Live in Missouri and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Missouri debtors through the chapter 7 process.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated July 30, 2020
Bankruptcy is probably not the topic you want to chat about the next time you run into a friend in town, so you may not be quite sure how to find out more about your options. This guide to Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri is a great place to start! It provides an overview of what to do to get protection from the United States Bankruptcy Court. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns and there is no shame in admitting you need help. Even Jack "Jack the Ripper" Clark has had to take advantage of Missouri bankruptcy laws to get a fresh start. If you feel like you are drowning in debt, bankruptcy may give you the relief you need.
How to File Bankruptcy in Missouri for Free
Depending on what is going on with you financially, you may be worried that you cannot file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri because you cannot afford it. Remember, though, if you are eligible for a waiver, you may not have to pay the court filing fee at all. Filing Chapter 7 in Missouri can be done completely for free that way.
Collect Your Missouri Bankruptcy Documents
Your documents will be most helpful to you if you collect all of them before you start filling out the court forms. After all, in a way, filing bankruptcy in Missouri is like telling a story: The true story of your financial situation. No one will judge why you are seeking protection under Missouri bankruptcy laws, but the court and your trustee both have a duty to verify certain details of your story. You, on the other hand, have a duty to give the court a complete picture. Additionally, you are signing the documents needed to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, under penalty of perjury, so it’s important to get it right. If you take your time and collect your tax returns, paycheck stubs, bank statements, credit report, etc. now, it will be much easier to tell your story without leaving anything out by accident.
Take Credit Counseling
The documents you just collected will even come in helpful when you take the credit counseling course everyone must take before filing bankruptcy in Missouri. This course will take you through an overview of your financial situation and your monthly budget and once done you will get a certificate of completion. As long as you took the course from a company approved to offer it by the United States Trustee, the certificate allows you to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri anytime within the next 6 months. Most folks take the course online, but this non-profit (Consumer Credit Counseling Service LLC) also offers some in-person services at their locations in Springfield and Joplin.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
So far, everything in this guide on how to file bankruptcy in Missouri had to be done by you. You have to take the course, and you're probably the only one that knows where your documents are. There is no way around that, not even if you hire a lawyer, find a pro bono lawyer, let Upsolve help you, or go at it completely alone. The next, most technical, step is where having someone guide you through the process, or doing the work for you (if you hired a lawyer) can be helpful. In order to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, you have to tell your story, but you have to use the official court forms to do it. It's important to get the official court forms, even the local ones used only under Missouri bankruptcy laws, right, so your case goes smoothly and your discharge is entered without delay.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you make more than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines per month, you will have to pay the filing fee of $335 when filing Chapter 7 in Missouri. It's best to bring the fee in the form of a cashier's check or money order when you go to the courthouse, as that may be the only thing the court accepts. If you need Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri because someone is garnishing your paycheck, don't panic. The court can give you up to four months to pay the filing fee if you ask for an installment agreement. You will start receiving your full paycheck again as soon as your bankruptcy case is filed, making it possible for you to make the payments to the court.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you don't have a lawyer helping you, you have to bring the bankruptcy forms to the court in person to officially file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri. It's best to print everything on the same day that you plan on going to court, so all the information is up to date when you give it to the court clerk. Make sure you print on plain white paper and don't staple any of the pages together. Since there are a number of different forms, it's helpful to have a checklist showing you all the filing requirements. That way, when you are at the courthouse filing Chapter 7 in Missouri, you know you have everything that you need, and can focus on the important stuff.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Before you head to court to file your forms and officially start your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, make sure you know where to go. Even though the bankruptcy court has multiple locations, papers can only be filed at the courthouses in Kansas City and St. Louis, depending on where you live, and parking may be tricky around that area. Also, remember that you will have to pass through security on your way in, which can take some time. Filing bankruptcy in Missouri can be a stressful process, but the folks at the courthouse are there to help you. Just remember to take a deep breath, and that you have worked hard to make sure you have everything you need.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The trustee is the person that is charged with making sure the story you told in your Missouri bankruptcy paperwork is truthful and that you are not hiding anything. He (or she) acts a little bit like a representative for all of your unsecured creditors. The Bankruptcy Code requires that you provide a copy of your most recent federal income tax return to the Trustee at least 7 days before your 341 meeting takes place. The trustee may also ask you for some other supporting documents, as part of their standard review process. It's important to keep an eye out for any such requests from your trustee, as filing Chapter 7 in Missouri means cooperating with the trustee in the administration of your case.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
One of the conditions to getting what you want, your discharge order from the court, is that you complete another course after your Missouri bankruptcy case is filed. This debtor education course is like the one you took before you went to court with your paperwork. Since you now understand your financial situation better than ever, the idea is that it will show you some tools you can use for managing your own finances. As before, it's important that you take this course from someone that is approved to offer it in Missouri. CCCS of the Ozarks, the nonprofit that also offers the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling, is the only provider offering this course in person at the moment. Afterwards, make sure to file your certificate of completion with the court. If that is not done within about 90 days from filing Chapter 7 in Missouri, your case may be closed without a discharge.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Missouri has to go to the Meeting of Creditors or "341 meeting" scheduled to take place about 30 days after your Chapter 7 case has been opened. Attending the 341 meeting, providing valid and acceptable IDs, and truthfully answering questions about the bankruptcy forms is, usually, the most stressful part in any individual Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri. The good news is that it will be over before you know it, and if you spend just a little bit of time preparing for your creditors' meeting, you will realize that you have nothing to worry about. It's possible that someone you owe money to (like a local vendor or a bank) sends a representative to the meeting; but, in reality, more often than not it's basically a short, but formal, meeting with your trustee to discuss your case.
Dealing with Your Car
If you rely on your vehicle to get around, go to work, and just generally make a life for yourself in the “Show Me” state, it's normal to wonder about what happens to that vehicle when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri. A lot of people don't realize that getting bankruptcy relief means getting to walk away from a car loan they can't afford. It also means, however, that if your loan makes sense for you, your budget, and your vehicle, you can keep everything the same. This is called entering into a reaffirmation agreement. Some folks are able to pull together some money after their case is filed, so they can purchase their car outright by paying what it is actually worth, thereby getting out of a bad loan. This is called a redemption. If your vehicle is paid off, make sure you check the exemptions available to folks filing bankruptcy in Missouri, so you can claim the proper one on your Schedule C. As long as your car is worth less than the total allowed exemption of $3,000 (or $6,000 if you are married), your Missouri bankruptcy will not affect your car at all.
Missouri Bankruptcy Means Test
The Missouri bankruptcy means test must be completed, using income information from the 6 months before your case is filed, by everyone who seeks relief under Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri. It is supposed to make sure that folks who make “too much” money don't abuse the system. If, at first, it looks like you somehow make too much money based on your gross income, you can deduct allowed reasonable expenses. If that leaves you unable to pay your debts, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is an option for you. If not, you may want to consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to get relief.
Data on Median income levels for Missouri
Missouri 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 Missouri
Missouri 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)|
Eastern District of Missouri Requirements
The Eastern District covers more than 50 counties and is broken into three divisions. The Eastern Division, home to the Thomas F. Eagleton courthouse in St. Louis, the Northern Division, based in Hannibal, and the Southeastern Division, located in Cape Girardeau. When you go to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri in this district, make sure you head to the St. Louis location, as the other locations don't have permanent bankruptcy staff. If you are filing without an attorney in this district, you can make an appointment to meet with a volunteer attorney for a free thirty-minute consultation about your case and paperwork.
Western District of Missouri Requirements
The Western District is also split into three divisions, but you may file your Missouri bankruptcy paperwork only in the Western Division at its Kansas City location. Your place of residence determines which division your case will be assigned to. If you are in the Central Division, then any hearing, including the 341 meeting, will take place in Jefferson City. If you are in the Southern Division, you will have to head to Springfield for your hearings. If you’re going to court, make sure you leave your phone in the car when you head inside, as members of the general public are not allowed to bring phones or cameras into the courthouse in this district. When you file bankruptcy without an attorney ("pro se") in the Western District, you have to complete and file this separate verification with the court.
Missouri Bankruptcy Forms
Missouri Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are a combination of national forms, and some local forms specific to the district you file in. All of them are available online, for free. One of the tools the Eastern District provides is a fillable template for creating your creditors' matrix. This is the document that provides the court with all your creditors' addresses so they can send a notice of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri to them. Since it is not district specific, you can use this template in either district.
Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions
Like many other states, Missouri has opted out of the federal bankruptcy exemptions and you have to use Missouri bankruptcy exemptions instead. Exemptions determine which assets are protected from your creditors. If you are married when filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, then you may be able to double some of the exemptions available to you. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot double the homestead exemption, which protects your home up to $15,000 if you own the land, or $5,000 if you own a mobile home but not the land it sits on.
Missouri Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Sometimes having a lawyer in your corner is worth it in the long run, even if it doesn't really make sense that you should have to pay someone when you can't afford your bills. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in the Show Me State ranges from $800 to $1300 but most of them provide a free consultation. If your assets don't seem to match the exemptions, hiring a lawyer may be the best thing you can do for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri.
Attorney cost estimate: $800 – $1,300
Missouri Legal Aid Organizations
Legal aid in Missouri helps folks who need a lawyer for a civil matter but cannot afford one because they don't make enough money. If you are eligible to receive pro bono legal services for your Missouri bankruptcy, you may have a pro bono lawyer work with you throughout your case.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
4001 Blue Parkway, Suite 300, Kansas City, MO 64130
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc.
4232 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108
Legal Services of Southern Missouri
809 N. Campbell Avenue, Springfield, MO 65802
Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corporation
1201 West Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
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Missouri Court Locations
Charles Evans Whittaker United States Courthouse
400 East Ninth Street Kansas City, MO 64106
Christopher S. Bond United States Courthouse
80 Lafayette Street Jefferson City, MO 65101
Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse
111 South Tenth Street St. Louis, MO 63102
Missouri Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Missouri||Hon. Kathy A. Surratt-States|
|Eastern District of Missouri||Hon. Barry S. Schermer|
|Eastern District of Missouri||Hon. Charles E. Rendlen|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. David Gregory Kays|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. Beth Phillips|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. Brian C. Wimes|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. Douglas Harpool|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. Stephen R. Bough|
|Western District of Missouri||Hon. Roseann A. Ketchmark|
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