Live in Louisiana and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Louisiana debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 30, 2020
Even though no one thinks they'd ever have to take advantage of the Louisiana bankruptcy laws, if you do find yourself struggling with too much debt, remember, these laws were created to protect you. They exist to give regular folks the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and start fresh. What a lot of people don't realize is that when people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, everyone involved has the same goal: Give the honest but unfortunate debtor the chance to start anew and get their life back, while giving creditors what they are due, to the extent that is possible. That does not mean, however, that you are left with nothing. In fact, the Louisiana bankruptcy laws protect those things that everyone relies on just to live life in the Pelican State. You are not shirking your responsibilities by filing a Louisiana bankruptcy, just like Henry Ford, Mark Twain and Willie Nelson did not shirk theirs. Bankruptcy is not for everyone, but you won't know whether it can provide you with the relief you need without learning more about it. Remember, knowledge is power.
How to File Bankruptcy in Louisiana for Free
Most folks that end up filing bankruptcy in Louisiana start the process wondering whether they can even afford to, without realizing that you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana completely for free, if needed. First, you don't have to hire a lawyer (though it sometimes saves money in the long run to do so), and, if your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, the court can waive the filing fee for you.
Collect Your Louisiana Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in Louisiana means doing a lot of paperwork. Even though no one likes paperwork, it's important to do things right. The bottom line is collecting your documents early on in the process can help you every single step of the way and make your Louisiana bankruptcy at least a little less stressful for you. Most people start by gathering their paycheck stubs for the last 6 months so they can make sure they are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana. You should also get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You are entitled to get one free credit report per year from each one of them, so, other than the time to submit your request, getting your reports will not cost you anything. After filing bankruptcy in Louisiana, everyone that says you owe them money will be notified by the court and having your credit report will help you make sure you’re not accidentally leaving anyone out. Finally, while you might not need it right away, you should also find your most recent federal income tax return and gather the bank statements for all of your accounts for the last few months, just in case.
Take Credit Counseling
Even though everyone that ends up having to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana got to that point in their life a different way, they all have the same options, generally speaking, on what to do about it. In order to make sure that you understand all of your options in bankruptcy the Bankruptcy Code requires that everyone filing bankruptcy in Louisiana take a credit counseling course before their case can be filed. Since this is a legal requirement, it is important to take the course from a company that is approved to offer it in Louisiana. A lot of people take advantage of the fact that you can take this course online, from the comfort of your home. If you prefer dealing with someone in person, MMI has locations in Bossier, Baton Rouge and New Orleans that offer the course to people filing bankruptcy in Louisiana. It only takes about 2 hours to complete, but there can be as much as a 24 hour delay to getting your certificate of completion, so try not to cut it too close, especially if it is important that you file your Louisiana bankruptcy by a certain date (to stop a foreclosure, for example). The course certificate is valid as long as your case is filed within 180 days after taking the class.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
If you thought you were dealing with a lot of paperwork when you were collecting the documents for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, completing your bankruptcy forms will probably be your least favorite part of this entire process. Everyone filing bankruptcy in Louisiana has to fill out the same forms, and they are, well, court forms. If you have a lawyer that is helping you with your case, they will prepare the official forms for you after collecting your bankruptcy documents and asking you all of the questions that they need answered to make sure everything is done properly. If you can't afford a lawyer, you should check if you are eligible to use Upsolve for your case, as that will take a lot of the burden of completing the bankruptcy forms off your shoulder. As you are going through this process, whether that's through a lawyer, through Upsolve, or on your own, remember that these documents are going to be filed with a federal court who has the authority to throw out your Louisiana bankruptcy case if you don't take the requirements seriously. These documents are your only opportunity to tell the court about why you ended up filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana, so it's important not to leave anything out.
Get Your Filing Fee
As mentioned earlier, even though there is a $335 court filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, if you cannot afford to pay this amount, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. To do this, simply complete this application to have the court filing fee waived and file it with the rest of your bankruptcy forms. Keep in mind, however, that if your household income exceeds 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you will not qualify for such a waiver. If you know you won't be able to get a fee waiver but can't collect the entire court filing fee before filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana, you can ask the court for permission to make payments with this application instead. This will give you up to four months after your case is filed to make regular payments according to a schedule set by the court. However, missing just one of the payments can get your Louisiana bankruptcy thrown out of court, so if you can, have your full filing fee ready before filing your case. Since not all courts accept cash, so it's best to bring the fee in the form of a money order when filing bankruptcy in Louisiana.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you are filing bankruptcy in Louisiana with the help of a lawyer, they will file all the forms for your case electronically. If you are filing without a lawyer ("pro se"), then you will have to print out your bankruptcy forms so you can bring them to the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court. Even though you are printing everything for a legal proceeding (i.e. your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana), don't worry about figuring out how to print on legal size paper as the court only accepts documents that are 8.5" x 11". It's a good idea to print everything that you plan on filing with the court twice, so you have a full copy for your own records.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Before you leave home to head to the courthouse, make sure you have everything you need: Your bankruptcy forms, your credit counseling certificate, your filing fee (or application for a waiver/installment plan), and your picture ID. Remember that you are going to be entering a federal court building when filing bankruptcy in Louisiana, so don't leave anything in your pockets that might make the U.S. Marshals manning the door nervous. Once inside, make your way to the clerk's office, which is where you turn in all of your paperwork. While they can't give you legal advice, they are there to help you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, so remember to be courteous and to listen closely when they give you instructions. If you are unsure about where to park when you get to the courthouse, it's best to make a game plan ahead of time. This way you won't be worried about getting a parking ticket while filing bankruptcy in Louisiana.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana, a trustee is assigned to administer the case. The trustee's job includes reviewing your tax documents to confirm that the information you are providing to the IRS matches the information you provided to the Bankruptcy Court in your schedules and statements. Depending on who your trustee is, you may also receive a written request to provide some additional documents to their office. In order to get the relief you want from the Bankruptcy Court after filing bankruptcy in Louisiana, you have a duty to cooperate with the trustee, so make sure to stay on top of any request you may receive from them. Even if you don't receive anything form your trustee, make sure to mail, at minimum, your federal income tax return for last year (i.e. the return you filed the year your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana was commenced) to them so they receive it at least 7 days before your meeting of creditors. If you are in the Middle District, the local rules require that you bring your federal income tax return and your recent paycheck stubs to the creditors meeting. However, keep an eye out for any correspondence from your trustee anyway, just in case there are other documents they want you to provide to their office.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Even though you already had to complete a credit counseling course before filing bankruptcy in Louisiana, you now have to take another course. If you do not complete course 2, the court may close your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana without ever entering your discharge order, which in turn would allow your creditors to start contacting you again. To make sure you don't forget about this requirement after filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana, you may want to plan on taking it in the 30 days after you go to the courthouse to file your bankruptcy forms. As before, make sure you are using a company approved to offer this course for people in a Louisiana bankruptcy. When you are done, they will give you a certificate of completion that, once filed, will alert to court to the fact that you have complied with this requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting will probably be the most stressful part of your Louisiana bankruptcy experience, at least until it is over. That's when most folks filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana usually realize that it really wasn't necessary to worry about their 341 meeting. Also called a "meeting of creditors" this is an opportunity for the trustee that is handling your case to ask you certain questions under oath. Additionally, in order to properly verify your information, they may ask some follow up questions to clarify any aspects of your financial circumstances that are not completely clear by just looking at the paperwork you gave to the court when you filed your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana. It helps to prepare, even just briefly, so you know what to expect when you get there. The date, time and location of your 341 meeting will be on the official bankruptcy notice you receive from the court after your case has been filed. Since the trustee also has a duty to make sure you are who you say you are, make sure you bring your picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number with you. Without this information, the trustee may reschedule your meeting, thereby delaying the entry of your discharge, the very thing that everyone filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana looks forward to.
Dealing with Your Car
If you are worried that you might lose your car after filing Chapter 7 in Louisiana, you shouldn't be. If you have a car loan, then you get to keep your car as long as you agree to continue to pay for it by entering into a reaffirmation agreement with the creditor. You can also agree to redeem it after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana has been filed by paying the creditor an amount equal to the car's value. While this may require you to take out a new loan to make this lump sum payment, it may make sense to do so if the original loan balance is far greater than the value of the vehicle. Finally, if you don't want to keep the car, your discharge will protect you from any personal liability on the car loan after you surrender it to the creditor. If you have equity in your vehicle, or you own it free and clear, Louisiana bankruptcy laws allow you to protect it up to $7,500. As long as your car is worth less than that, you can keep your car even if it is paid off when filing bankruptcy in Louisiana.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Means Test
In order to make sure that folks are not taking advantage of the Louisiana bankruptcy laws if they can actually afford to pay at least some of their debts, everyone filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana has to pass the means test. The first step is to compare your household income with the median income for a similar household, to check if you are below the income limits. If you are, you pass the Louisiana means test for bankruptcy. If not, you may still be able to qualify for Chapter 7 relief after completing part two of the Louisiana bankruptcy means test, which calculates your ability to repay your debts by taking certain expenses into account.
Data on Median income levels for Louisiana
Louisiana Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Louisiana
Louisiana Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Louisiana Bankruptcy Forms
Your Louisiana bankruptcy forms are comprised of the official forms that are the same whether you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana or elsewhere, and some local forms. While the local forms tend to vary for each district, they typically include a declaration regarding your payment advices and a verification of your creditors' mailing matrix. The latter requires you to sign, under oath and penalty of perjury, that you have provided the court with correct addresses for all of your creditors. While they are not technically online bankruptcy forms, but fillable PDF documents instead, you do have free access to all Louisiana bankruptcy forms on each of the three Louisiana bankruptcy districts' websites.
Eastern District of Louisiana Requirements
With its courthouse located in New Orleans, the this district is comprised of Louisiana's 13 eastern-most parishes. Before visiting the court, make sure to carefully review the court's security policies. These policies apply to everyone that wishes to enter the building; the fact that you are there to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana with the clerk, and won't even see a judge while there, does not change that. If you have to file immediately, but the courthouse is already closed for the day, you can find instructions on how to file your Louisiana bankruptcy case after hours even without an attorney on the court’s website.
Middle District of Louisiana Requirements
This district has a population of approximately 1 million people and covers a nine-parish region in south-central Louisiana. Everyone who owns a car when filing a Louisiana bankruptcy in this district must disclose, in addition to the information required by the official forms, the actual mileage for each vehicle. Additionally, folks that are in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Middle District must bring paper copies of their federal income tax return for the prior year and recent paycheck stubs to their creditors’ meeting.
Western District of Louisiana Requirements
The Western District of Louisiana is the largest of the three districts and is divided into the following 5 divisions: Alexandria, Lake Charles, Monroe, Lafayette, and Shreveport. Court is conducted in all of the divisions, but the Clerk of the Court for the Bankruptcy Court only has staff in the Shreveport,Lafayette, and Alexandria offices. As long as you go to one of these three locations to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, the clerk's office will accept your paperwork, even if your case is actually assigned another division within the district. To find out which division will hear your case, Local Rule 5005-1 includes the details on which parishes belong to each division.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Exemptions
Everyone who has lived in the Pelican State for at least two years has to use Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions to protect their property. The idea behind a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana is that the debtors gets to keep what has been designated as exempt, while their creditors receive the value of all non-exempt property. That way, everyone getting a fresh start is protected equally when it comes to their assets. In addition to your car, discussed above, Louisiana bankruptcy laws protect your homestead, your personal property, including your wedding rings, firearms and ammunition and certain intangible property such as wages and retirement accounts. Most Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions have a dollar limit, so carefully review the value of your property to make sure it is fully protected.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Not all bankruptcies are created equal and if you feel that your case may be a little more complicated than most, hiring a lawyer can be a good investment. The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer who helps people file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana ranges from about $1,450 to $1,800, though most lawyers offer a free initial consultation for potential Louisiana bankruptcy debtors.
Attorney cost estimate: $1,450 – $1,800
Louisiana Legal Aid Organizations
Louisiana legal aid organizations make it their mission to provide free legal services to low income residents of Louisiana. If you can't afford a lawyer to help you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, but don't feel like you can go through the process without one, visit one of the organizations providing legal aid in Louisiana for help.
Louisiana Court Locations
Hale Boggs Federal Building United States Courthouse
500 Poydras Street New Orleans, LA 70130
Tom Stagg United States Court House
300 Fannin Street Shreveport, LA 71101
300 Jackson Street Alexandria, LA 71301
The Lemoine Company Building
214 Jefferson Street Lafayette, LA 70501
Louisiana Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Louisiana||Hon. Elizabeth W. Magner|
|Eastern District of Louisiana||Hon. Jerry A. Brown|
|Middle District of Louisiana||Hon. Douglas D. Dodd|
|Western District of Louisiana||Hon. John W. Kolwe|
|Western District of Louisiana||Hon. John S. Hodge|
|David V. Adlerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Wilbur J. Babin Jr.||email@example.com|
|Ronald J. Hoffirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Barbara N. Rivera-Fultonemail@example.com|
|Samera L. Abidefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Dwayne M. Murrayemail@example.com|
|Martin A. Schottfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Elizabeth G. Andrusemail@example.com|
|Ted B. Brunsonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|John C. Conineemail@example.com|
|John W. Lusterfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Mark K. Suttonemail@example.com|
|Thomas R. Willsonfirstname.lastname@example.org|