Written by Attorney Amelia Niemi.
Updated September 3, 2020
It’s no secret that times have been tough over the past few years in Louisiana. If you’re considering filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, you’re in good company. Our own Louisiana State University came very close in 2015. Even local institution Bogie’s Bar declared bankruptcy in 2019 after being open for 20 years. Every year, thousands of people get their lives back on track by filing for bankruptcy protection.
Bankruptcy is a good option to consider if:
you don’t have other options to pay back your debts,
your wages are being garnished,
you keep getting harassing phone calls about how much you owe, or
you can’t sleep because you are worried about your bills.
Once you file your bankruptcy paperwork, all debt collection activities have to stop. Lenders can’t call you anymore. You can keep your entire paycheck. This can give you some valuable breathing room. Many people experience relief right after filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge because they know are taking the right steps towards financial stability.
Despite these benefits, Baton Rouge bankruptcy isn’t the right answer for everyone. You will still need to pay some debts in full, like your student loans, recent taxes, and child support. Filing bankruptcy can delay, but won’t stop a foreclosure. If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, talk to with a local legal aid organization about your options.
Most people file either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under Chapter 7, most of your debts will be erased, but if you own expensive property, like a nice car or boat, you may need to sell it. Under Chapter 13, you can keep your property, but you will spend 3 or 5 years paying back some or all of your debts. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge can take as little as 4 months to complete. Many people who go this way won’t lose any property because it’s protected by a bankruptcy exemption.
Baton Rouge Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Hiring a Baton Rouge bankruptcy lawyer can be a good investment. Working with an attorney means that they do most of the work, not you. This lets you complete your Baton Rouge bankruptcy and get your life back on track sooner. Lawyers are familiar with the ins and outs of the necessary paperwork. They know what forms to fill out and where you should sign. The Baton Rouge bankruptcy lawyer cost is between $1,450 and $1,800. The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in this area is around $1,625.
You can set up a free consultation before hiring an attorney. During your consultation, you should ask:
How long the process will take,
What paperwork they need from you,
What their fees are, and
What the total cost of filing a bankruptcy with them will be.
How to File Bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Free
Many people in our Pelican State decide to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge on their own. Here is what you need to know about how to file bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by yourself.
Collect Your Baton Rouge Bankruptcy Documents
Most people begin their Baton Rouge bankruptcy journey by organizing their paperwork. Getting everything in one place makes it a lot easier to fill out the forms and stay organized throughout the process. To get started, you will need:
Your pay stubs from the last 6 months,
Your federal tax return for the past two years,
Your bank statements for the past several months.
It’s also a good idea to get a copy of your credit reports – they will list everyone you owe money to, and their addresses. You will need this information when filling out your Louisiana bankruptcy paperwork to make sure these debts are wiped out, or discharged, after filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge.
Take Credit Counseling
Before you can file your Louisiana bankruptcy case, you need to take an approved credit counseling course. Many people choose to take the class from home, online, and at their convenience at some point in the 6 months before filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge. People without internet access can work with Money Management International in town. You should set aside 2-3 hours to complete the class. Make sure you plan ahead as it can take a day to get the certificate you need to submit with your other Chapter 7 documents. The certificate is valid for 180 days, so you can complete your credit counseling course while you are getting your papers together.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy forms are the most important part of filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge.
Give yourself plenty of time to complete your Louisiana bankruptcy paperwork. On these forms, you’ll need to disclose:
How much money you’ve made in the past six months;
How much you spend on rent, transportation, childcare, health insurance, etc.;
A list of everything you own, and how much it’s worth; and
The name and contact information for everyone you owe money to.
Getting your paperwork together first is a great way to speed up the process. Your credit report will list all your debts, so it acts as a “cheat sheet” for some of the forms.
After looking at these forms, it’s common to decide that finding a Baton Rouge bankruptcy lawyer is a good idea. They’re familiar with the paperwork and know what needs to go where. You may also be eligible for free bankruptcy help through Upsolve.
Get Your Filing Fee
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, there is a $335 filing fee. You can pay this fee with a money order made out to “US Bankruptcy Court.” This fee helps pay the people at Court who work on your case. If you can’t afford the whole fee up front, you can ask the Bankruptcy Court for a payment plan. This lets you make regular payments for up to 4 months after filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge. Be aware, however, if you miss a payment, your case can get thrown out and you will need to start again. If your household income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you are eligible to apply for a fee waiver.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you’re filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge without a lawyer, or pro se, you need to print your bankruptcy forms and take them to the Court. When you print, don’t forget to include the certificate for your credit counseling class! You should print two copies of your Baton Rouge bankruptcy forms, one to submit to the Court and one for your personal records. When you print the forms, you should use regular printer paper (8.5” x 11”). All forms need to be single-sided, or the clerk won’t accept them. If you don’t have a printer, you can go to your local East Baton Rouge Parish library branch or visit a FedEx/Kinko’s to print the forms.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
After you’ve filled out your Baton Rouge bankruptcy forms, you need to file the paper copies at the local bankruptcy courthouse:
U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Louisiana707 Florida StreetRoom 119Baton Rouge, LA 70801
The courthouse is open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for court holidays. It’s a good idea to take the papers there yourself, rather than mailing them to the Court. That way, the clerk can make sure you signed everything, or let you know if you forgot to print something.
When you go to the Court to file your Louisiana bankruptcy case, you will need to go through building security, like airport security. You need to bring your photo ID to get into the courthouse. And although Louisiana is an “open carry” state, keep in mind that you can’t bring a gun into the courthouse because it’s a federal building.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you submit the paperwork for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, a Trustee will be assigned to your case. This person is not your attorney and doesn’t represent any specific people or businesses you owe money to. Their job is to oversee the bankruptcy process and make sure everything is fair and everyone follows the law. The Trustee will compare your bankruptcy forms to IRS records and make sure everything is in order. Sometimes, the Trustee may ask you for other documents or information about your Louisiana bankruptcy case. You need to pay attention to any communication from them. At minimum, you need to send your Trustee a copy of your most recent federal tax return so they get it at least 7 days before your 341meeting of creditors.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Before you can complete your Baton Rouge bankruptcy case, you need to take one more credit counseling class. This course covers topics like making and sticking to a budget. It focuses on making sure that, after your case is over, you can make the most of your fresh start. Like the first bankruptcy class, you need to go to an approved course provider. You can take the class from home (online or over the phone) or work with Money Management International here in Baton Rouge again. You can complete the class in a single afternoon. When you finish, you will get another certificate that needs to be filed with the Court, so the Judge knows you are ready to have a discharge entered in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
After filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, the Court will send you the date and time of your 341 meeting of creditors. Although it’s called a “meeting of creditors,” creditors almost never show up. Instead, during the meeting, the Trustee meets with several bankruptcy filers for a few minutes each. You don’t need to wear a suit, but you should wear something more formal than a t-shirt and shorts. This meeting will be at the local Baton Rouge bankruptcy courthouse in a conference room. You will speak with the Trustee for a few minutes about your case and answer any questions they have. Usually, it’s over before you know it! When you go, you need to bring your picture ID and original social security card so the Trustee can verify your identity. You also need to bring your most recent federal tax return and recent pay stubs to the meeting.
Dealing with Your Car
Many people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge are worried about losing their car. This usually only happens if your car is worth more than $7,500, or if you don’t want to keep making payments on a loan. If you decide to give up (surrender) a car you still owe money for as part of your Louisiana bankruptcy, the lender can’t come after you for the rest of the money you owe.
If you want to keep a car you still owe money on, you have two options. First, you can agree with the lender to continue making payments as promised. This is known as a reaffirmation agreement. Second, once your Louisiana bankruptcy is discharged, you can redeem the car by paying the lender a lump sum equal to the car’s value.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Baton Rouge
Louisiana Means Test
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge is not available to everyone. Only people making less than the median income are under the income limit of the Louisiana bankruptcy Means Test. If you make more than the limit, part two of the Louisiana bankruptcy Means Test allows you to consider certain allowed expenses, such as food, clothing, and housing payments to determine if you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge. The Means Test prevents people who are actually able to pay off their loans. from walking away from their debt.
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|
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
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Baton Rouge, you need to use national forms and local Louisiana bankruptcy forms. There are more than 20 bankruptcy forms you need to complete. These papers tell the Court about every part of your financial life. While the Louisiana bankruptcy forms can be intimidating at first, try to tackle them one section at a time and you’ll be finished before you know it!
In your Baton Rouge bankruptcy case, you may keep property protected by the Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions. Louisiana filers must use the state exemptions. There is no option to use federal bankruptcy exemptions if you have lived in the Pelican State for at least 2 years when filing bankruptcy in Baton Rouge. While there are some dollar limits in place, generally speaking, these Chapter 7 exemptions let you keep:
the things you use every day, such as your clothing and furniture,
sentimental items such as engagement and wedding rings,
disaster payments, and
worker’s comp income.
Many people will keep most or all of their personal property under Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions.