Live in Maryland and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Maryland debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 7, 2020
There is nothing worse than worrying about where your family's next meal might come from. If you find yourself in this situation at the end of every pay period because the minimum payments on your credit cards are taking up most of your disposable income, you don't have to continue on like this. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland will protect you once you stop making those payments and give you a chance to start fresh. As you are considering your options, keep in mind that regardless of how you ended up here, Maryland bankruptcy laws are designed to make sure everyone is treated fairly. You should also keep in mind how much your original balance on each credit card was and how much you have already paid. High credit card fees and interest may mean that you've already paid back the original loan amount, maybe even more than once, without making even a dent in the balance owed. Finally, keep in mind that filing for bankruptcy protection does not mean you have failed; in fact, it may be the one responsible thing to do to help your family thrive.
How to File Bankruptcy in Maryland for Free
People who need to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland sometimes are in such financial distress that even the $335 court filing fee is more than they can handle. If you identify with this sentiment, you can ask the court to waive the fee, and as long as your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines you may end up filing bankruptcy in Maryland for free.
Collect Your Maryland Bankruptcy Documents
While it may be tempting to just get to work on the bankruptcy forms, you will save yourself a lot of headaches later if you take the time to collect certain to documents first. Filing bankruptcy in Maryland imposes very strict disclosure requirements on everyone and having your documents nearby will make leaving something out accidentally a lot less likely. Everyone who is in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland must provide the court with a detailed listing of all of their debts. The best resource to gather this information will be your credit report, which you can obtain for free from all three credit reporting agencies, along with any debt collection notices and other correspondence you received in the last 3 months. You also need the last six months of your paycheck stubs. If you get paid by direct deposit, chances are they are emailed to you, which will make it easy enough to gather them. Alternatively, you may want to visit your payroll department to ask for this information. Your bank statements will come in useful when trying to figure out your monthly expense. Finally, everyone in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland is required to provide a copy of their most recent federal income tax return to their case trustee after the case is filed, so you might as well get that out of your filing cabinet now as well.
Take Credit Counseling
People struggling with too much debt have multiple options on how to proceed, including multiple bankruptcy options. In order to make sure you are aware of these options before filing bankruptcy in Maryland, you have to complete a credit counseling course. This course is comprised of a single class, usually about 2 hours long, that can be completed online, in person, or by phone. In order to make sure you are in full compliance before your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland is filed, confirm that the company you are thinking of using to take this course is approved to offer it to people filing bankruptcy in Maryland. It's not necessary to have your bankruptcy forms completed before you take this class, as the certificate you receive at the end is valid for 180 days. As long as you plan on filing your Maryland bankruptcy during that timeframe, you can complete the credit counseling course on your own schedule.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filing bankruptcy in Maryland involves a lot of paperwork. The forms that need to be filed with the court to commence your Maryland bankruptcy case are your chance to explain your financial circumstances to the court and your case trustee. It's important to be diligent in completing the forms, as you are signing everything under penalty of perjury. The federal judiciary has released a detailed instructions manual for the forms that are needed to file an individual Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland. If this seems like a lot to handle on your own, see if you are eligible to file using Upsolve. In that case, we'll take care of the legwork needed to add your facts of life to your bankruptcy forms. One of the documents that you are required to prepare as part of your Maryland bankruptcy is a creditors' mailing matrix. Basically, it's a list of all of your creditors' addresses that the court can easily turn into address labels. This is not done by adding the information to a specific form. The Maryland Bankruptcy Court has published a guide to creating this creditors' mailing matrix that everyone filing bankruptcy in Maryland can use to ensure this is done correctly.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you are not eligible to have your court filing fee waived, it is important to plan ahead so you can make sure that there are no problems raising the full fee when it's time to file your bankruptcy case. The court filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland is $335. If it will take you a few pay periods to save up the full amount, consider pulling the funds out of your bank account in cash. That way you can't accidentally spend the money just because it is in your bank account. When you have the full amount needed when filing Chapter 7 in Maryland, turn it into a money order, as that is the only form of payment the clerk's office accepts. You can purchase a money order at any post office near you for $1.25. It should be made payable to "Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court." If you can't wait to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland until you have the full amount, you can file your bankruptcy forms with the court to get the protections of the automatic stay, thereby stopping your creditors from taking any further action. You will have to complete an application to pay the filing fee in installments to submit to the court along with everything else. This will give you up to four months after filing bankruptcy in Maryland to pay your fee, based on a payment schedule set by the court.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
For now, only lawyers filing Maryland bankruptcy cases on behalf of their clients are able to file the case electronically. Everyone filing bankruptcy in Maryland without a lawyer has to submit everything to the court in paper, either by mailing it to the clerk's office, or, better yet, dropping it off in person. Since there are a number of different forms you will be printing, all of which look a little bit like the next one, consider making this list of filing requirements the first item in your print queue. You can use it to confirm that you have everything else. It is recommended that you print a full copy of everything you are submitting to the court when filing Chapter 7 in Maryland for your own records. While it may be tempting to simply keep a digital copy on your computer, a physical hardcopy is better, and can't be accidentally changed or deleted by hitting the wrong button. It's ok to print your own copy double-sided to save a few trees, but the forms you plan on actually filing with the court to commence your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland cannot be double-sided.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Even though you can file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland by mailing all the necessary documents and your court filing fee to the court, if at all possible, it's better to go to the courthouse in person to take care of this. Otherwise, the actual filing date for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland could potentially delayed if there is an issue with the forms that could easily be corrected if you were there in person. Since the automatic stay only goes into effect after your case has been filed, this can mean the difference between a creditor garnishing your next paycheck or not. Depending on where you live, you can go to either the Baltimore or the Greenbelt locations when filing bankruptcy in Maryland as both have a fully staffed clerk's office. Since you will be entering a government building, you will have to pass through security on your way in.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The Bankruptcy Code requires that everyone filing Chapter 7 in Maryland provide a copy of their most recent federal income tax return to the case trustee at least 7 days before the date set for their first meeting of creditors. Additionally, the Local Rules require that you mail the paycheck stubs you have received in the 60 days prior to filing your case to the trustee at the same time, instead of filing them with the court. The case trustee is the individual that is administering your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland. They essentially act as a third party representative for your unsecured creditors and are responsible for making sure that you are not hiding anything. There are a number of Chapter 7 trustees in Maryland, and they all have slightly different approaches to how they run their offices and handle their standard duties. After filing Chapter 7 in Maryland, you may receive a letter from your case trustee requesting other documents, such as bank statements. Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland has a duty to cooperate with their trustee, so it's important to keep an eye out for any correspondence from them.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
People filing Chapter 7 in Maryland do so because they need a fresh start with a clean slate. In order for you to receive a discharge in your Maryland bankruptcy, you must complete a financial management course after filing your case. The purpose is to provide you with information about steps you can take to create and stick to a budget and manage your finances responsibly going forward. Even if your Maryland bankruptcy was the result of something completely outside your control, and there was nothing that could have been handled more responsibly, you have to take this class. Otherwise, the court will close your Chapter 7bankruptcy in Maryland without first granting you a discharge. As before, it is important to confirm that the company you are using to fulfill this requirement is approved to offer the course to folks filing bankruptcy in Maryland. When you are done, make sure to find out whether they will file your certificate of completion with the court of if you have to do it on your own. Since filing this certificate is the only way for the court to know that you complied with this requirement, it's important the certificate gets filed as soon as you are done.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About 20 - 40 days after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland is filed, your creditors' meeting, also known as the 341 meeting (of creditors) takes place. The meeting is mostly an opportunity for your trustee to put a face to the paperwork and ask you some questions that they ask of everyone filing Chapter 7 in Maryland. It's important to bring your picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number to the meeting, as the trustee has to verify your identity before placing you under oath to answer the questions. 341 meetings for Maryland bankruptcy cases are held in either Baltimore, Greenbelt, Hagerstown, or Salisbury. Make sure you note the location of your 341 meeting in your calendar when you receive the official court notice for it after filing Chapter 7 in Maryland and figure out how long it will take you to get there. Even though the meeting takes place outside the presence of a judge, this is a proceeding in federal court, so it's important to be prepared and be on time. If at all possible, you should not bring any small children to the meeting with you, as they can disrupt the proceedings not just for your case, but for everyone who filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland and has their 341 meeting scheduled for the same time as you.
Dealing with Your Car
Your car plays not one but two parts in your Maryland bankruptcy case. First, everything you own, including your car, is considered an asset that must be disclosed on your Schedule A/B. If you own the car outright, then everything stays the same as long as the car's value is less than the exemption you can claim on your Schedule C. If you have a car loan that you are still paying on when filing Chapter 7 in Maryland, you can decide how you want to handle it. If a review of your budget makes it clear that you won't be able to afford the vehicle, even after you are relieved from having to pay your other debts, you should surrender the vehicle. Otherwise, you are just setting yourself up for future financial hardship. If the loan is affordable, and the car in good condition, you can choose to keep everything basically the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. Finally, some folks filing Chapter 7 in Maryland are able to get out of a bad car loan for a good car through a process called redemption, where they make a lump sum payment in an amount equal to the value of the vehicle. This is particularly useful if you originally traded in a car with a loan balance left on it, and rolled that negative equity into this loan, but it does require you to come up with a significant amount of money shortly after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland is filed.
Maryland Bankruptcy Means Test
The Maryland bankruptcy means test is a calculation that everyone seeking Chapter 7 relief must complete in order to make sure that it would not be an abuse to grant then such wide-ranging relief. If your household income is greater than the applicable income limits, then you may still qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland after completing part two of the means test calculation.
Data on Median income levels for Maryland
Maryland Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Maryland
Maryland 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)|
Maryland Bankruptcy Forms
The Maryland Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms that you have to file to meet all filing requirements in this district are comprised entirely of the official forms used in all states. Maryland does not have specific local forms to be filed alongside the national forms when your Maryland bankruptcy is first filed. If you were sued before your case was filed, this Maryland bankruptcy form should be used to notify all other courts of your pending case.
District of Maryland Requirements
If you did not receive any paycheck stubs in the 60 days before filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland, you have to file a statement under penalty of perjury to inform the court of the reason why you did not comply with this requirement. If you do not file this form or provide the paycheck stubs to your trustee, the bankruptcy court can, after a 14-day notice, dismiss your case for failure to comply with all Maryland bankruptcy laws and procedures. The same thing will happen if you do not submit your most recent federal income tax return to the trustee prior to your 341 meeting.
Maryland Bankruptcy Exemptions
The Maryland bankruptcy laws that determine what property you are able to keep after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland are called exemption laws. If you have lived in Maryland for at least two years before your case is filed, you must use Maryland bankruptcy exemptions. There are several categories of exempt assets in Maryland. Further, even though the Maryland bankruptcy exemption for household goods is limited to a comparatively low $1,000, you are able to use a wildcard exemption for any property worth up to $6,000 ($12,000 if you are married).
Maryland Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The averagecost of a bankruptcy lawyer is $2,200, though simple cases can go as low as $899. The complexity of your situation will determine how much a bankruptcy lawyer would charge for you Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maryland.
Attorney cost estimate: $899 – $3,500
Maryland Legal Aid Organizations
If you are unable to afford a lawyer, you can seek assistance through one of the Maryland legal aid organizations. These organizations provide legal aid in Maryland to low-income individuals and families. If you don't think you will need a lawyer, but have a few questions you need answered before you file your Maryland bankruptcy case, you can make an appointment with the Debtor Assistance Project at the court to speak to a volunteer bankruptcy attorney about your questions.
Maryland Court Locations
Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building and United States Courthouse
101 West Lombard Street Baltimore, MD 21201
Maryland Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Maryland||Hon. Nancy V. Alquist|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Thomas J. Catliota|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Stephen Derby|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Robert A. Gordon|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Michelle M. Harner|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Duncan W. Keir|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Wendelin I. Lipp|
|District of Maryland||Hon. David E. Rice|
|District of Maryland||Hon. James F. Schneider|
|District of Maryland||Hon. Lori S. Simpson|
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|Marc H. Baerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Mark J. Friedmanemail@example.com|
|Charles R. Goldsteinfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Steven H. Greenfeld|
|George W. Liebmannemail@example.com|
|Sean C. Loganfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Laura J. Margulies|
|Janet M. Nesseemail@example.com|
|Cheryl E. Rose|
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