Filing Bankruptcy in Durham, North Carolina

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In a Nutshell

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Written by the Upsolve Team.  
Updated November 18, 2019


Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham is probably the last thing anyone thinks of when they think of Durham. Home to the prestigious, Research Triangle and Duke University, Durham is known for its innovation, education, and technology. But Durham is a diverse community. In addition to the well-educated, highly successful and well-paid individuals that give rise to its well-deserved reputation, it is also home to hardworking, family-oriented individuals who are struggling every day to make a better life for themselves and their families. It’s this hard-working spirit and the constant pursuit of progress that prevents residents of Durham from giving in to their financial setbacks. Financial setbacks like lay-offs, sickness, foreclosure, garnishment, or lawsuits that can derail even the most modest ambitions of moving up in life. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham can help you overcome all of these setbacks. If you live in Durham and are ready to take on the challenge of getting yourself out of debt, and restarting your journey to financial security, Upsolve can show you how. Upsolve is a non-profit, legal aid provider dedicated to educating individuals and families on how they can use the legal protection of Chapter 7 bankruptcy to get a fresh start! If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham, you can legally eliminate your debts. You can do this, without having to make any payments to your creditors, and in most instances, without having to sell or surrender any of your property. Unlike Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where you gradually pay down your debt, Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates your debt quickly and inexpensively. In fact, from start to finish, in most cases, you will be out of debt in ninety days. And you are not required to hire an attorney to do so. Upsolve can show you how to do it on your own, for free!

Durham Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost

The first thing anyone considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham may want to know, is how much does it cost to hire a Durham bankruptcy attorney? The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Durham averages between $1,100 and $1,200. While there may be individuals in Durham who can afford to pay an attorney that kind of money, if you are considering filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham, you’re probably not one of them. That’s ok. Upsolve was founded on the belief that not being able to afford an attorney should not lock individuals out of our bankruptcy Courts. If your family income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, you can obtain legal assistance from the Legal Aid of North Carolina. If you don’t qualify for legal aid, or they are unable to assist you with filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham, you can do it yourself. And Upsolve can show you how!

How to File Bankruptcy in Durham, North Carolina for Free

The modern bankruptcy system is administered through the federal Bankruptcy Courts of the United States. However, each state is allowed to enact laws that govern specific aspects of bankruptcy cases filed in their state. North Carolina has enacted its own state-specific laws for Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases filed in North Carolina, some of which are quite complex. As a result, Upsolve does not offer its online bankruptcy preparation services for North Carolina bankruptcy case at this time. However, we are still committed to helping you help yourself, by showing you how to file bankruptcy in Durham. This guide is designed to show you how and get you started today.


Collect Your Durham Bankruptcy Documents

Living in a college town like Durham, you are probably aware of all the textbooks most students need to start school. If you file your own North Carolina bankruptcy, you will also need some things to get started. Instead of textbooks, you will need some personal and financial documents. These documents include pay stubs, a W-2, bank statements, tax returns, credit card bills, medical bills, utility bills, and some ownership records for your home or car. Later, you will need your driver’s license, state identification card or passport, and your original social security card. You should make a copy of your pay stubs for the last 60 days, your bank statements for the last six months, and your most recent tax return. You will need to mail these to your court-appointedTrustee after filing bankruptcy in Durham.

Take Credit Counseling

One area related to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham for which North Carolina has enacted its own rules is pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. The Bankruptcy Code requires you to complete a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course before filing bankruptcy in Durham. In most states, the providers who offer this course are regulated and approved by the Office of the United States Trustee. In North Carolina, credit counseling and debtor education providers are regulated by the Bankruptcy Administrator for the Court where your North Carolina bankruptcy case is filed. In Durham, the Bankruptcy Administrator for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina maintains a list of approved credit counseling agencies. You must select a provider from this list to obtain your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. The cost of the pre-bankruptcy course is between $15 and $35. The course typically takes about an hour to complete. You are allowed to either take the course online, over the telephone or in-person. Although, not every provider offers all three options. When you complete the course, you will be given a certificate of completion that you must file with the rest of the forms for your North Carolina bankruptcy case.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Anyone who has ever tried to cram for a test knows how stressful and difficult waiting to the last minute to start on something can be. You should not do that when it comes to completing your Durham bankruptcy forms. Setting aside a couple of hours every night to complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms will make the process less intimidating and a lot easier. If you get bored filling the forms out at home, work on them somewhere else. The Oak House on 126 Main St. has been rated as one of the best places to do homework by users of the website Yelp. Something else that will make the process less intimidating is understanding the forms you will have to complete. While it’s not possible to discuss every form in detail here, one of the forms you will have to complete is the Statement of Financial Affairs. The Statement of Financial Affairs is a summary of your current financial situation that you will provide to the Court. You should indicate on the form such things as whether you’re being sued, being evicted, recently had a vehicle repossessed or recently stopped operating a business. There are sections on the form where all of this information will go. One thing to keep in mind when you complete your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms is that there are no “right” or “wrong” responses. Answer each question truthfully and accurately. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has a Chapter 7 Voluntary Petition Package available on its website, which you should use to get started.

Get Your Filing Fee

While Upsolve would never charge you for our assistance, and all of the guides available on our website are “tuition-free,” the Bankruptcy Court does charge a $335 filing fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham. This fee covers the cost of administering the bankruptcy program throughout the State of North Carolina and the rest of the country. Since you will be filing your North Carolina bankruptcy without an attorney, you must pay the fee by cash, cashier’s check or money order payable to “Clerk, US Bankruptcy Court.” If you want to pay the fee in installments, rather than all at once, you can request permission to do so. If you request to pay the fee installments, you can only divide the fee into four installments. Your first payment must be made within 30 days of filing your case, and half the total fee must be paid within 60 days. The last payment must be paid no later than 120 days from when you filed bankruptcy in Durham. If you are unable to pay the fee at all, you can request that the fee be waived.

When completed, your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms will probably be twice the size of an end of semester term paper. Consisting of some 60 to 100 pages, most people will probably prefer to print their Durham bankruptcy at a print shop or local library. The Durham County Regional Libraries offers printing for $0.10 per page. Mobile printing is also available and allows you to send your print request from home and pick it up later at the library. The Main Library is presently closed for renovation until 2020, however, depending on where you live, there are five other locations to visit. You should print two copies and only print on one side of each page. Sign one copy to file with the Court and keep the other copy for yourself.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

So far you have enrolled in our “how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham for free,” course. You have done your “homework” by collecting your documents. You have attended your “orientation” by obtaining your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling. You turned in your first “assignment” by completing your bankruptcy forms. Now it’s time for your “final exam,” where you will file your North Carolina bankruptcy with the Court! Everything you have done so far will come together in this step. In Durham, you must file your North Carolina bankruptcy with the Bankruptcy Clerk for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The Durham office of the Court is not staffed. You can mail you completed Durham bankruptcy forms to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Middle District of North Carolina, P.O. Box 26100, Greensboro, NC 27402-6100. You can also file it in-person in Greensboro, at 101 S. Edgeworth St., Greensboro, NC 27401, a fifty-three-minute drive from Durham. If you file your case in-person, remember to bring your signed bankruptcy forms, your filing fee, installment request or fee waiver request, your certificate of credit counseling and photo identification. The Court is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., however filing fees and payments are not accepted after 4:30 p.m.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

When you have filed your Durham bankruptcy case, you will receive a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case from the Court. This notice will contain the following information: the case number assigned to your case, the name, address and telephone number of the court-appointed Trustee assigned to your case, and the date, time, and place of your scheduled creditors’ meeting. A Trustee is an individual appointed by the Court to handle your bankruptcy case and deal with your creditors. It’s recommended that you contact the Trustee once you get the notice and ask what documents you are required to mail to them before the creditors’ meeting. Most Trustees will require the pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns that you copied earlier. Most will not require that you send them a copy of your bankruptcy forms. When you mail your documents to your Trustee, make sure you include a copy of the notice or some other document with your case number on it.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

You must complete a second bankruptcy credit counseling course before you receive adischarge in your Durham bankruptcy. Earlier, we compared the first bankruptcy course to an “orientation.” The second bankruptcy course can be compared to a “transition course.” This course, known as Debtor Education, is designed to help you transition from being debt-laden, to being debt-free. It will teach you how to manage your finances, create a budget, plan for emergencies and avoid having to file bankruptcy again in the future. The course costs between $25 and $50 and lasts up to three hours. You must select your provider from the Bankruptcy Administrator’slist of approved debtor education agencies. When you complete the course, you must also submit the certificate of completion to the Court. If you fail to complete the course or forget to mail the certificate of completion to the Court within 60 days after your creditors’ meeting, your Durham bankruptcy could be closed before your discharge is entered.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

Having completed your “course work,” it’s time for your “job interview.” The 341 meeting of creditors is an informal meeting between you and your court-appointed North Carolina bankruptcy Trustee. Treating the meeting as a “job interview” will put you in the right frame of mind to get through it smoothly. The Trustee will have reviewed the forms you submitted to the Court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham and the documents you sent them. At the 341 creditors’ meeting, the Trustee will ask you some non-confrontational questions about the information you have provided. The purpose of this meeting is not to “grill you” about why you cannot pay your bills. Instead, the Trustee must ensure you have provided the Court with all the information it needs to make a decision on your request to have your debts discharged. Your creditors have a right to attend this meeting as well. And if they do, they have a right to ask you questions. However, in the great majority of cases, no creditors will show up. In Durham, all 341 meetings are held at the Venable Center, Dibrell Building, Suite 280, 302 East Pettigrew Street, Durham, NC 27701. A five-minute drive from Cameron Indoor Arena.

Dealing with Your Car

If you have a car that’s not yet paid off, and you want to keep it, you will have to do a little “extra credit” work in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham. Dealing with your car involves completing a form known as a Statement of Intention. The form is included in the forms you will submit to the Court. You have 30 days after you file your North Carolina bankruptcy to complete the Statement of Intention, file it with the Court and mail a copy to your lender. In the form, you must choose to either reaffirm your car loan, redeem the car, or surrender the car and give it back to the lender. To reaffirm the car loan, you must enter into something known as a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. If you do this, you will be agreeing to keep paying your car note and to remain obligated to pay the loan even after your bankruptcy is discharged. In exchange, the lender lets you keep the car. If you want to redeem the car, you have to pay the lender the market value of the car. You have to pay it all at once but if you do, the car is yours and any balance owed on your car loan is discharged. Your last option is to surrender the car and give it back to the lender. You would do this by contacting the lender and agreeing on a place and time for the lender to pick up the car

North Carolina Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Durham 

North Carolina Means Test

Unless you enjoyed taking the SAT college admission exam, one section of your Durham bankruptcy that you will be required to complete will probably confuse you. This is something known as the North Carolina bankruptcy Means Test. Means Testing is intended to make sure that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not abused. As a result, you can’t file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham unless your household income is less than the median household income of a similar-sized family in North Carolina. If you fail this “test,” then there is a “presumption of abuse” attached to your Durham bankruptcy case. A presumption of abuse means that it looks like you should be able to pay your debts based on your household income. It’s possible to overcome the presumption of abuse. To do so, you must complete the Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation. This calculation will compute your disposable income over a five-year window. If the total is less than $7,700 then you have overcome the presumption of abuse and you may file your Durham bankruptcy case. If you can’t overcome the presumption of abuse, you can still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you will be required to convince the Court that you have special circumstances that should allow you to do so. If the Court is not convinced, your Chapter 7 may be converted into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Upsolve highly recommends you consult with a Durham bankruptcy attorney before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case with a presumption of abuse.

Median Income Levels for North Carolina

North Carolina Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,064.33$48,772.00
2$5,170.83$62,050.00
3$5,763.50$69,162.00
4$7,292.08$87,505.00
5$8,042.08$96,505.00
6$8,792.08$105,505.00
7$9,542.08$114,505.00
8$10,292.08$123,505.00
9$11,042.08$132,505.00
10$11,792.08$141,505.00

Poverty Levels for North Carolina

North Carolina Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
1$1,063.33$1,595.00
2$1,436.67$2,155.00
3$1,810.00$2,715.00
4$2,183.33$3,275.00
5$2,556.67$3,835.00
6$2,930.00$4,395.00
7$3,303.33$4,955.00
8$3,676.67$5,515.00
9$4,050.00$6,075.00
10$4,423.33$6,635.00

North Carolina Bankruptcy Forms

You should obtain the North Carolina bankruptcy forms to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy  directly from the Court’s website. The Chapter 7 Voluntary Petition package located at the Court’s website consists of 80 pages and contains most of the same forms available from the website of the United States Courts. However, the Voluntary Petition package on the Court’s website replaces the official Schedule C with local form 91C. Local form 91C – Debtor’s Claim for Property Exemptions as shown on pages 21 through 25 of the Court’s Voluntary Petition package is required to properly claim your bankruptcy exemptions. This form lists all of the bankruptcy exemptions available to you and provides space on the form for you to claim those exemptions. It also requires you to list any property you have purchased less than 90 days before filing bankruptcy in Durham because this property will not be protected.

North Carolina Exemptions

Very few people would benefit from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham if it were not for so-called exemptions. Exemptions are the laws allow you to keep most, if not all, of your property when you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Durham. An “exemption” is a law that keeps your bankruptcy Trustee from trying to sell your property to pay your creditors. Because anything you “exempt” is protected from being sold, most Chapter 7 bankruptcies are determined to be “no-asset” cases. A no-asset case means there is no non-exempt property available to be sold to pay back creditors. Whether there is property the Trustee can sell is based solely on the property you own and the Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions you are able to claim for that property. The most important thing to understand about North Carolina bankruptcy exemptions, is that you must claim them to use them. The exemptions will not automatically be applied to your case. Exemptions are claimed and applied to your property on Form 91C of your Durham bankruptcy case. You must list all property that you are claiming to be exempt on this form, along with the market value of the property, any liens on the property and the net value of the property (market value less liens). For example, North Carolina allows you to exempt $3,500 in equity in a personal automobile. If you owned a vehicle that was worth $3,500 that you still owed $1,500 on, you would list the net value of the vehicle as $2,000 in Section 3 of Form 91C. If you have purchased property within 90 days of filing, you must list this property in Section 16.



About the author
The Upsolve Team

Upsolve is lucky to have an incredible team of finance and consumer rights professionals as contributing writers to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful for 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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