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3 Steps To Getting a Fee Waiver in Bankruptcy Court (Guide)

3 minute read Upsolve is a nonprofit that helps you get out of debt with education and free debt relief tools, like our bankruptcy filing tool. Think TurboTax for bankruptcy. Get free education, customer support, and community. Featured in Forbes 4x and funded by institutions like Harvard University so we'll never ask you for a credit card.  Explore our free tool

In a Nutshell

If you can’t pay the filing fee, you may be able to get the filing fee waived, if you’re eligible, or pay the fee in installments after filing your bankruptcy case, once you’re protected by the automatic stay. Here we discuss the different fee-waiver forms you will need and how to fill them out.

Written by Attorney Karra Kingston
Updated April 22, 2022

Everyone who files for bankruptcy must pay a filing fee to the Court. For a Chapter 7 case, the filing fee is $338 and for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the filing fee is $313. The filing fee is used to pay administrative costs for your bankruptcy. The filing fee is also used to pay a bankruptcy trustee for administering and overseeing your case.

If you can’t pay the filing fee, you can apply to have the fee waived or to pay it in installments. This article covers the different fee-waiver forms you'll need and how to fill them out.

1. Determine Eligibility

If you want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and apply for a fee waiver, you need to complete Official Form 103B: Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived.

To be eligible for a fee waiver, you must show the court that you can’t afford to pay the fee. Your income must be below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. These limits are published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You must also show the court that you can’t afford to pay the filing fee in installments. If you can afford to pay the filing fee in installments in the 120 days after filing your case, the court may not grant your fee waiver request.

2. Complete the Application

To complete the fee waiver application, you need to give the court information about your income and assets. You must show the court that your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. The court may also ask about your household income, family size, monthly expenses, bank account balances, personal property, real estate, and cash on hand.

Note that your family size includes your unmarried partner and any person you live with and share expenses with. This may be different than what you put on your Schedule I and J. Use the bankruptcy forms you filled out to make sure the information in your fee waiver application matches the information in your schedules.

If You’re an Upsolve user….

… and you’re eligible for a filing fee waiver, Upsolve will prepare the application for you based on the information you provide. The fee waiver application will be a part of the filing packet that you generate when your case is ready for filing. 

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3. File Bankruptcy and Submit Your Application

Once you've finished completing your bankruptcy forms, you'll take them to the court clerk’s office to file them. You'll submit your application for a fee waiver when you file your bankruptcy petition with the court. The court won't accept your application without your petition. Once your forms are filed, the judge will either grant your fee waiver application, deny it, or ask you to attend a court hearing.

If the bankruptcy judge asks you to attend a hearing, you have to appear in court at the date and time set for the hearing. At the hearing, the judge may ask you more questions about your financial situation to determine whether to grant your fee waiver.

If the judge denies your application, it's often because they think that you can pay the fee in installments. In that case, the court will enter an order directing you to pay the filing fee in up to four monthly payments. If the judge denies your application and doesn't allow you to pay your filing fee in installments, you'll need to pay the fee in full when you file your petition. 

What Can I Do if I’m Not Eligible for a Filing Fee Waiver? 

If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, then you apply to pay the fee in up to four installment payments. You apply by completing Official Form 103A: Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments. This form will ask you about your household income and your finances. 

On Form 103A, you'll propose an amount for each installment payment and a schedule to make the payments to the court. The court will want you to certify that you'll pay your entire filing fee before you make any more payments or transfer any property to an attorney, bankruptcy petition preparer, or anyone else for services in connection with your bankruptcy filing.

You'll also need to certify that you understand your debts will not be eliminated until you pay your entire fee in full. If you fail to make any of your installment payments when they're due, the judge can dismiss (or throw out) your case, and you won’t get a refund for the amounts you paid already. 

If You’re an Upsolve User….

… and you’re planning to pay the court filing fee in installments, we'll prepare the application for you based on the information you've provided. It'll be a part of the filing packet that's generated when your case is ready to be filed. Call the bankruptcy court clerk's office ahead of time to find out the minimum amount you'll have to pay to file your case.

Let's Summarize...

Don’t hold off on filing bankruptcy because you can't afford to pay the full filing fee. Get your fee waiver or installment payment application ready along with everything else you need to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and get the process started.

If the court finds that you’re not eligible for a full waiver, chances are good that you'll be approved to pay the fee over time. If you are thinking about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but can’t afford an attorney, see if you’re eligible to use Upsolve's fee filing tool.

Written By:

Attorney Karra Kingston


Ms. Kingston began her career as a bankruptcy attorney. She has appeared in front of many federal court judges and has helped numerous debtors obtain a fresh start. Ms. Kingston understands the complex federal rules for discharging debt. While working as a bankruptcy attorney, Ms... read more about Attorney Karra Kingston

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