Bankruptcy is very hard to file on your own without any help. If you can afford a lawyer, you should get one. Lawyers usually cost $1000 to $2000 per case. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you should try to get free legal help from a legal aid organization in your state. Upsolve helps people file for bankruptcy who are sent to us from legal aid organizations. Click the button below to find a list of legal aid organizations that provide free legal help, along with their phone numbers.
If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by yourself, this is called filing “pro se.”
Here are the general steps to file for bankruptcy.
- Order your credit report. This officially lists out all the people you owe. Websites like experian.com, annualcreditreport.com, and creditkarma.com allow you to order your credit report for free.
- Gather all your documents. You will need your tax returns for the last 2 years and pay stubs for the last 60 days, if you’ve been employed. There may be other documents you need too based on your case, such as paperwork on judgments you have against you.
- Take Course 1. Before filing, you must take an approved credit counseling course like this one. You’ll get a certificate for finishing the course, which you’ll need to attach to your bankruptcy paperwork before you or your attorney files the paperwork with the court.
- Complete your bankruptcy forms. If you use Upsolve’s software, we ask you questions about yourself to automatically fill out the forms. If you’re getting help from an attorney without Upsolve, they will ask you these questions and will fill out your bankruptcy forms.
- File the bankruptcy forms with the clerk’s office at the court. If you’re filing on your own, you’ll have to take or mail the forms to your local bankruptcy court. If you have an attorney, the attorney will file the forms for you.
- Take Course 2. After you file, you need to take another financial management course like this one. Course 2 is very similar to Course 1. You’ll also get a certificate for finishing the course, which you must file with the clerk’s office of the court.
- Attend the “341 meeting”. This meeting takes place 3–6 weeks after you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It’s usually 3–5 minutes long and straight forward. A court official, who is called “the trustee,” will ask you basic questions about your financial situation. In most cases, 2 months after the meeting, you will get a letter in the mail from the Court stating that your debts have been “discharged” (this is another word for “erased”).