Written by Attorney Amelia Niemi.
Updated July 28, 2020
If you are considering filing bankruptcy in Lafayette, you aren’t alone! Even Thomas Jefferson, who purchased Louisiana, declared bankruptcy. Bankruptcy often represents a positive change in life. Many people see a Lafayette bankruptcy as an opportunity to put their debt behind them and move forward with a fresh start. Being debt-free can give you financial security and more freedom. This was the case in 2018 when local eatery Blue Dog Café filed bankruptcy and used the opportunity to bring in a new chef and new menu. Before filing bankruptcy in Lafayette, you’ll have to decide if you want to file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette is a lot quicker. You can finish your case in 4 to 6 months. However, some people may need to sell a car or boat to pay back some of their debt. People filing under Chapter 13 usually pay back most of or all their debt over 3 or 5 years. They don’t have to sell anything, but the Bankruptcy Court monitors their spending during this time.
Your Lafayette bankruptcy won’t get rid of every debt you owe. You’ll still have to pay your mortgage if you want to keep your house, and you’re still responsible for paying taxes. You should take the time to explore other debt-relief options as well. You might find another option that works better for you in the long run. While it may feel like you have to get out of debt by yourself, you have many resources available in the Pelican State! Many people work with local legal aid organizations on their Lafayette bankruptcy cases. You can also see if you qualify for free help from Upsolve. Your friends and family can also offer moral support while you’re putting your financial affairs back in order.
Lafayette Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Hiring a Louisiana bankruptcy attorney is a good idea in some cases. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Lafayette is between $1,450 and $1,800. The average Lafayette bankruptcy lawyer cost is $1,650. While this is higher than the national average, these attorney fees are similar to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Before hiring a Louisiana bankruptcy attorney, you should talk to 2 or 3 attorneys for a free consultation. Lawyers give free consultations so you can ask questions and give you the chance to decide if you want to work with them. You can talk to them about how much they charge, what paperwork you have to complete, and how long your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette will take. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something doesn’t make sense. It’s important to understand how the Louisiana bankruptcy process works before hiring your attorney.
How to File Bankruptcy in Lafayette, Louisiana for Free
Hiring a Louisiana bankruptcy attorney isn’t necessary to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette. You can work through the Lafayette bankruptcy process on your own. Here’s what you should know about how to file bankruptcy in Lafayette for free.
Collect Your Lafayette Bankruptcy Documents
First, you should start collecting all the required paperwork. When the time comes to fill out your Lafayette bankruptcy forms, you have to give the Court a detailed picture of your financial life. There are three categories of documents you should collect:
Documents showing how much money you have and how much money you earn. These include pay stubs for the past six months, your most recent federal tax return, and recent bank statements.
Documents showing what property you own, and how much it’s worth. These include the deed to your house and car, and receipts for big-ticket items like your TV.
Documents showing how much money you owe, and who you owe it to. The best way to collect this information is to get a free copy of your credit report. This lists the name and address of everyone who you owe money to.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette, you must take a credit counseling class. This class will explore all your options for debt relief and help you decide if Louisiana bankruptcy is the right option for you. Make sure the class you pick is approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Louisiana so you get credit! This class takes about 2 - 3 hours to complete and costs between $10 to $50. Most providers let you take the class online or over the phone. There are no approved class providers in Lafayette. MMI has locations in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Bossier City if you prefer to take the class in person.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out the Lafayette bankruptcy paperwork is not fun, but it’s important to take the time to get everything right. Use the documents you collected earlier to get the necessary information to provide as many details as possible. This will help your Louisiana bankruptcy case go faster, letting you move on to your fresh start. There are about 24 Pelican State bankruptcy forms to fill out. It’s a good idea to go in order so you don’t miss anything. You’ll tell the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court about every aspect of your financial life. This includes how much money you make, how much your property is worth, and how much debt you owe, and who you owe it to. Use your credit report to make sure to catch every loan.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette costs $335. However, if you make less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can apply for a fee waiver when you file your Louisiana bankruptcy case. If you make more than the poverty guidelines, you can still ask the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court for a three-month installment plan. $112 is due when you file your papers, and the next two monthly payments are $112 and $111. It’s best if you can put the full fee together before filing bankruptcy in Lafayette because if you miss just one payment, the Lafayette Bankruptcy Court can toss out your case without giving you a refund of what you’ve paid already.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you’ve completed your Lafayette bankruptcy forms, it’s time to print them out. Print your documents single-sided on normal, 8.5”x11” printer paper. You should print two copies of everything, if possible. The Lafayette bankruptcy clerk will keep one copy and stamp the second copy for your records. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can visit a local Lafayette library branch to print the documents needed for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette. You can also go to your local FedEx/Kinkos or another print shop. Make sure you proofread everything before you print it; now is the time to correct any mistakes.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Even though you can mail the documents to the Lafayette Bankruptcy Court, it’s best to submit them in person. This lets the clerk review the forms to make sure everything is correct. You don’t want to delay your Louisiana bankruptcy because you forgot a signature or left your credit counseling certificate at home. The local Louisiana Bankruptcy Court in Lafayette is located at:
214 Jefferson Street
It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Be sure to get there before the lobby closes at 4 p.m. Because it’s a federal building, you must show a photo ID and go through building security. You won’t be able to bring guns or knives into the courthouse.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
About 30 days after filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette, the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court will assign a Trustee to your case. The Trustee isn’t your attorney, and they don’t represent any person or company you owe money to. Instead, the Trustee’s job is to oversee your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette and make sure everything runs smoothly. The Trustee will review all your Louisiana bankruptcy paperwork and make sure everything is accurate and complete. They will compare what you filed with the Bankruptcy Court with IRS records. The Trustee might ask you for additional financial information, so pay attention to any mail you receive from them. You should mail out any documents they request, along with your most recent federal tax return so the Trustee gets everything at least 7 days before your meeting of creditors.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Before the Lafayette Bankruptcy Court can discharge your debts in your Louisiana bankruptcy case, you have to take one more bankruptcy class. This class focuses on how you can lead a healthy financial life in the future. You’ll learn about:
Creating and sticking to a budget,
Making short- and long- term financial goals,
Saving and investing money, and
How to prioritize your spending.
After you finish the class, you get another certificate. You should file this form with the Louisiana Bankruptcy Court. This lets the Lafayette Bankruptcy Judge know you are ready for your discharge. Make sure you work with an approved course provider to get credit for your time.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
You’ll get a notice in the mail letting you know when it’s time to go to your 341 meeting of creditors. This meeting is held in the local Louisiana Bankruptcy Courthouse and even though it’s called a “meeting of creditors,” creditors almost never show up. Instead, you’ll meet with your Trustee and other people who also filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette. The Trustee might ask you some questions about your property or the documents you submitted to the Court for your Louisiana bankruptcy. This meeting won’t take more than about 5 or 10 minutes. Remember to bring your government-issued photo ID and original social security card, so the Trustee can verify your identity. You should also bring a copy of the Lafayette bankruptcy forms, and your most recent federal tax return.
Dealing with Your Car
After filing bankruptcy in Lafayette, you have some options for how to deal with your car. If you own a paid-off car worth $7,500 or less, you can keep it. If you still have a car loan, you can decide if you want to keep if it of you want to give it up. If you want to keep your car, you can sign a reaffirmation agreement with the lender that your car loan is with. You’ll agree to keep making payments as promised, and everything will stay basically the way it was before filing bankruptcy in Lafayette. You can also redeem your car by paying its value to the lender as a lump sum. You might need to take out a small loan to do this, but you are able to discharge the amount of the loan greater than the value of your car. Either way, it’s important to make sure you really weigh your options before committing to another debt, whether that’s by way of a reaffirmation agreement obligating you to pay your car loan in full, or by taking out a loan to redeem the car. Finally, if you decide you don’t want to keep making payments on the car, you can surrender, or give it back to the lender. Your Lafayette bankruptcy case will prevent the lender from coming after you for more money after you do.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Lafayette
Louisiana Means Test
The Louisiana bankruptcy Means Test divides people into three groups:
People who automatically qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette,
People who are automatically disqualified from filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and
People who fall in the middle and might qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette if certain allowed expenses are subtracted from their income.
To figure out which group you fall into, you can compare Louisiana bankruptcy income limitations with your household’s monthly income. These limitations help prevent people from abusing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process.
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
There are about 24 Louisiana bankruptcy forms to fill out when filing bankruptcy in Lafayette. They cover every aspect of your financial life, including how much you earn, how much your property is worth, how much money you owe, and to who. Put on a pot of gumbo and give yourself time to work through each document. Make sure everything you put in the Louisiana bankruptcy forms is accurate and complete.
Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions allow people to keep most or all their property after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Lafayette. If your property is worth more than the allowed Chapter 7 exemption, your Trustee may sell it for the benefit of your unsecured creditors. For example, you won’t be able to keep more than $2,500 worth of firearms.