most organizations screen potential clients based on their household income. For example, organizations that receive LSC funding must – at a minimum – assist individuals whose annual household income falls below 125% of the federal poverty line. However, income-based eligibility isn’t the only litmus test some organizations employ. As a result, it’s a good idea to reach out to local legal aid societies individually to confirm whether you qualify for free or low-cost assistance.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Phone numbers, addresses, and other relevant contact information for local legal aid societies can be found below. Don’t assume that you either do or don’t qualify for services until you connect with each organization individually.
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Did you know that most law firms that practice Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy offer free consultations to anyone interested in receiving a case evaluation? This risk-free, no-cost, no-obligation process allows anyone the ability to ask a lawyer (not a paralegal) questions about the bankruptcy process and bankruptcy law without any obligation to work with an attorney moving forward. Whether you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy on your own or working with a law firm, you can attend this meeting with no risk involved.
To find a Kansas attorney who practices consumer bankruptcy law, consider searching the Kansas State Bar Association website or websites hosted by local bar associations. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) website can also be helpful during this research process.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Regardless of whether you attend a consultation at a law firm, if you choose to prepare your Chapter 7 case yourself, the court will refer to you as a “pro se” bankruptcy filer. “Pro se” is an empowering Latin term that means, “in/on one’s own behalf.” Filing pro se allows you to control every aspect of your bankruptcy process, which is appealing to many filers.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you choose to file pro se, you’ll want to do a little research into reputable self-filing tools that will allow you to navigate this process as efficiently and effectively as possible. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is almost always straightforward, but tracking down required bankruptcy forms, filling those forms out, and making sure you haven’t accidentally “skipped over” any requirements can get tricky. Thankfully, the nonprofit organization Upsolve has two free resources that help self-filers to minimize these potential stressors.
First, Upsolve’s free filing tool allows filers of simple cases (no joint filings at this time) a secure platform wherein they can access all the bankruptcy forms that they need and learn how to fill them out properly. Not everyone is eligible to use this tool but those filers that are can benefit from a streamlined bankruptcy form preparation process thanks to this resource.
Second, the public can access hundreds of bankruptcy and debt management articles and guides written by attorneys on the Upsolve Learning Center hub. This educational platform is free and is always accessible to the public without a login. Whether you’re curious about pro se filing of a Chapter 7 case, halting wage garnishments, or consolidating your credit card debt, chances are that you can find knowledgeable answers to your questions on this site.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
If you’d like some printed resources as well, pick up free guides at any Kansas bankruptcy court during business hours. These guides cover legal issues related to the different types of bankruptcy. For example, you can use these guides to learn how to request a waiver of your case filing fee and how to hold debt collectors accountable if they violate the protections afforded by the automatic stay.
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
If you’re struggling with credit card bills, medical bills, and other unsecured debt, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may allow you to achieve a fresh financial start. This debt relief option isn’t the best debt management solution for everyone but it might be the best option for you. If you’re still unsure of whether you should file bankruptcy under Chapter 7, consider scheduling a free credit counseling session or an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.
If you decide that moving forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is the best “fit” for your financial situation, know that there are many resources available that can help you file successfully. You can work with a private law firm, connect with a legal aid society, or file pro se using reputable guides like those found on the Upsolve website. No two bankruptcy cases are exactly alike. You should choose the filing option that makes the most sense for you and your unique circumstances and preferences.