How To File Bankruptcy for Free in North Dakota
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Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated February 15, 2022
Maybe you don’t have $50 million of debt like Ron McMartin did when he filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota, but chances are you don’t have $11 million worth of property either. Debt complicates life, whether you’re at Microsoft in Fargo or you’re farming in Stark County to feed a family of four. But whether you’re a millionaire, a machinist, or a single mother of two, you have the right to file bankruptcy to help you get a fresh start.
Many people struggling with debt don't realize that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy won’t leave them destitute. Rather, federal bankruptcy laws are designed to provide all honest debtors with a fresh start. Whether you owe more than $52 million like Mr. McMartin or less than $15,000, if you’re constantly having to decide whether to pay your credit card bill or buy groceries, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota may be the most responsible thing you can do.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in North Dakota
The lawyer’s fee is usually the most expensive part of filing bankruptcy in North Dakota, but you can file a Chapter 7 case without one. While there are other fees like a filing fee and course fees, you have options to deal with those. This guide walks you through how to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota without an attorney in 10 steps.
- Collect Your North Dakota Bankruptcy Documents
- Take a Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your North Dakota Bankruptcy Documents
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms ask for detailed information on your creditors and your finances. Collecting several documents will help you prepare to fill out these forms and file your North Dakota bankruptcy. It’s your duty to make sure you fill out everything completely.
To start with, you’ll need the following:
Your tax returns from the last two years,
Your paycheck stubs from the last 60 days, and
Your most recent bank statement.
You’ll also find the bankruptcy process easier if you have:
Your bank statements from the last 6-12 months,
Your bills and statements from creditors and debt collectors, and
Your credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and/or Equifax.
These documents will give you a clearer picture of your financial history and your current financial state. You can request a free credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax every year. If you file using Upsolve’s filing tool, it will pull a current report for you. Your credit report lists your creditors and their addresses, as well as the amounts of your debt. You’ll need this information for your bankruptcy forms.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
If you want to file bankruptcy in North Dakota, you must take an approved credit counseling course. Without it, you’re not eligible to file a bankruptcy case. You must take the class within the six months before you file your North Dakota bankruptcy with the court. The class ensures that folks who are struggling with debt are aware of all their debt relief options.
The course will only take about 1-2 hours, and you can take it either online or by phone. The course must be offered by a North Dakota-approved provider. There will be a charge for the course, but you can apply for afee waiver to see if you qualify to take your course for free.
When you’ve completed the class, you’ll receive a certificate of completion that’s valid for 180 days. Make sure you file the certificate with the court along with the rest of your bankruptcy forms.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing bankruptcy forms in the North Dakota bankruptcy process gets technical. If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, you won’t have to deal with filling out every box on every form. Instead, you’ll have to fill out a questionnaire, then you’ll sign the forms the attorney completes. The attorneys and staff will take care of the technical parts for you, and they even take care of filing the forms.
If you use the Upsolve tool, you’ll fill out a questionnaire, and Upsolve’s tool will generate the forms for you. You’ll get a complete PDF file with everything filled out and the areas marked where you have to sign, but you’ll have to file the forms yourself without an attorney.
If you file on your own without an attorney or Upsolve, you can also download the forms as fillable PDFs for free at USCOURTS.gov. There’s also a helpful detailed instruction manual you can review.
North Dakota requires people filing bankruptcy on their own without a lawyer to put their daytime phone number below every signature line. When you sign your documents, you’re signing everything under penalty of perjury. As you’re honest, you don’t have to be worried. If you made a mistake, you can correct it, though it’s a lengthy process that requires more paperwork.
Get Your Filing Fee
The court filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota is $338. Folks earning less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines can apply for a fee waiver. You can see if you qualify by looking at the North Dakota Fee Waiver Eligibility table below.
If you can’t pay the $338filing fee and you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, you have another option. You can ask the court for permission to pay your filing fee in installments. This is a good option if you can’t come up with $338 in time to stop serious collection activity. Once you file your bankruptcy petition to open your bankruptcy case, you’re protected by an automatic stay. This pauses all collection activity until the court reviews your case. If you’re facing wage garnishment, foreclosure, or another type of serious debt collection, you may want to file quickly to get the protection of the automatic stay. In this case, an installment plan can help you file bankruptcy faster.
If you apply to pay the fee in installments, the first $100 payment is due to the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court when you file your case or within 14 days after. Missing a payment can cause complications. The court may even throw your case out. For this reason, it’s best to pay the full filing fee when you file your bankruptcy petition, if possible. If not, be diligent in making your installment payments as agreed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Before you file your bankruptcy forms with the North Dakota bankruptcy court, you’ll need to print and review them. The information is time-sensitive, so consider printing your forms after you take your credit counseling course in case your circumstances change.
Make sure you’ve filled in every box before you print. You can type “none” or “does not apply” if you don’t have an answer for a certain question. Also, be sure to print a creditor matrix. This is a form that lists all your creditors and their contact information. In North Dakota, you need to format the creditor matrix according to the court’s requirements.
Since there are so many forms and they look similar, it’s helpful to have the federal checklist or the North Dakota Chapter 7 checklist by your side to double-check that you have the required documents.
When it’s time to print your documents, check your printer settings and make sure to print:
On standard letter-sized, white paper (8 ½” x 11”)
In black ink only
On only one side of the page
Also, don’t staple your forms together. After you print your forms, you’ll need to sign them in several places. In North Dakota, you’re required to put your daytime phone number under your signature if you’re filing without an attorney. Once you review, print, and sign your forms, it’s best to make a copy for your personal file. You’ll need to refer to these later in the bankruptcy process.
If you don’t have a printer or copier at home, you can go to an office store, public library, or UPS store to use their printing services.
If you have a bankruptcy attorney, the attorney will print and file the forms electronically. You can’t file your bankruptcy petition online in North Dakota without an attorney. If you use the Upsolve tool to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms, you’ll get a PDF file to print. The pages you need to sign will also be flagged. The Upsolve tool is free, but it’s only for Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers.
File Your Forms With the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court
Only attorneys and creditors can file electronically in North Dakota. You’ll have to mail your forms to the court or bring the forms to the court personally if you’re filing your case without an attorney. The North Dakota Bankruptcy Court is located in Fargo.
Generally, it’s best to deliver your forms in person for many reasons. For one, the clerk might let you know if you’re missing anything or you need to make any corrections. You’ll also avoid post office delays. Finally, you’ll also have the immediate satisfaction of knowing your forms have been filed and you’re protected from creditor collection activity. If you need someone else to drop off the forms, call the clerk and ask if courier delivery is accepted.
You can pay the court filing fee in cash or with a cashier's check or money order made payable to "Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court." If you bring your own copy of your bankruptcy forms when you file your printed, signed documents, the clerk's office will be able to stamp it with your case information.
Be sure to check for COVID-19 updates on the North Dakota bankruptcy court website before you head out the door.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your bankruptcy documents and open your bankruptcy case, the court will assign a trustee to handle your case. They’ll review your finances, verify your information, and deal with your bankruptcy estate during this part of the bankruptcy process. The trustee’s name will be on the notice of bankruptcy you receive well before your 341 meeting. You can also call the court clerk to find out the trustee’s name or look on the PACER website for court filings.
Your trustee may mail you a letter letting you know what documents you need to provide and where to send them. You’ll need to provide the trustee with the following at least seven days before the 341 meeting (more on this below):
A bank statement that includes your activity from the day you filed bankruptcy.
Your most recent two federal income tax returns.
If you don’t give the trustee the documents they request, your case could be dismissed. Keep in mind, although you provide the trustee with your tax returns, you don’t generally have to file your tax documents with the court except in extreme circumstances. If you do file tax documents with the court, redact or black out sensitive information such as your Social Security number.
Take a Debtor Education Course
To complete the bankruptcy process, you must take a debtor education course. This course covers financial management and is mandatory. If you don’t take the course, you won’t get your bankruptcy discharge. You have to take the course within 60 days of your 341 meeting, and file a certificate of completion with the court within the same timeframe. Some course providers will file the certificate for you, but be sure to follow up with the court to make sure they received it!
As with the credit counseling course, you need to take the financial management course from an approved provider. Once you file your certificate, you’re on your way to having your debts discharged!
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting gets its name from the section of the Bankruptcy Code that mandates it. It’s also known as the creditors' meeting or the meeting of creditors. Although it’s called a creditors' meeting, it’s rare to see creditors attend or participate. Many people are initially nervous about this meeting, but it often ends up being easier than they thought.
The trustee will start by verifying your identity. Then they’ll put you under oath and ask you questions about your financial situation. These are questions they ask everyone filing Chapter 7 in North Dakota. The information will be in your bankruptcy forms. You don’t have to memorize everything in your bankruptcy, but it may be helpful to do a quick review before the meeting.
Just remember to take a deep breath and tell the truth. After your 341 meeting, you can relax knowing you’re in the final stages of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process.
Dealing with Your Car
Many people hold off on filing bankruptcy in North Dakota because they’re worried they won’t be able to keep their car. But you have several options to keep your car and deal with a car loan.
If you own your car free and clear, North Dakota law provides you with some protections to keep your car. You can protect your car up to $2,950 (or more if your car is modified for disability) under a North Dakota state exemption law dealing with motor vehicles. You can also combine that with an additional exemption of $7,500 that covers your choice of property. If you don’t own a house, you can exempt an additional $10,000. Exemptions are discussed in more detail later in this article.
Here are your options if you’re still paying on a car loan:
If your payments are current and you can afford to keep making payments, you can sign a reaffirmation agreement with the lender. This essentially affirms that you’ll keep the loan the same and continue to make your payments.
If you have a car loan and haven’t kept up with the payments, you can surrender your car and get the remaining amount due on the loan discharged in bankruptcy. It might make financial sense to buy another car after bankruptcy.
If you like your car but the loan is more than what your car is worth, you might be able to buy the car for its value through a bankruptcy process called redemption. When you redeem your car, you pay only its market value, not the total due on the loan. The difference between the total of the loan due and the market value is then discharged in your bankruptcy. That said, to redeem your car, you’ll need to pay for it in one lump sum.
If you’re leasing your car and filing bankruptcy, you can keep the lease if you’re current on payments and you like the arrangement. Or you can give up the car and the lease. You can choose the option that gives you the most favorable outcome.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test
The North Dakota means test looks at your income to see if you’re eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your income is less than the income limits because you make less than the median income for a household of your size, you pass the means test. If your income exceeds the income limit, you must pass part two of the North Dakota means test. The second part of the test looks at whether you have the disposable income to repay your debt. If you have enough disposable income to repay some of your debt, you’ll have to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. This puts you on a repayment plan.
Data on Median income levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
North Dakota Bankruptcy Forms
Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota must use the official Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. The main official bankruptcy forms are the same across the country, but there are some forms specific to North Dakota. The only local form you’ll need when you first file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota is the Statement Concerning Payment Advices. All other local North Dakota bankruptcy forms are used later in the case or in cases under different chapters of the Bankruptcy Code.
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North Dakota Districts & Filing Requirements
The North Dakota Bankruptcy Court in the District of North Dakota located in Fargo handles all North Dakota bankruptcy filing matters, regardless of where you live in the state.
Because of the current pandemic, the court prefers you file your bankruptcy documents by mail. You’re free to use Federal Express or other priority mailing services if you’re on a tight deadline or want the extra tracking information.
The court’s mailing address is:
Bankruptcy Clerk’s Office
Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse
655 1st Ave North, Suite 210
Fargo, ND 58102-4932
You can also go to court in person to file your case. Before you go be sure to check the COVID-19 regulations.
If you’re making the filing fee payments in installments, you’ll need at least $100 for the down payment. You can pay with cash, money order, or cashier’s check. The cashier’s check or money order can be made out to “Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” If you’re paying with cash, bring exact change.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Exemptions
Everything you own when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy with the court is considered an asset. You protect certain assets during the bankruptcy process, like houses used as a homestead, cars, and tools with exemptions.
North Dakota residents are limited to North Dakota bankruptcy exemptions and aren’t allowed to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions like residents in some other states can. If you have a qualifying retirement account, you may be able to use certain federal nonbankruptcy exemptions to protect the account. If an item is exempt under North Dakota state law and you claim the exemption, the bankruptcy trustee can’t sell the item to pay off your debt. In most Chapter 7 cases, the trustee doesn’t sell off any property, and the filer gets to keep everything they own because of exemptions.
In North Dakota, the homestead exemption is $100,000 for your house, including mobile homes. You can also keep up to 160 acres of crops. If you don’t claim the homestead exemption, you have a $10,000 exemption for your choice of property. In North Dakota, you also have an exemption for personal property for up to $7,500, but that exemption can’t be used for real estate.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
You don’t have to hire a lawyer to help you with your North Dakota bankruptcy case, but if you can afford it, it’s often a good investment. Most bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat fee for Chapter 7 cases. The average cost for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney in North Dakota is between $1,100 – $1,200. Your cost will depend on how complicated your case is.
A Chapter 7 case with typical unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills will cost less than a Chapter 12 bankruptcy for a farming business or a Chapter 13 with a vacation home and several motor vehicles.
A lawyer can save you time and reduce stress. You won’t have to worry about missing a state law or federal law, and you won’t have to fill out and file mountains of bankruptcy forms. When it comes to choosing a lawyer, you’ll want to consider their fees as well as other factors.
North Dakota Legal Aid Organizations
If you can’t file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in North Dakota through Upsolve and can't afford a lawyer, but you want legal help, you can look into legal aid. Legal aid organizations provide free and low-cost legal services to low-income individuals. The State Bar Association of North Dakota, which governs lawyers admitted to practice in the state, has some useful self-help resources.
If you’re not comfortable filling out detailed forms and filing bankruptcy on your own, a local free or low-cost legal aid service might be the solution to help you through the bankruptcy process.
Legal Services of North Dakota
418 E Broadway #7, Bismarck, ND 58502-1893
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
North Dakota Court Locations
Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse
655 First Avenue North Fargo, ND 58102
North Dakota Judges
North Dakota Bankruptcy Judges
|District of North Dakota||Hon. Shon Hastings|
North Dakota Trustees
North Dakota Trustees
|Gene W. Doeling|
|Kip M. Kaler|