Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.
Updated July 28, 2020
If you are having financial difficulties in J-Town and are considering filing bankruptcy in Joplin, Missouri you are definitely not alone. It’s not at all uncommon to be in a position these days where your income doesn’tseem to be enough to cover all on-going expenses as well as past debts. Joplin may be known in history as a place where Bonnie and Clyde hid out for a few weeks after robbing some area businesses. While they did escape police pursuit in Joplin, they were forced to leave behind their possessions, including a camera that had the now-iconic pictures of them together. There are many better (and legal!) ways to improve your financial situation and filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin may offer the relief you are seeking to move forward in your life.
It’s important to think about not only whether bankruptcy is the right solution for you, but if so, which type of bankruptcy you should try to pursue. As an individual (or a couple) you will be deciding between Chapter 7 bankruptcy where you can walk away from all (or most) of your debts and get a fresh start and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where you set up a payment plan for three to five years to pay some of your debts before getting your fresh start. Your circumstances will dictate which type of bankruptcy is a better option for you. If it looks as though a Chapter 13 is a better choice for you, you may wish to explore hiring an attorney or contacting one of the legal aid organizations in your area for assistance. If a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin makes sense for you, it may very well be possible for you to do so on your own with the assistance of Upsolve’s Missouri Bankruptcy Guide. If you’re eligible, Upsolve will partner with you, step by step throughout the whole process, beginning with the information below to help you decide if filing bankruptcy in Joplin is right for you and how to make certain that you are completing all the proper requirements and paperwork in JoMo to get to the relief you are seeking.
Joplin Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
If you are considering hiring an attorney to file your Missouri bankruptcy, the average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Joplin ranges between $800 and $1,300 for a Chapter 7 case. If your case is not entirely straightforward, investing in an attorney to assist you could be a wise decision. Many attorneys offer free consultations so you can meet with them before deciding whether you would like to hire a particular firm or if outside assistance even feels necessary after talking to some lawyers about your situation. Upsolve can help connect you with an attorney in Joplin to explore this option further.
How to File Bankruptcy in Joplin, Missouri for Free
If you decide to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin the information below will help you through the process on your own (also known as “pro se”) so that you can avoid adding attorney fees to your financial obligations. Upsolve offers a partnership that can assist you from the initial decision to file through the end of your case, to help ensure that you get the Joplin bankruptcy relief you are seeking.
Collect Your Joplin Bankruptcy Documents
One of the first steps you need to take is to collect the necessary documents to make sure you are eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin and to fill out all of your forms. When filing a Missouri bankruptcy you will likely need the following documents: Proof of your Social Security number and address, any pay stubs (or other income documentation) from the last six months, your federal and state income tax returns from the last two years, bank account statements, any real property documents if you own your home (deed, mortgage information, water bills or tax lien if applicable, proof of homeowner’s insurance), vehicle information (title, proof of insurance, loan documents) and information to prepare a list of everything you own (your assets) and all of your debts (liabilities.) You can obtain a free copy of your credit report to help you include all of your debts with current addresses for your creditors.
Take Credit Counseling
In addition to the documents that contain all the information you need, you also need to complete a credit counseling course before filing bankruptcy in Joplin and have to provide a certificate of completion to the Court to show you fulfilled this requirement. It’s important to go to an agency that is approved by the Western District of Missouri Bankruptcy Court. In Joplin, you have the option to attend the course in person through Consumer Credit Counseling of Springfield, Missouri, Inc., which is in the downtown area. Additionally, there are plenty of approved providers offering the course by phone or online if you prefer to complete the course remotely. Keep in mind that you will also need to complete another course after filing bankruptcy in Joplin; however, many of the approved agencies will give you the opportunity to sign up for and pay for both courses at once, usually for around $50.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The next step of filing bankruptcy in Joplin is to complete your bankruptcy forms. Be prepared to spend some time on this - there are approximately 23 federal forms as well as some local forms you’ll need to complete. The bankruptcy forms are where you’ll be sharing the details about everything you own, everything you owe, and your overall financial situation. The Western District of Missouri Bankruptcy Court’s website offers a very thorough section for folks filing their Missouri bankruptcy without a lawyer (the so-called “pro se filers”), including a complete list of all necessary forms and where to find them. When you work with Upsolve you can respond to an online questionnaire that will populate all of the information into your bankruptcy forms so they are ready to be submitted to the Court.
Get Your Filing Fee
You will need to figure out how to handle your filing fee of $335 before bringing your Chapter 7 forms to the Court clerk to file your Missouri bankruptcy case. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can apply to have your fee waived for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin. If you make more than the cutoff (or your application for a fee waiver is not granted) you can also apply to pay your filing fee in installments, so long as you can pay the full amount in less than 120 days, and no more than four installments. If you are able to pay in full at the time of filing make certain to have cash (exact change), or in the form of a cashier’s check or money order.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you have gathered your documents and filled out your Joplin bankruptcy forms, you need to print them so you can submit them to the Court. If you have access to a printer at home or at work, you may want to print an extra copy of everything you are submitting to the Court as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin for your records. If you don’t have access to a printer, there may be a free or low-cost option for printing at the Joplin Public Library, or you can go to an office supply store, like Office Depot, to print for a small charge. Make sure to print all of the paperwork single-sided as the Court will not accept the forms if printed on both sides.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Once you have dealt with your filing fee, completed the first credit counseling course, and filled out and printed your Joplin bankruptcy forms, you’ll need to submit them to the Court. The Western District of Missouri does have multiple locations, including one in Joplin, but make certain you are headed to the proper location to file the paperwork. The Joplin branch may be where your court hearing is held but it is not staffed for filing needs. Instead, you should call ahead (816-512-1800) between 9 am and 4:30 pm to confirm that the proper location to file is in Kansas City (400 East 9th Street Room 1800 Kansas City, MO. 64106.) There also may be an option to file by mail, but if it’s at all possible to go in person that is preferred in case you need to make a quick correction or simply prefer the peace of mind of knowing your Missouri bankruptcy case is properly filed and time-stamped.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Not long after your Joplin bankruptcy case is filed with the Court a bankruptcy Trustee is assigned to it. This is the person who will oversee your case and conduct your 341 hearing. The hearing should be scheduled between 21 and 40 days from your filing date. You need to provide documentation to support your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin before your hearing, allowing for the documents to be received at least seven days in advance. You should receive a letter from your Missouri bankruptcy Trustee directly with a list of the required documents. If it has been more than two weeks since you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin, you can always reach out to your Trustee directly to find out what they need. It’s likely that the documents they ask for are similar to or the same ones you used to fill out the paperwork, such as your pay stubs or other proof of income, tax returns and financial statements, etc.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
At this point in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin, it’s a good idea to go ahead and complete your second debtor education course. Again, make sure to use an approved agency. This will be well within the time limit to submit the certificate of completion (after filing and within 45 days of the 341 hearing), and if it turns out that you need to file the certificate yourself (as opposed to the agency taking care of it for you) it might be possible to file on the same day as your 341 hearing. Just be certain to file it with the court clerk just like your original paperwork, it is not enough to just hand it to your Trustee. Your discharge can’t be entered if it doesn’t show up in the court record of your Missouri bankruptcy.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
You will need to attend one Court hearing, your 341 hearing, or Meeting of Creditors, as part of your your Missouri bankruptcy case. This hearing will take place before your Trustee and will be a relatively quick experience, often ten to fifteen minutes. Essentially, the Trustee will ask questions to verify that the information you submitted in your documents is true and accurate. It’s usually a pretty painless process, but if you are nervous you can learn more about what will take place at the hearing so you feel better prepared. This is also an opportunity for your creditors to appear and ask questions about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin, but they usually don’t attend unless they are seeking a reaffirmation agreement.
Dealing with Your Car
If you own a car when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin, you may need to decide whether it makes sense to keep it. It will come down to several factors. First, are you still making payments on it? If so, are you current on those payments? If you are not current on the payments, it may make sense to surrender the car as part of your Missouri bankruptcy case so that you can walk away from the remaining payments and any late charges or other penalties. To determine the equity in your vehicle you need to start with the fair market value at the current time. You can look this up in either Kelley Blue Book or NADA and then subtract any remaining loan balances from the fair market value of the vehicle. What’s left, if anything, is your equity. Once you have determined the equity in your car, you can see if you can protect it fully through an available exemption. In Missouri, you are limited to the state exemptions, which allow you to protect up to $3,000 worth of equity. If the car is jointly titled between you and your spouse, you can double that amount.
Missouri Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Joplin
Missouri Means Test
Before you even file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin you need to make sure that you are qualified to file a Chapter 7 case. To find out if you qualify you will need to complete the Missouri bankruptcy Means Test. You can qualify to file Chapter 7 under the Means Test in one of two ways. First, you can immediately qualify if your household income is less than the median income for households of the same size in Missouri. Second, if you do not meet the income limits, you can go through a full Missouri bankruptcy Means Test analysis to examine both your income and your reasonable monthly expenses in detail and see if there is any money left at the end of the month. If there is little or no disposable income left, you will qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin.
Median Income Levels for Missouri
Missouri Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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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.
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Missouri Bankruptcy Forms
It’s important to make sure you know the Missouri Court’s Local Rules and to also fill out and file Missouri bankruptcy forms that are not part of the official federal forms. For example, if you have not been paid in 60 days or more by an employer, you have to also fill out and include the local form entitled “Debtor’s Evidence of No Employer Payments” for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin.
You can use exemptions in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Joplin to protect the equity in your property. Every state has a choice whether to offer its citizens the option of using the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Missouri is an “opt-out” state, meaning that in Missouri you can only exempt property using the Missouri bankruptcy exemptions. One benefit of the Missouri bankruptcy exemptions is that married couples filing a joint bankruptcy in Missouri can double most exemption amounts, but this does not extend to the homestead exemption.