Written by Attorney Karra Kingston.
Updated July 28, 2020
If you are living in the “City of Firsts” also known as Springfield and are riddled with debt, you are not alone. In fact, the City of Springfield itself almost filed bankruptcy years ago. Statistics show that 28.7% of Springfield residents live in poverty. Medical bills and divorce are some of the most prominent reasons why people fall into too much debt. If you have bills piling up that you can’t pay, then bankruptcy might be a tool that can help you put your debt behind you so that you can start enjoying life in the Pioneer Valley. You may ask yourself if a Springfield bankruptcy is right for you. Many people have misconceptions about bankruptcy that you may have also heard. If you are worried that you will not get credit after filing bankruptcy or that all of your things will be taken away, you don’t have to worry! These are just myths! You can actually have better credit within two years after filing your Springfield bankruptcy than before! In some cases, your credit score may actually increase after filing bankruptcy because your debt to income ratio is less.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a way to wipe away most, if not all, of your debt. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you don’t have to pay your creditors back. This means that you will be able to move on with your life without worrying about creditors harassing you. On the other hand, if you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for people who make “too much money” so they have to pay back some of their debt in a monthly payment plan that lasts three to five years.
Filing a Springfield bankruptcy can seem complicated. Don’t worry, you can find free help to file your bankruptcy if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer. Below, are some important steps that you need to follow in order to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield.
Springfield Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy in Springfield, you may want the help of a lawyer. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Springfield is between $1,100-$1,700 dollars for a typical Chapter 7 case. The cost depends on how much debt you have, your assets, the number of creditors and the facts of your case. Typically, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs less than filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Most lawyers offer free consultations which you should take advantage of. During the consultation, you have the opportunity to ask questions and pick the attorney’s brain regarding your case. It’s important to feel comfortable when you hire your lawyer. If you are not comfortable then don’t hire the attorney. When you meet with the attorney you should bring all of your financial information with you so that they can assess your situation.
How to File Bankruptcy in Springfield, Massachusetts for Free
By following these important steps below, you can successfully complete your Springfield bankruptcy. It’s important that you follow each step carefully so that the process goes smoothly.
Collect your Springfield Bankruptcy Documents
In order to file your Springfield bankruptcy, you will need to gather all of your documents to get a full picture of your financial situation. Staying organized and gathering all of your documents will allow for a much smoother process. First, it's a good idea to print a copy of your credit report so that you don’t forget any of your creditors. It's important to remember that medical bills may not appear on your credit report, so you may have to dig further to get copies of those. Review your credit report and make sure everyone is listed. Next, you will need to gather your pay stubs, and tax returns, bank statements, and retirement statements. Other documents you will need are valuations of any property you own, your car registration and title, and any Court judgments. You will need all of these documents to complete your forms and file your Springfield bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
Before you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield, you are required to take a one-hour credit counseling course approved by the U.S. Trustee's Office. This credit counseling is a good way to determine if bankruptcy is the right option for you. The course will have you go through your income and expenses and help you explore ways to budget better so you don’t fall back into the same habits. If your income falls below 150% of the poverty line, you may qualify to have the course cost waived. The credit counseling course is available by telephone and online. After you complete it, you will need to save a copy of the credit counseling certificate. This certificate will need to be filed with the Court when you file the rest of your Springfield bankruptcy documents to show you completed the course. It's important that you don’t forget to file the certificate with your documents otherwise the Court can throw your case out.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
If you are confused about which forms you will need when you file your Springfield bankruptcy, you can find a list of everything that is needed to file a Chapter 7 case in Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court, you should download the Court’s “Guide for Self-Represented Debtors.” When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield, you will need to make sure that all of your forms are filled out accurately. Some of the forms may ask you questions that seem repetitive but it's extremely important that you answer every single question. Moreover, if you are unsure of an answer, you should make sure that you get the information you need to answer correctly before you file your paperwork. The forms will ask you to list your income, expenses and assets. These forms are extremely detail-oriented, and precision is important. Everything you own is considered an asset and to ensure you do not forget to list something, you should go through every room in your apartment or house and write down all of your belongings. If you fail to list an asset that you own, you can run into big problems when filing your Springfield bankruptcy so make sure that you go through everything carefully.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing a Springfield bankruptcy costs $335 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and $310 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You can pay this fee by cash, cashier's check, or money order. If you are not able to pay the filing fee all at once, you can ask the Court for permission to make installment payments. If approved, the Court will allow you to make up to 4 payments, until you have paid your filing fee in full. If you can’t afford your filing fee because you don’t have enough income, you can request a fee waiver from the Court. The judge will decide if you qualify based on your bankruptcy forms and whether your income is below 150% of the federal poverty line.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Your Springfield bankruptcy forms must be one-sided when you print them. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can print them at the library. In Springfield, there are many local libraries where you can go to print your bankruptcy forms. The Springfield Central Library is located at 220 State Street and is open every day except Friday and Sunday. If you don’t want to go to the library, you can print your forms at a local Staples, Kinkos, or Fedex. You should make at least two copies when you print your forms so that you have one to file with the Court and another copy for yourself.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You may wonder where to file your Massachusetts bankruptcy. The Springfield Bankruptcy Court is located, at 300 State Street Springfield, MA 01105. Make sure to bring cash in case you have to pay for parking. According to the Court’s website the Clerk’s office accepts filings between 8:30am to 4:30pm on business days. If you can’t get to the courthouse during business hours, you can mail your paperwork in. However, going to the courthouse is ideal, because the Clerk’s office can review your paperwork in case you forget your signature or are missing important forms. Once your paperwork is filed, you are halfway to completing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield, you will be assigned to a Trustee, who will administer your case. Your Trustee will be at your 341 meeting and will request documents before the meeting. Some Trustees like their documents sent to them by regular mail and others prefer to get their documents electronically. It's important to find out how your Trustee wants the documents sent. When you get to your 341 meeting, the Trustee will ask you questions about the documents that you provided. It's important to keep copies for yourself so you can refer to it in case you forget something.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing your bankruptcy in Springfield, you will need to take a second two-hour course. The course will give you ways to start over after filing bankruptcy in Springfield. The course will provide you with different ways you can save money so that you can start your journey debt free. This course can be taken online or over the phone. It's important to make sure that you don’t forget to take this course. Some online courses will file the certificate of completion you’ll get at the end of the course for you, saving you an extra step. Failing to take the course and filing the certificate with the Court is grounds for your case to be closed without a discharge. If your case closes without a discharge, you will still be on the hook for all of your debts.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
After filing your Springfield bankruptcy, you will be required to go to Court for a meeting with your Trustee. This meeting is called a 341 Meeting of Creditors. In most cases, creditors do not appear. After you file your bankruptcy you will receive a notice in the mail detailing the date, time and location of your 341 hearing. It's best to dress casually when you go to these meetings and you should avoid wearing anything that seems flashy. When you go to your hearing you will be required to have your photo ID and social security card. If you fail to bring proper identification the Trustee can refuse to hear your case. When the Trustee calls your case, he will swear you in. Some of the questions he may ask you are:
Have you ever filed bankruptcy before?
Do you own any property?
Did you review your petition?
Do you want to make any changes to your petition?
Meetings typically only last five to ten minutes but you could be there longer depending on how many cases are on before you. It's important that you listen to the Trustees question carefully and answer honestly. If you don’t understand something, you can ask to have the question repeated. It's important to note that the Trustee will have a tape recorder on the table which means you must verbally speak your answers rather than using any gestures such as nodding your head yes or no.
Dealing with Your Car
Many people always assume that when you file for bankruptcy, your car is automatically taken away. This is not true in all cases. After filing your Springfield bankruptcy, you will weigh your options to make decisions about what to do with your vehicle. If you own your car, there is an exemption that you can use to keep the vehicle, as long as its value is less than the available exemption. An exemption allows you to keep property during your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield. If your car is financed and you want to keep your vehicle, then you can choose to reaffirm the debt. A reaffirmation agreement is a binding contract between you and the creditor which requires you to be current on your payments even after filing bankruptcy in Springfield. The agreement states that you will be responsible for the debt, usually under the same terms of your original agreement and in exchange, you get to keep the car. If neither of these options sound great to you, then you can always surrender your vehicle. If you can’t afford the payments or think you will fall behind in the future, then getting rid of the car may be in your best interest. Many decide they would prefer to have the debt wiped and surrender the car to allow them to have a fresh start. If you choose to go this route, your car loan will be discharged in your Springfield bankruptcy and you will not be responsible for the rest of the loan.
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Springfield
Massachusetts Means Test
Congress created the Means Test to prevent people who could pay back their debts from getting it wiped out as part of a Chapter 7. In order to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield, you will have to compare your annual income to that of other families of your size in Massachusetts. Completing the Massachusetts bankruptcy Means Test is important because if you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7, and file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your case will be dismissed or converted to a Chapter 13. If you are unsure whether you qualify, you can use an online calculator to help you calculate your figures. Different states use different figures so make sure you use the right calculator. Moreover, Means Test numbers change all the time so make sure you are using an up-to-date calculator when seeing if you qualify.
Median Income Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Massachusetts
Massachusetts 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)|
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Forms
When you fill out your Massachusetts bankruptcy forms, make sure that they are properly filled out. Each schedule asks for different things. For example, A/B asks for your property, I and J asks for your income and expenses and schedule C asks what exemptions you’re claiming. Make sure that you use the correct exemptions when you are completing your forms. If you fail to use the correct exemption, the Trustee can take your property and sell it to pay your creditors as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Springfield.
When you file bankruptcy in Springfield, there are certain exemptions that allow you to protect your property. Property that is not protected by an exemption is sold to pay off your creditors. Massachusetts allows you to use the federal or Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions. If your property falls under one of the exemptions you will be able to keep your property when you file your Springfield bankruptcy. To decide which exemptions you should choose, you will need to see what assets you have and how much they’re worth. Failing to use the right exemption has serious consequences because the Trustee can sell your property. Make sure you look over the exemptions carefully.