Maine Bankruptcy

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Summary

Though it's not always the best course of action, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine without a lawyer ("pro se"). Additionally, if your income is less than the 150% of the federal poverty guidelines the court may agree to waive the court fees normally due when filing bankruptcy in Maine.

There are many reasons why folks end up filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. Whether it is the result of a job loss, unexpected medical expenses, or just a series of unfortunate events, if you are having a hard time meeting all of your financial obligations every month, just know, you are not alone. In 2018 alone almost 1,500 individuals (and couples) filed for bankruptcy protection in Maine, with 1,229 of the total cases being filed as a Chapter 7 case. Sometimes, life just happens, and if the math does not work out, and your income is not enough to pay for necessities and make the minimum payments your creditors are demanding every month, filing a Maine bankruptcy may be the only responsible course of action left. The fact that you are reading this guide means that you are making good choices by educating yourself about your options and about the process. This guide will provide you with a general overview of what to expect if you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine.

How to File Bankruptcy in Maine for Free

Though it's not always the best course of action, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine without a lawyer ("pro se"). Additionally, if your income is less than the 150% of the federal poverty guidelines the court may agree to waive the court fees normally due when filing bankruptcy in Maine.


Collect Your Maine Bankruptcy Documents

Filing bankruptcy in Maine involves quite a bit of paperwork. For one, you are required to paint a complete and truthful picture of your financial situation for the court in your bankruptcy forms. Some of the information you need to prepare the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine is the kind of stuff you know off the top off your head. Other questions you have to answer will require you to review and refer to certain personal financial records. These personal records are your bankruptcy documents. Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Maine must show they are eligible to do so based on how much they made in the last 6 months. That means you will need every paycheck stub you have received in the 6 months before your case is filed. You also have to provide a thorough listing of all of your debts, including the current mailing address for each one of your creditors. In order to make sure you are not forgetting anyone, you should get a copy of your credit report from each one of the three credit reporting agencies. Finally, even though you may not need it for completing the initial forms to be filed in your Maine bankruptcy case, you will eventually need a copy of your most recent federal income tax return.

Take Credit Counseling

Before your case can be filed with the court, you have to complete a credit counseling course. It doesn't matter that you are in this situation due to no fault of your own, this is something everyone filing bankruptcy in Maine has to do. The primary purpose of the course is to educate you on all the options you have to deal with your debts. It will take about 1 - 2 hours to complete the course and having the bankruptcy documents you collected nearby can be useful as you go through it. When you are done, you will receive a certificate confirming that you completed this requirement. The certificate is valid for 180 days, so as long your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine will be filed in the next 6 months, you can go ahead and get this out of the way now. Most people filing bankruptcy in Maine take the course online or over the phone. You should go with whatever method you are more comfortable with, just make sure that you take the course from a provider approved to offer this course for Maine bankruptcy cases.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Completing the forms prior to filing bankruptcy in Maine is the part of this process that will likely take up most of your time. In addition to your Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy, you have to complete all Schedules, plus a Statement of Financial Affairs, a Statement of Intentions and several other required documents. If you have a lawyer, they will do the legwork of plugging your specific information into all of the right spots, based on the documents and information you provide to their office. If you don't have a lawyer, you should check whether you are qualified to file with the help of Upsolve. Whether you are doing it yourself, or having someone help, remember that you will be signing the documents under oath and penalty of perjury. Additionally, since you only have one chance to show the court that you are taking your Maine bankruptcy case seriously, it is very important to be diligent and forthcoming with all of the requested information. Although you are able to amend (update) your forms later, if you left out too much information at the outset, the trustee handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine may wonder if there is anything else you failed to disclose, either by accident or intentionally.

Get Your Filing Fee

If your income is too high to qualify for a fee waiver, make sure you don't forget to save up your court filing fee of $335. Everyone who makes more than the threshold for a fee waiver when filing Chapter 7 in Maine has to pay the fee at the time their case is first filed with the court. The fee has to be paid in either cash (exact change only) or in the form of a money order or cashier's check. You cannot use a personal check or debit card to pay the filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. If you are having a hard time saving up the full amount because a creditor is garnishing your wages, you should prepare this application asking the court to allow you to pay the court filing fee in installments. This enables you to file your case right away, thereby stopping the wage garnishment. The full $335 required has to be paid within 4 months from the date your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine was filed. Since the court may throw your case out if you miss just one of the payments, you should only take advantage of this option if absolutely necessary. After all, if you are not getting garnished now and are having a hard time setting aside enough each pay period to pay the full fee, it may not be any easier after filing bankruptcy in Maine.

Now that the hard part of completing the required forms is done, it is time to get everything ready for filing with the court. Since only lawyers are allowed to use the court's electronic filing system, folks filing bankruptcy in Maine without a lawyer have to provide a signed paper version of all of the required documents. The first thing you should print out is this checklist as that will help you figure out if you missed anything when completing the forms for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. Since all the forms tend to look somewhat similar, it's also helpful to mark each one of the forms as "done" after printing it so you don't lose track. The court needs one full signed copy of everything except your creditors' mailing matrix. You will need two copies of that. In order to easily refer back to the forms you filed with the court later, you should make a copy (or print a second copy) of everything for your own records. Even though it may be tempting, do not print the copy for the court double-sided and do not staple the forms together.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

The Maine Bankruptcy Court has locations in Bangor and Portland. The county you live in determines which courthouse you will have visit to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. To find out which location you should go to, use this helpful tool on the court's website; it allows you to click on the county you reside in, then immediately directs you to the location and contact information for the courthouse your Maine bankruptcy case will be heard in. Instead of going to the court in person, you can also mail all of your documents to the courthouse for purpose of filing your case. However, since it will be easier to address any issues right away if you are there in person, if you can go there yourself, you should. Since filing bankruptcy in Maine is a federal proceeding, entering the courthouse means you are entering a federal building and will have to pass through a security check on your way in. Once inside, it will be easy enough to find the clerk's office where they will accept your bankruptcy forms for filing with the court.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

Your trustee is the person randomly assigned by the court to administer your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. They are not court officials, but act as a kind of third-party administrator to ensure that you are eligible to receive a discharge and to see to it that your unsecured creditors receive the value of any non-exempt (unprotected) assets you may have. One part of the trustee's job is to review the information you provided to the IRS on your federal income tax returns. The Bankruptcy Code makes it your job to provide a copy of your most recent income tax return to your trustee at least a week before your creditors' meeting takes place. Since each of the bankruptcy trustees has their own system for doing their due diligence, you may receive a letter from your case trustee shortly after filing bankruptcy in Maine with a list of other documents or information they need from you. If you don't comply with this request in a timely manner, or fail to submit your tax return, the trustee can schedule a second (continued) meeting of creditors to make sure you follow through on providing it thereby inevitably delaying the entry of your discharge.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Bankruptcy course 2 is intended to provide you with tools for managing your finances after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine is over. Even if there is nothing you could have done differently to avoid filing bankruptcy, you have to take this course, as is a requirement for everyone filing bankruptcy in Maine. In light of that, the court will not enter your discharge order if you do not take this course. As before, this course has to be taken through one of the companies approved to offer the course in Maine. When you are done, it's important to file this certification with the court. This alerts the judge presiding over your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine to the fact that you have completed this requirement. Without the certificate, the court has no way of knowing you actually took the course and could potentially close your case without entering a discharge. If that happens, you will have to file a request to reopen your case and pay a new court filing fee.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The 341 meeting, often referred to as the "creditors' meeting" is the one time everyone filing Chapter 7 in Maine actually has to appear in person. Since it is not a court proceeding in the sense that it requires a judge to be present for it, these meetings are scheduled in various locations throughout the state. That way, not everyone filing bankruptcy in Maine has to travel to Bangor or Portland for the 5 - 10 minutes the meeting typically takes. You will get to meet your case trustee as the primary purpose of the meeting is to give the trustee an opportunity to ask people who filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine some questions. The questions are all about you and your financial situation, so as long as you remember to take a deep breath and listen to the trustee carefully, you will not have a problem answering any of them. You can prepare by reviewing the documents you filed with the court along with this checklist from the Maine bankruptcy court. Creditor are invited to attend the meeting and ask you questions if they want to, but that rarely happens. The most frequent complication (of sorts) at the 341 meetings is typically related to people forgetting to bring a valid picture ID and acceptable proof of social security number. As long as you have both of those things, this part of your Maine bankruptcy proceeding will probably be over before you know it.

Dealing with Your Car

People often hold off on filing bankruptcy in Maine because they are worried about what will happen to their car if they do. What most people don't realize is that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine actually gives you the ability to deal with the car in a way that makes the most sense for you. People who are in over their head with a car loan sometimes return the car without realizing that they will still have to the pay off the loan anyway. If you know your car loan is more than you can reasonable handle, filing Chapter 7 in Maine gives you the opportunity to surrender (return) without worrying about the balance left owing on the loan, as that is discharged. If you like the car, and the only reason your loan isn't working for you is the large discrepancy between the car's actual value and the amount of money needed to pay off the loan, you may be able to redeem the car. A redemption allows you to buy the car by paying, as a lump sum, an amount equal to the car's value to the creditor, while discharging everything else. Finally, folks filing bankruptcy in Maine who are happy with their car and their car loan can keep everything the way it was by entering into a reaffirmation agreement.

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Maine Bankruptcy Means Test

Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Maine to complete the Maine means test for bankruptcy. The first step is to compare your annual income, based on how much you made in the last 6 months, to the Chapter 7 income limits. If you "fail" this part of the test, by making too much money, you may still be able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine if part 2 of the means test analysis determines that it would not be an abuse of the system for you to do so.

Data on Median income levels for Maine

Maine Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,211.42$50,537.00
2$5,311.17$63,734.00
3$6,415.33$76,984.00
4$7,826.00$93,912.00
5$8,576.00$102,912.00
6$9,326.00$111,912.00
7$10,076.00$120,912.00
8$10,826.00$129,912.00
9$11,576.00$138,912.00
10$12,326.00$147,912.00

Data on Poverty levels for Maine

Maine Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
1$1,040.83$1,561.25
2$1,409.17$2,113.75
3$1,777.50$2,666.25
4$2,145.83$3,218.75
5$2,514.17$3,771.25
6$2,882.50$4,323.75
7$3,250.83$4,876.25
8$3,619.17$5,428.75
9$3,987.50$5,981.25
10$4,355.83$6,533.75
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Maine Bankruptcy Forms

The Maine bankruptcy forms are a combination of the forms you bring to the court when you first file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine, and forms that may be needed later on in the case When you first file your case, you have to file this certification regarding your creditors' addresses along with all of the national bankruptcy forms.

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District of Maine Requirements

The Local Rules governing the District of Maine impose a requirement on everyone who is in a Maine bankruptcy case to notify the court and all interested parties when they have provided their income tax return to their case trustee. The best way to do this is by filing this notice in your Maine bankruptcy case.

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Maine Bankruptcy Exemptions

The laws that designate certain property as protected so that creditors can't take it from you (no matter how much you owe them) are called exemption laws. Everyone who has lived in the Pine Tree State for at least two years when their Maine bankruptcy case is first filed with the court is able to use the Maine bankruptcy exemptions to protect their assets.

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Maine Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

Hiring a lawyer can be a worthwhile investment if you own property that you cannot exempt in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Maine. The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer varies by state and ranges from$1,200 to $1,500 in Maine for typical cases.

  • Attorney cost estimate: $1,200 – $1,500

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Not everyone who needs a lawyer for their Maine bankruptcy case can afford one. That is why Maine legal aid organizations operate throughout the state to ensure low-income individuals needing help with civil matters, including bankruptcy matters, can get the help they need for free. The Maine State Bar Association's website is a great place to start looking for Maine legal aid resources near you.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc.
(207) 774-4753
88 Federal Street, P.O. Box 547, Portland, ME 04112-0547

Upsolve
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Upsolve Location
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Maine Court Locations

J.B. Brown Block
207-780-3482
537 Congress Street Portland, ME 04101

J.B. Brown Block

Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building
207-945-0348
202 Harlow Street Bangor, ME 04401

Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building
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Maine Judges

Maine Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
District of MaineHon. Peter G. Cary
District of MaineHon. Michael A. Fagone
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Maine Trustees

Maine Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Nathaniel R. HullTrustee@verrilldana.com
(207) 774-4000
Anthony J. Manhart
(207) 791-3000
Pasquale J. Perrino Jr.pjperrino@perrinolaw.com
(207) 622-1918
Jeffrey T. Piampianotrustee@dwmlaw.com
(207) 772-1941
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