Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be an important debt relief tool for Americans who are buried in debt from financial shocks like medical illness, job loss, and divorce.
But, bankruptcy can often have significant costs attached to it. If you pay out of pocket, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can cost around $2,000 dollars.
The cost of bankruptcy can be a pretty big factor when deciding whether or not to file.
This article will explain the different costs associated with bankruptcy and explore some low-cost and free alternatives.
There are generally two types of fees to consider when you’re filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy: the filing fees and the attorneys fees.
The filing fees are the administrative costs to submit your paperwork. This often includes the cost to file your paperwork, which is $335, and the cost to take the mandatory two-part credit counseling courses, which total about $25.
The attorneys fees are the costs you might have if you decide to hire an attorney. On average, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney will cost around $1,500. If you can afford to pay for an attorney, that’s great! However, if you cannot, you still have options.
There are many legal aid organizations that can help you get through the process with a free attorney. Or, if you’re filing on your own, there are nonprofits like Upsolve that can help you get a fresh start.
Whatever option you decide to use, let's walk through some of the most common costs you'll run into during the process.
The filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is $335. You pay the filing fee directly to the Bankruptcy Court when you file your case. The court takes cash in exact change or money orders; no other forms of payment.
If you cannot pay the filing fee, you may meet the conditions to waive the fee. You can also request to pay the filing fee in installments.
You can waive the Chapter 7 filing fee under certain conditions. The Bankruptcy Court has an application it uses for waiver requests.
Your income must be less than 150% of the official poverty line to qualify for a waiver. Applying to waive the fee waiver is easy. If your waiver is denied, you may qualify for installment payments explained below.
Installment payments can make paying for bankruptcy easier.
If you don’t qualify for the fee waiver, it’s because the court believes you can eventually pay the filing fee, just not all at once.
Instead, you can pay the filing fee in installments within 120 days filing your case.
You must file an application with your bankruptcy petition to request installment payments for your filing fee. The filing fee is paid in four installments.
Many people forget to pay their filing fee installments. You need to ensure you remember to pay the installment fees or your bankruptcy case is dismissed.
Set alarms on your cell phone to help you remember to pay your installment fee. You can also use a wall calendar with the dates highlighted or circled as a reminder.
Finally, you can use an online reminder service to help you remember your installment payments. Look for a free reminder service like Remindeo or myMemorizer that sends you a text message on the day the installment payment is due.
The first bankruptcy course is called the Credit Counseling Course. Companies generally charge between $10 to $50 for the first course.
The second bankruptcy course is called the Debtor Education Course. Companies charge between $10 to $50 for the second course.
We work with DebtorCC.org for bankruptcy courses. DebtorCC.org charges $15 for the first course and $10 for the second course.
Using the same company for both courses makes it easier to complete the courses.
DebtorCC.org may waive your fee if your income is less than 150% of the poverty line. If you qualify to waive the filing fee for your Chapter 7 case, you should qualify to waive the cost of your bankruptcy courses.
The average cost of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney is between $1,000 to $2,500. This fee is in addition to the bankruptcy cost of other fees.
The average cost of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney is between $3,000 to $4,500. In Chapter 13, you also repay creditors in a five-year repayment plan which increases your bankruptcy cost.
Some companies offer bankruptcy preparation services. Many of these companies are owned and operated by paralegals. The services are not free.
And it is better to have an attorney helping you prepare your forms. Paralegals do not have a law degree.
You may find help from your local legal aid organization. These organizations also provide free legal aid to low-income individuals. They are often funded by different philanthropists and government agencies that donate to legal causes.
Depending on your case and what kind of help you need, legal aid can provide you with advice, can assist you in handling the case on your own, or assign an attorney to fully represent you.
Legal aid organizations can be a great help when they’re available. Unfortunately, they are overworked, and sometimes it can take months to get off the waitlist.
Like legal aid, Upsolve is funded by different philanthropists and government agencies. Unlike legal aid, Upsolve users often donate back to the company after they get a fresh start. The donations are completely voluntary and are used to help other people who need to file for bankruptcy.
Learning if you qualify for Upsolve’s help is easy. All you need to do is give us your email address and click “See If You Qualify” to begin.
You need to print the bankruptcy forms when they are complete. If you do not have a printer, you may need to pay $10 to $20 to print the forms at an office supply store. You can find an Office Depot, Staples, UPS Store, or FedEx near you to print your forms.
Avoid this bankruptcy cost by printing the bankruptcy forms at your local library. Most libraries allow members to print forms free of charge. A friend or family member may also let you print your forms for free.
Most people file their bankruptcy forms by bringing them to their local bankruptcy court. If you drive there, you should plan for the cost of extra fuel. This bankruptcy cost varies depending on the cost of fuel in your area and the distance from your home to the Bankruptcy Court.
You can also mail your completed bankruptcy forms to the Bankruptcy Court office. If so, you need to purchase a large envelope and pay for postage. Your local post office has large envelopes for sale.
The post office staff weighs your envelope to make sure you have the correct postage. If you do not have enough postage, the envelope is returned to you unopened.
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case erases your debt and allows you to get back on your feet.
Many people worry about how much filing for bankruptcy will cost because they don't have a lot of money.
The cost of bankruptcy shouldn't ever prevent you from filing.
Whether you can pay for all of the fees out of pocket or need a little bit of help during the process, there are options available no matter what you decide.
Hiring an attorney, reaching out to legal aid, or using a free service like Upsolve can all help move you toward a fresh start.
Upsolve is a nonprofit that helps low-income Americans file for bankruptcy for free. See if you qualify for our help!
Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) legal aid nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income Americans in financial distress get a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy at no cost. We do this by combining the power of technology with pro bono attorneys. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have mission-driven funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and private charities.