Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated September 30, 2020
Living in a populous and vibrant city is exciting, engaging, and almost always expensive. There is a lot to do in and around Grand Rapids, but if you are struggling to make ends meet, it’s hard to enjoy the opportunities that this community provides. Even the most responsible and hardest working residents of Grand Rapids can easily find themselves struggling to meet their basic financial needs through no fault of their own. If creditors are harassing you and you’re running out of creative solutions to deal with your monthly debt payments and household expenses, know that a relatively straightforward "fix" to your challenging financial situation may be available to you and your family. Michigan bankruptcy can help to wipe your debts clean so that you can focus both on your family’s immediate financial needs and the benefits of a strong financial future. Since the Great Recession of 2008, more and more Americans understand that everyone but the most financially stable among us is a single job loss, medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, or serious accident away from financial disaster. Due to this widespread enlightenment about bankruptcy, seeking debt relief no longer carries the stigma it once did. Now that Americans understand the many benefits of this process, filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids has proven to be a powerful financial tool for many residents of River City.
You may be wondering if filing Grand Rapids bankruptcy is the best path forward. Before you can make an informed decision about whether to file for bankruptcy and which kind of bankruptcy process may work best in your situation, you’ll need to carefully examine your financial circumstances, including your income, expenses, debts, and assets. Filing bankruptcy under Chapter 13 restructures your debt so that it’s easier to make your monthly debt payments. Filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 eliminates many kinds of debt so that they no longer have to be paid back. Especially if you don’t make much income and you don’t yet own many unusually expensive possessions, you may especially benefit from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids because this option erases eligible debt without first requiring you to commit to a payment plan. However, regardless of what your financial situation looks like, there are likely bankruptcy options available designed to help you build a foundation for a strong financial future.
Grand Rapids Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
One of the most urgent questions that individuals thinking about filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids worry about is “How much does a Grand Rapids bankruptcy lawyer cost?” The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer depends on the complexity of your financial situation. For example, if you are a member of a lower-income household and don’t have a lot of unusually valuable property, the process of filing for Chapter 7 is so straightforward that you can complete necessary bankruptcy paperwork yourself without the assistance of a lawyer. If you make a fairly decent living but have few assets and your debts are not unusually complex, you could potentially hire bankruptcy help in Grand Rapids for just over $1,000. If you find that you need to hire a lawyer, it’s important to know that many offer free consultations. A consultation allows you to ask a legal professional questions so that you can make an informed decision about whether bankruptcy may be right for you before you’ve made up your mind one way or the other. These meetings are risk-free because you don’t have to hire an attorney after a consultation if you don’t want to.
How to File Bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, Michigan for Free
If you’d like to know more about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, please review the following information about completing bankruptcy documents, credit counseling, and the Michigan bankruptcy process generally. If you are a member of a lower-income household, you’ll likely be able to complete this process without having to manage the expense of hiring an attorney.
Collect Your Grand Rapids Bankruptcy Documents
One of the only real challenges associated with filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids involves paperwork. You’ll need to track down specific documents before you can officially file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids. For the Court to truly understand your financial situation, it will need to examine proof of your income, expenses, assets, and debts. You’ll need to create separate lists of the creditors you owe money to, your debts, your regular sources of income and your expenses. Also, you’ll likely need to submit a few recent pay stubs, recent tax returns and the title to your car, among other documents. If you don't know how to locate some of these documents, resist the urge to panic. You can usually request copies of government documents like tax returns with relative ease and your employer can help you figure out how to get copies of recent pay stubs.
Take Credit Counseling
If you join friends for drinks in a sports bar anywhere in Grand Rapids, chances are that you will overhear a conversation about the coaching staff of the Lions, Tigers and Wolverines. Successful sports seasons are largely dependent upon good coaching. Similarly, a successful Grand Rapids bankruptcy process tends to depend on solid credit counseling. Credit counseling helps to make sure that you understand all of your options before moving forward with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids. You may be able to take credit counseling online or at various locations in Grand Rapids, depending on your preferences and session availability. When choosing a credit counseling program, make sure that it has been approved by the Department of Justice for the Western District of Michigan, which is where you’ll be filing your Michigan bankruptcy case.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
When thinking about how to file bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork involved in this process. Know that the paperwork that the Court requires is almost always straightforward and features clear, precise directions. You’ll mainly be asked about information regarding your debts, expenses, income, and assets, which you’ll have easy access to anyway after you have gathered all the documents discussed above. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids is a relatively straightforward process if your finances aren’t unusually complex, so you’ll likely be able to complete the process of filling out the necessary paperwork on your own without an attorney’s assistance.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids usually requires applicants to pay a filing fee. However, certain low-income filers may qualify for a fee waiver. Even if your household does not qualify for a fee waiver, you may be able to pay the fee in installments so that it is manageable. The filing fee is $335, which might not seem overwhelming to everyone. However, this amount may seem insurmountable if you are already in debt and struggling to make ends meet. Please don’t let the filing fee requirement keep you from exploring Grand Rapids bankruptcy. Chances are that if the fee seems impossibly high to you, you may qualify for a fee waiver, anyway. Most filers who live below 150% of the poverty level qualify for this waiver upon request.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When filing for Grand Rapids bankruptcy, you won’t be able to complete the process online. Your forms will need to be physically printed out. If you don’t have easy access to a printer, know that there are many locations around Grand Rapids where you can print these documents. Commercial service providers like Kinkos and Staples can print them for a fee. Another easy way to print bankruptcy forms is to visit a local branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library. With 8 branches to choose from, this may be the most convenient option available for printing all the bankruptcy forms the Court requires for a Michigan bankruptcy. Make sure that you print out everything you need at once so that you don’t have to make multiple trips.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
From the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum to the John Ball Zoo, chances are that you enjoy exploring all that Grand Rapids has to offer. Have you discovered Grand Rapids’s courthouses yet? Grand Rapids is part of the Western District of Michigan and the courthouse where you will need to file is located at 1 Division Ave N. Visiting a courthouse can seem intimidating at first. But as long as you bring an ID and all your forms for filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids (and you don't mind walking through a metal detector, just like you would at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport), you have nothing to worry about.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, the Court handling your case will appoint a Trustee to oversee it. This person receives a small fee in exchange for examining your bankruptcy petition and conducting a short meeting of creditors. During this meeting, you will be asked questions about your financial situation under oath. Before the Trustee can execute these duties, they must be given copies of your paperwork. You’ll need to send necessary copies of specific documents to your Trustee before your case can proceed. If you are uncertain about which documents you need to send to your Trustee and when you need to send them, don’t hesitate to check out the Court’s directory of Trustees assigned to cases by folks filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids so you can contact your Trustee to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
In addition to a credit counseling requirement, you will need to participate in a debtor education course before your Grand Rapids bankruptcy case is complete. This course in personal financial management can usually be taken either online or at various locations in Grand Rapids. Much like your credit counseling course, this educational resource will help you to make sure that the benefits of filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids "stick" well into the future. Take care that you only choose a course that has been approved by the Department of Justice for the district you’re filing in or your participation won’t fulfill this requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
As previously mentioned, the Trustee that the Bankruptcy Court appoints to oversee portions of your case will hold a meeting before your debts can be discharged. Filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids is an official legal process, so the Court needs to make sure that information relevant to your case is accurate, before it can decide whether to approve your request for bankruptcy relief. You may be understandably worried about having to face your creditors. However, creditors rarely attend 341 meetings in person, especially when lower-income individuals are seeking to discharge relatively minor debts. As a result, you will likely just need to speak with your Trustee one-on-one during this meeting. You will be placed under oath (so, you need to tell the truth or you risk serious legal consequences) and be asked some straightforward questions about your finances. This meeting may understandably seem intimidating, but it’s generally a predictable and low-stress affair.
Dealing with Your Car
Grand Rapids isn’t the most pedestrian-friendly city. As a result, many Grand Rapids residents worry about what filing bankruptcy in Grand Rapids will mean for their vehicles. If you own a car or truck outright and would like to keep it, the Court will let you keep it as long as it’s fully covered by an available exemption. If you’re still paying off the purchase of your car, you will be given the option to reaffirm your debt, redeem the car or surrender your car. If you surrender (give back) the car, you’ll no longer owe money on your car loan. But if you want to keep your car, you will need to confirm that you will keep paying it off on time (reaffirming the debt) or will need to pay off the market value of the car in one payment (redeeming the car). The pros and cons of each option depend on your income, your family’s needs and your ability to keep paying off your existing car loan.
Michigan Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Grand Rapids
Michigan Means Test
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, you’ll need to pass the Michigan bankruptcy Means Test. The Michigan bankruptcy Means Test tries to ensure that only individuals and families who can’t pay off their debts over time through a Chapter 13 repayment plan are eligible to file for bankruptcy relief under Chapter 7. The income limits applied to Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases vary by state and by household size. If you are part of a lower-income household, you are likely to pass the Means Test; if you don’t pass, you may need to explore alternative bankruptcy options with the assistance of an attorney.
Median Income Levels for Michigan
Michigan Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for Michigan
Michigan 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)|
Michigan Bankruptcy Forms
As you prepare to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, you’ll need to print off all required Michigan bankruptcy forms. Please don’t panic about the complexity of these forms when you first print them out. The directions for each form make the steps you have to take clear so that you can complete all the forms you need to file for bankruptcy in Michigan with confidence.
Everyone who files for Grand Rapids bankruptcy can keep certain property safe from creditors due to the benefit of exemptions. When Michigan bankruptcy exemptions are applied to your property, your creditors can’t come after that property. If you are a member of a low-income household, you should be able to keep most or all of your property safe from your creditors once you specify which Michigan bankruptcy exemptions apply in your situation. A particular form in your bankruptcy packet (commonly referred to as a “schedule”) will allow you to accomplish this important goal.