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Filing Bankruptcy in Columbia, Maryland

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Written by the Upsolve Team
Updated October 1, 2020

Ever wonder how you will make it through the month on your low income? As bills come in, and your paychecks get eaten up quicker than ever, it may seem as if there’s no end in sight. However, there is a solution. Filing bankruptcy in Columbia is a way off of the financial treadmill. Some of the common reasons people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia are the loss of employment, divorce or break up of a long-term relationship, an unexpected illness, or making unfavorable budgeting and investment decisions.

Some of the benefits of bankruptcy are relief from debt repayment, stopping or slowing down a foreclosure, preventing vehicle repossession, and sometimes providing for relief from income tax debt. By filing bankruptcy in Columbia, you can get a fresh start and get back on a stable financial footing. As an individual, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy  or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Take some time to decide whether to file for protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the section of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code that allows for the liquidation of specific assetsto satisfy a person’s debts. However, it’s extremely rare that your assets (everything you own) will actually be sold. In contrast, Chapter 13 is for people with regular income who would like to reorganize their financial affairs. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia usually remains open for 6 months. While there’s no maximum or minimum debt required to file for Maryland bankruptcy relief, the U.S. Trustee’s office reviews every filing for possible risk of fraud and abuse. 

There are several myths and misconceptions when it comes to filing bankruptcy in Columbia, but the truth may surprise you. A common myth about bankruptcy that people have is that their spouse will need to file for bankruptcy as well. But the truth is that provided the discharged debts are solely in the name of one spouse, the other spouse won’t have to be part of Columbia bankruptcy. Many people believe that they can’t buy a car after filing bankruptcy in Columbia, which is not true. And filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy  doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you can get free legal help!

Columbia Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost

If you are thinking of filing bankruptcy in Columbia, you are probably wondering how much it will cost you. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Columbia, MD, is between $899 and $3,500, depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the case and the chapter you are filing under. Many Columbia bankruptcy lawyers charge a "flat" fee that covers the preparation of Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms as well as attendance at the one Court appearance every Chapter 7 filer has to attend. A lawyer can help you fill out all the paperwork and gather all the necessary documents. If you are low on cash, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia on your own.

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How to File Bankruptcy in Columbia, Maryland for Free

Many people want to know how to file bankruptcy in Columbia for free. If you’re one of them, you have come to the right place. Our City Guide aims to make the process as simple as possible. It will give you an overview of the Columbia bankruptcy process to help you can get out of debt soon. 

Collect Your Columbia Bankruptcy Documents

If you want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia, you will need to collect financial documents to back up your claims. If you are married and you are filing bankruptcy in Columbia, federal laws require you to collect the same information for your husband or wife, even if you are not filing a joint petition. Your bankruptcy documents include your paycheck stubs, recent bank statements, your tax returns, car, and home valuations, and your credit card bills. Arranging these documents in advance will help you when you are filling out your bankruptcy forms. To make sure you’re not missing any creditors, you’ll also need a copy of your credit report

Take Credit Counseling

Please remember that you need to complete a pre-filing credit counseling course before you can get your Columbia bankruptcy case filed. You should choose a credit counseling provider that has been approved for bankruptcy filers in Maryland.  Credit counseling services in Columbia can help you better understand your debt relief options and teach you how to create a debt repayment plan and manage your money. Once you complete this counseling course, you will get a certificate of completion that you have to submit the Court along with your Columbia bankruptcy petition. The course takes only ninety minutes to complete. Clearpoint is an approved creditor counselor in Columbia. There’s a cost to this course, but when filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia, the cost should not exceed $50.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

After you’ve obtained all the necessary bankruptcy forms, you will have to fill each page out carefully using the documents you collected. If you’re working with a bankruptcy attorney in Maryland, they will help you with this task. Every Columbia bankruptcy starts with a packet of paperwork called the bankruptcy schedules and statements. It’s important to be diligent and careful in completing your bankruptcy forms, as you’re signing everything under penalty of perjury. Get all the official Court forms to make sure your Columbia bankruptcy proceedings go smoothly. Review all available instructions carefully to avoid common mistakes when filing bankruptcy in Columbia. 

Get Your Filing Fee

Although it may seem a little strange that you’ve to pay over $300 when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia, you do need to pay it. It costs $338to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and $313 to file a Chapter 13. If you think that you can’t afford the filing fee, and you earn less than 150% of the federal poverty line, then you may file an application with the Maryland Bankruptcy Court for a fee waiver. Also, if you can’t arrange the money at once, the Court might allow you to pay your fee in installments. Make sure you include proposed dates by which you can make your installment payments.

Note that this is the final step before you’re ready to go to the courthouse in order to get your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia started. If you are filing bankruptcy in Columbia without a lawyer, you will have to submit everything to the Court on paper. As some of the information contained in your bankruptcy forms is time-sensitive, it’s best to print all documents the same week you plan on filing bankruptcy in Columbia. Once all paperwork is ready for you to take to the Bankruptcy Court, you should print one set of documents for the Court, and make a copy of everything for your personal files. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can go to Indigo Ink.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

Before heading out to the Court, make sure you have everything you need, such as your picture ID, credit counseling certificate, and all the Columbia bankruptcy forms that have to be filed. Once you get past security, go to the clerk's office. Note that these folks will take your bankruptcy forms and make sure you’ve everything needed to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia. You will need to head to the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building in Baltimore to file your documents. Remember, once you’re done filing bankruptcy in Columbia, the automatic stay will go into effect, meaning that your creditors can’t collect from you anymore. 

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

A bankruptcy Trustee is an independent contractor who is appointed to oversee your Columbia bankruptcy case. After your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia is filed, you will have to send your most recent federal income tax return and other documents, like pay stubs, to your Trustee. Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia means cooperating with your bankruptcy Trustee. Your meeting of creditors will go much smoother if your Trustee knows that you’re cooperating by mailing all your documents in timely. If you’ve not heard from your bankruptcy Trustee, and the date of the 341 hearing is approaching, then you should reach out to them. 

Take Bankruptcy Course 

You will have to complete another course as a condition to receiving a discharge in your Maryland bankruptcy case. It is known as the debtor education course. This debtor education course is different from the first one. It is a financial management course that you have to take after you have filing bankruptcy in Columbia but before you obtain your discharge. Similar to the counseling course you took before, you’ll receive a completion certificate after you are done. You can easily find a comprehensive list of the approved debtor education providers on the U.S. Trustee’s website. You can take this course in person or on the phone. When you complete this bankruptcy course, you should find out whether your course provider will file the certificate of completion with the Maryland Bankruptcy Court, or if you’ll need to do it yourself.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The old adage, "honesty is the best policy" really applies to Maryland bankruptcy. It’s particularly true during the 341 meeting of creditors, a mandatory Court appearance during which you have to answer questions pertaining to your Columbia bankruptcy. It is helpful to prepare for this meeting if nothing else it may help you keep your nerves at bay. Your creditors may or may not send their representatives to this meeting. Bring your picture ID and original social security card to make sure everything goes smoothly. The reason for this meeting is to confirm that the information in your Columbia bankruptcy paperwork is true, updated, and accurate.

Dealing with Your Car

Unfortunately, many people delay seeking the relief they can get by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia because they’re worried about losing their car. You should first determine the value of your vehicle. You can use a Kelley Blue Book Guide or NADA in order to determine the car’s current worth, based on its age and condition.  If you have an auto loan, then filing bankruptcy in Columbia gives you the power to decide how you want to proceed. Do you love the car, and your loan balance and monthly repayments on it are reasonable? If yes, you may keep the car, and the associated loan, by entering into a reaffirmation agreement.

Maryland Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Columbia

Maryland Means Test

The Maryland Bankruptcy Means Test is a standard income test that determines if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia. To make sure people don’t abuse the Maryland bankruptcy system, they have to complete the Maryland bankruptcy Means Test. Everyone's Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia is different, except with regards to the income limits. If you make more than the Maryland median family income for a household of the same size, then you must complete the full Maryland bankruptcy Means Test calculation. 

Median Income Levels for Maryland

Maryland Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Poverty Levels for Maryland

Maryland Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Maryland Bankruptcy Forms

Note that the Maryland bankruptcy forms that you need to file are comprised entirely of the official national forms. There are no local forms when filing bankruptcy in Columbia. You will have to complete these national bankruptcy forms when you are filing bankruptcy in Columbia. The Maryland Bankruptcy Court has specific instructions for filers when creating the creditor mailing matrix; make sure to review them carefully. All of the bankruptcy forms are available for free online. You shouldn’t purchase blank forms from anyone. If you were sued before your Columbia bankruptcy case was filed, you should use this Maryland bankruptcy form to notify all other Courts of that pending case. 

Maryland Exemptions

Maryland bankruptcy exemptions can help you preserve certain property. Maryland has created several bankruptcy exemptions that allow you to maintain sufficient public benefits, personal property, wages, and insurance to start over after you file your Maryland bankruptcy. Many individuals who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Columbia keep their homes and cars after eliminating their debts. The Maryland bankruptcy exemptions also allow married couples that file jointly to each claim a complete set of exemptions unless otherwise indicated. To claim Maryland bankruptcy exemptions, you must have resided in Maryland for the last two years when filing bankruptcy in Columbia.

Written By:

The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is fortunate to have a remarkable team of bankruptcy attorneys, as well as finance and consumer rights professionals, as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful to everyone.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

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