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 Louisville, Kentucky.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 29, 2020
Members of low-income households are usually eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This process allows filers a fresh financial start by eliminating their eligible unsecured debts. As filers who are eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy earn very little income, the courts keep the filing process so straightforward that most individuals can file on their own without paid legal advice.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
Most of the time, when individuals need to take any kind of legal action, they need to consult a law firm that handles the practice area that governs their legal issues. Couples seeking a divorce consult divorce attorneys. Car accident victims consult personal injury lawyers. In this way, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is unique. If you don’t earn much income, own a small business, or possess much expensive property, you don’t need to hire a bankruptcy attorney to successfully prepare and submit your bankruptcy case.
Unlike filing the other primary form of consumer bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filing under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is a straightforward process. Both approaches allow filers to obtain a fresh start. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires filers to restructure their debt and to pay a certain amount over 3-5 years. This is a complex process that requires the assistance of a bankruptcy lawyer. However, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy primarily involves accurately reporting one’s income, property, and debts so that the bankruptcy court can make an informed decision about granting a discharge order. It is a straightforward process manageable without legal help.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
As previously mentioned, Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are complex. Regardless of how straightforward your financial situation may be, you’ll need professional help with your bankruptcy petition if you’re ineligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because your income exceeds the limits outlined in the Chapter 7 Means Test. Only low-income consumers are permitted to seek debt relief under Chapter 7, so this bankruptcy process isn’t an option for everyone.
Thankfully, developing an attorney-client relationship with an attorney employed at a bankruptcy law office is affordable in most Chapter 13 cases. At least some of the fees for your lawyer’s legal services will be folded into your repayment plan. Therefore, you’ll be able to pay these fees over time, which is a manageable arrangement. In most cases, filers pay their legal fees using repayment funds that would have been sent to other creditors regardless. In this way, you would essentially have nothing to lose financially by seeking professional help with filing bankruptcy under Chapter 13.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
Legal aid societies employ attorneys and they welcome private attorneys as volunteers. These attorneys provide free and low-cost legal services to people who don’t earn much income and who are facing specific legal challenges. Louisville legal aid societies help eligible clients with Chapter 7 bankruptcy claims.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Before clients can meet with an attorney, they are screened per the legal aid organization’s eligibility process. During the screening process, you’ll be asked questions about your income, your household size, and your legal needs. If you pass the screening, you may be placed on a waitlist. Legal aid attorneys are often in high demand and there aren’t always enough resources to go around to all clients immediately. Once an attorney can accommodate your case, you’ll meet with them one-on-one.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Legal aid eligibility criteria vary from organization to organization. Many organizations across the United States receive funding from the Legal Services Corporation, which requires funding recipients to serve low-income communities who report an annual household income that doesn’t exceed 125% of the federal poverty line. However, even these organizations can choose to assist others as they please. Therefore, the best way to determine an organization’s eligibility structure is to contact it directly.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Phone numbers, addresses, and other relevant contact information for Louisville-area legal aid societies can be found below. Keep in mind that even if one legal aid organization has a substantial waiting list, another may not. It may be beneficial to “call around” before committing to working with one organization over another.
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky
120 North Front Avenue, Prestonsburg, KY 41653
Kentucky Legal Aid
1700 Destiny Lane, Bowling Green, KY 42104
Legal Aid of the Bluegrass
104 East Seventh Street, Covington, KY 41011-1740
Legal Aid Society
416 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Suite 300, Louisville, KY 40202-2354
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
At any time, you can request an initial consultation with a firm that practices bankruptcy law, even if you have placed your name on a waiting list for legal aid or you plan to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by yourself. Most Kentucky consumer bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations to anyone struggling with debt and interested in learning more about their options. This initial consultation process serves as a case evaluation and an opportunity to ask questions – nothing more. Taking this meeting doesn’t obligate you to work with an attorney.
To find attorneys in your area who offer free case evaluations, consider searching the Kentucky State Bar Association website, local bar association sites, or asking loved ones for their recommendations. Alternatively, you can use the “find an attorney” page on the NACBA website. The NACBA is the respected National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys organization.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
After receiving a free case evaluation and/or exploring the possibility of becoming a client of a legal aid society, you may still choose to file on your own. Given how straightforward the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is, this is always an option as long as your case isn’t unusually complex. If you choose to file without a bankruptcy attorney’s assistance, you are said to be filing “pro se.”
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
Just as scheduling a free credit counseling session can help you understand the various debt relief options available to you, researching reputable information online can help you navigate these options in an efficient and informed way. To learn more about how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se, head over to Upsolve’s Learning Center. This hub features hundreds of guides and articles designed to help both pro se filers and anyone else who may be interested in managing credit card debt, halting debt collector harassment, and otherwise taking control of their financial situation.
While you’re on the Upsolve site, take a few minutes to determine whether you’re eligible to use Upsolve’s free filing tool. If you’re filing a simple case (no joint filings can be prepared with the tool at this time), you can locate and prepare all of your bankruptcy forms on this secure, easy-to-navigate platform. Once they are complete, you can easily print them out and submit them to the court. This platform saves users a great deal of time and stress, so it’s worth seeing whether it’s a good fit for your pro se process.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
Printed guides on the various types of bankruptcy and several aspects of bankruptcy law may be found at any bankruptcy court. From preparing for your meeting of creditors to successfully obtaining a filing fee waiver, these guides can be helpful if you don’t mind swinging by a local bankruptcy court to pick them up.
Gene Snyder United States Courthouse
601 West Broadway Louisville, KY 40202
Community Trust Building
100 East Vine Street Lexington, KY 40507
No two personal financial situations are exactly alike. Not all debt challenges can be solved by filing for consumer bankruptcy. However, this debt relief option is life-changing for hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. If you’ve determined that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the right move for you and your family, you can choose to work with an attorney or file pro se. Both options will help you achieve a fresh start. If you opt to file pro se to save money, you can take advantage of many free, reputable self-filing resources available online and in print.