Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated July 28, 2020
Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota, home to Lewis and Clark, and the second-largest city in the state. Located in Burleigh County, the city is highly walkable with miles and miles of trails and parks. Young people have an excellent start as 89% graduate from high school. No one can doubt that Bismarck residents know how to come together as they tout the World Record for making snow angels. Residents work hard for their money, whether it's outside at a farm or construction site or indoors in an office or grocery store. Although the unemployment rate is less than 3%, one of the most significant problems residents face is finding high quality and high paying jobs. It’s hard not having an adequate means to provide for yourself and your family. These problems, combined with the financial shock of job loss, health issues, divorce, or life's curveballs, can leave those in Bismarck with stacks of debt. If you too are feeling the stress of debt, you aren’t alone. People in Bismarck just like you are overcoming the hold debt has on their lives by filing bankruptcy in Bismarck.
You may think that bankruptcy is a scary word, but hopefully, you'll realize it's a vital process to uplift productive citizens bogged down by debt. It helps working people clear the path to a better financial future. Filing bankruptcy in Bismarck stops creditor calls, and it can help you rebuild credit.
Typically, people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy over Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck clears most debts, is completed more quickly, and most filers keep all their property. On the other hand, Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a 3 to 5-year plan to repay some debt. Chapter 13 bankruptcy works if you make too much money to qualify for Chapter 7.
Bankruptcy can be complicated, but others just like you have successfully filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck even without the help of an attorney. Upsolve can give you pointers to guide you through the process. You can also look for free legal help near you. If you can't afford an attorney, you can get legal assistance from the Legal Services of North Dakota. It has an office right in the city at 418 E Broadway, Unit 25, Bismarck, North Dakota 58501. Legal Services of North Dakota is a nonprofit that offers legal help to low-income clients. Others in the capital have filed their own Bismarck bankruptcy and so can you.
Bismarck Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Some hire an attorney to file Bismarck bankruptcy. In Bismarck, the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is about $1,100. This number could be more or less, depending on the particulars of your case. Hiring a local Bismarck attorney has the advantages of knowing the ins and outs of filing bankruptcy in Bismarck. Explore your options and ask about a free consultation. You can set up meetings with a few local attorneys to find the right lawyer for you. An attorney can help you with your Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan or give you advice about filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck.
How to File Bankruptcy in Bismarck, North Dakota for Free
Filing bankruptcy in Bismarck is not as hard as running a marathon, but as with a marathon, the hard work is in the preparation. Also, like a marathon, after going through the steps, the reward does not come until you reach the goal line and get your discharge.
Collect Your Bismarck Bankruptcy Documents
When filing bankruptcy in Bismarck, get your paperwork together. You will need the specifics to fill out your bankruptcy petition, so get the documents regarding your obligations, earnings, and property. A few of these documents include copies of your credit report, six months of your pay stubs, and the most recent two years of your taxes. You can get a free copy of your credit report online. With reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, you can make sure no creditor slipped your mind. Reviewing your credit reports will give you a picture of those to whom you owe money. For financial obligations that weren’t on your credit report, you can make a list and get the paperwork of your payments to those creditors. If you don’t have six months of your pay stubs, you can go through your current or former employer to get copies. Many can provide them electronically. For your most recent two years of taxes, most people can get them through their tax service, but they are also available through the IRS website. You may need other documents, but this will start the framework for you to file your North Dakota bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
The credit counseling course is a requirement for everyone who wants to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck, but it's also a good idea if you're on the fence about filing. This requirement provides information about alternatives when dealing with your debt. In this course, you will participate in exercises such as creating a budget and analyzing your earning and spending habits. You are required to use an approved agency for the class. Most offer the course for about $50, but if you can’t afford it, you can request to take the class for free. You can take the course online or by phone in about an hour and earn your certificate of completion. It's vital that when you file your Bismarck bankruptcy, you provide the certificate as proof that you met the Court's pre-bankruptcy education requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy documents you gathered beforehand will come to be useful as you complete your North Dakota bankruptcy. You can get the forms on the Bankruptcy Court’s website, and the bankruptcy forms are conveniently organized on Upsolve’s North Dakota website. When you review the bankruptcy forms, you'll realize they’re providing the Court a complete window into your finances. Some information may seem intrusive, such as the value of your clothes and your pet Lola. Don’t forget to list income from all sources and all your property. Remember to check your credit reports, so you list each creditor, including relatives and friends. You should use the instructions provided by the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court to prepare your creditor matrix. Remember, everyone is required to fill in this information. Some people use bankruptcy software to help complete the forms because it speeds up the process and helps with consistency. Whether you're able to fill out the forms with bankruptcy software, on the computer, or by hand, do your best. Remember, you don't need to complete your Bismarck bankruptcy forms in one sitting.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck costs $335 and filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy costs $310. If you can’t pay your fee all at once and need some time to make the full payment, you can apply for installment payments. Installments are smaller payments to pay your North Dakota bankruptcy in full. If you can’t afford to pay your Chapter 7 bankruptcy fee, you can apply for a fee waiver. Your request should be submitted when you file your bankruptcy. The Court will decide about your need for a waiver based on your application and whether your income is equal or less than the Health and Human Services Poverty guidelines. If your fee waiver is not approved, then you will have the opportunity to pay the filing fee in installments. Even if you start with installment payments, it's a great idea to take care of your filing fee in full as soon as you can.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Now that you’ve completed the paperwork and taken steps to prepare everything you need to file your Bismarck bankruptcy, you’re ready to print. Print all your paperwork one-sided. If you don't have a printer at home, the Bismarck Public Library has mobile printers. For walk-up service, you can go to a store like Office Depot. If you have your documents on a thumb drive, you can use a local print shop, like The Printers. You can check that you’ve printed and included each required document by comparing it with the Court’s filing requirements. Check each page carefully to make sure all the information is complete and printed. Then you are required to sign in the designated spaces. By signing, you're attesting that the information you provided is truthful. You'll also write your phone number under your name on the Voluntary Petition Form because it's required when you're filing without an attorney.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
You’ll file your Bismarck bankruptcy at the US Bankruptcy Courthouse in the city of Fargo located at 655 1st, Suite 210, Fargo, ND 58102-4932. The courthouse is open 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. It's not open on federal holidays. There is plenty of street and hourly parking available for a fee near the courthouse.
Many filing bankruptcies in Bismarck mail their bankruptcy paperwork to the Fargo Courthouse address because one-way it’s a 2-hour drive or 4-hour Amtrak ride. When mailing, you'll need to send your form of payment as a Cashier’s check or money order, because personal checks and credit cards are not accepted. You can also keep a copy of your North Dakota bankruptcy for your records. Those who can make the 2-hour drive to the courthouse in Fargo find the most significant benefit is that the staff at the Clerk’s office can review their Bismarck bankruptcy. Although the Clerk’s office can’t offer legal advice, the Clerk's office staff is very familiar with how your bankruptcy should look. For example, if the Clerk notices a missing document or signature on your Bismarck bankruptcy paperwork, they will return it to you. You will have the chance to correct the error before you file. You can review the filing requirement to make sure you have submitted all the required documentation.
Whether you file in person or by mail, you can stay up-to-date on your case by signing up to get your Court notices by email. If you sign up, you'll likely get your case number, Trustee contact information, and 341 Meeting information more quickly than by waiting for mail.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Now that you’ve successfully filed your Bismarck bankruptcy, you’ll be assigned a Trustee. The Trustee is the person dealing with your bankruptcy. It’s the Trustee's job is to look for any assets to pay your creditors. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies have no assets, but it's still important that the Trustee investigates. One of the documents the Trustee will ask for a copy of your most recent tax return. Send that directly to your Trustee, don't send these to the courthouse. Since the Trustee needs your taxes a week before your 341 Meeting, many filers send it out as soon as they get the contact information for their Trustee.
After filing bankruptcy in Bismarck, your creditors get Official Form 309A Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, giving each one information about your Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its rights. If you get this notice in a return mail envelope, it means a creditor didn't get the notification. You should try to get the notice out to the creditor. You can get the creditor’s correct address by calling. After getting the right address, mail the notice to them. Some cautious Bismarck filers send it certified mail. Then after you’ve sent it, you can use the Court's amendment coversheet to signal that you’re making changes to our creditor matrix. There is no fee for updating the address of a creditor.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After all the hard work you’ve done to file your Bismarck bankruptcy, don’t forget to take the second bankruptcy course. The course will review using credit sensibly, saving money, and creating your future goals. You shouldn’t have a problem finding an approved agency to take this 90-minute course because you can conveniently take it online or by phone. You can expect the course to cost between $10-50, but if you can't afford to pay, the agency can provide it for free. After you finish the course, you can get your certificate showing you completed the course in your email. You'll file the certificate of completion with the Court. With this out of the way, you're one step closer to getting your discharge.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 Meeting is an essential piece of getting your bankruptcy discharge. You must show up. You’ll know the location not only because the Court told you, but also because the meeting place depends on the city where you live. You’ll meet with the Trustee in Bismarck. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies have not assets, but that doesn’t make your 341 Meeting any less critical to your Bismarck bankruptcy. You will prepare for the meeting by bringing your photo ID and social security card.
Your meeting will take place in a conference room. Others will meet with the Trustee during the same hour you meet, so you should try to be on time. When the Trustee calls you, you’ll speak in a conference room. Despite that it's not a courtroom, the Trustee will swear you in, and you will answer the questions under oath, promising to tell the truth. The Trustee will ask about changes to your financial situation and clarify the information on your Bismarck bankruptcy forms. The meeting is usually short, as the Trustee will likely want to move the process along just as much as you do. Being brief and candid helps.
Dealing with Your Car
Driving your car in Bismarck is helpful with your day to day whether you're working in Historic Downtown Bismarck or going to school at the University of Mary. You may use your car for recreational purposes to hike on trails in Pioneer Overlook park or Fort Lincoln. As lawmakers explore a way to institute self-driving cars and improve the benefits of catching the CAT, it may be an excellent time to explore your alternatives during your Bismarck bankruptcy.
Some who have a car loan, decide to keep it. If so, they reaffirm the debt or redeem the car. Reaffirmation is when you confirm the loan with the lender and agree to keep paying on it. You and the lender enter into a new agreement similar to the one you had before filing bankruptcy in Bismarck. This agreement reasserts that you will keep making payments on the car. When filing your own bankruptcy, your reaffirmation agreement will need Court approval through a hearing. You will need to explain your hardship, if any, and why you need the car. The downside of choosing reaffirmation is that you will continue to pay this debt after your Bismarck bankruptcy has closed.
When you choose to redeem the car, you are essentially buying it from the lender. You can redeem the car by negotiating with the lender to pay a lump sum equal to the value, even if you actually owe more. Redemption can be hard because you must come up with a large amount of money. Some turn to a lender that will loan them money, but these loans usually have a high-interest rate. The downside to a redemption lender is getting a new loan that will not be extinguished after your Bismarck bankruptcy closes. The upside is being able to keep the car when necessary.
If you are in a car loan and you want to proceed full speed ahead with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have the debt wiped away, you can choose to give the car back to the lender. This option is called surrender, and you first inform the lender and Court that you want to return the vehicle. Then the Court will approve the return of the car to the lender, and the money you owed for the vehicle will be wiped away in your Bismarck bankruptcy.
If none of these apply because you own the car you drive, then you can look to the North Dakota exemptions to protect your property. Exemptions preserve the value of a property you have when filing bankruptcy in Bismarck.
Whatever you decide to do with your car during your Bismarck bankruptcy, add it to the Statement of Intention, which explains what you have decided to do with the property.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Bismarck
North Dakota Means Test
Bismarck residents filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck with household debt are required to meet the income limitations for North Dakota and pass the North Dakota bankruptcy Means Test. The Means Test doesn't apply to you if your debt isn't primarily household or consumer debt or if you're in a particular circumstance in military service. For example, it's not consumer debt if the majority of your debt is from business investments in Dakota Wizards collectibles. For just about everyone else, you must pass the North Dakota bankruptcy Means Test by calculation of your annual income or your disposable income. If you don't qualify for an exception and pass the Means Test, you may want to recalculate or contact an attorney to help you.
Median Income Levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for North Dakota
North Dakota 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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North Dakota Bankruptcy Forms
The Chapter 7 and Chapter 13filing requirements lists help you to understand which of the North Dakota bankruptcy forms and documents you need to submit to the Court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Bismarck. There are some local forms that you'll prepare when making Schedule changes or verifying your master address matrix that you developed using the guidelines. If you reaffirm your car, you’ll need to include the reaffirmation agreement forms.
North Dakota Exemptions
While some states give residents the option of state and federal bankruptcy exemptions, everyone filing bankruptcy in Bismarck is required to use the North Dakota bankruptcy exemptions. Chapter 7 bankruptcy exemptions help you to keep your property because exempt property can’t be used to repay debts. North Dakota decides the type, amount, and restrictions of each exemption.