Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated July 28, 2020
Once called the Gateway to the West, it’s no wonder Fargo has a strong agricultural presence. Although not as strong as it once was, Farmers are feeling the weight of debt as weather and government tariffs make it tough for these family businesses to make a living. Farmer aren’t the only ones feeling the squeeze of debt in these times, the feeling is happening across occupations of hardworking people. If you’re dealing with the crushing feeling of debt and stress you can do something about it. Explore your debt management options including filing bankruptcy in Fargo.
Many are hung up on what they think they know about bankruptcy. Don’t believe the stigma. Most people file bankruptcy when the unexpected happens. A large number of bankruptcies in North Dakota are filed over medical bills. No one expects that they or their loved one will experience an illness or accident. Another reason is divorce or recent job loss. There are lots of other reasons people file a Fargo bankruptcy, but it’s not an easy decision, but it is a step forward to reclaim the reigns of one’s finances.
You should explore your options between debt management and filing bankruptcy in Fargo. Most people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It is limited to those who qualify under the Means Test. Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges or wipes away most debts in 4-6 months. If you don’t qualify for Chapter 7, you can file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy which establishes a payment plan to pay down your debt in 36-60 months. Both put a halt on collections and give you time to control your debt.
You may think that you can’t file bankruptcy because you can’t afford an attorney, but you can file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo. Don’t worry, you’re not on your own. You can get free legal help if you need it. Legal Services of North Dakota offers help low income people navigate through their bankruptcy matters in its Fargo Office is at 112 North University, Ste. 220, Fargo, ND 58107. You can also use the resources available at Upsolve. You can also see if you qualify for Upsolve’s services for help to you file your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. .
Fargo Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
You can file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo. Some decide to hire a Fargo bankruptcy attorney to help them with more complicated cases such as settling issues with their car or preparing a strategy for their Chapter 13 payment plan. A Fargo bankruptcy lawyer cost is about $1,100-$1,200. The cost could go up if you have a more involved case. You can clear up questions you have by seeking free consultations to find the right Fargo bankruptcy attorney for you. Asking about how fees are calculated is one area, but questions about strategy and experience will guide your decision to choose a competent attorney.
How to File Bankruptcy in Fargo, North Dakota for Free
You can use the steps below to guide you through your Fargo bankruptcy. Once you finish it, you will be on your way to starting a new chapter in your life and you will realize it’s not as hard as you thought.
Collect Your Fargo Bankruptcy Documents
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo is best accomplished with preparation. To get an overview of your economic situation you should get together financial documents to help you frame it. This will also help you to fill out your bankruptcy forms and provide the Trustee with the documentation needed to make a determination on your Fargo bankruptcy. You will need paperwork on how you earn money. Two types of evidence you will need for this are 6 months of pay stubs and 2 years of taxes. You may have them electronically or in paper form. If you need a copy of your paystubs, your employer’s human resources department can provide them. If you need copies of your taxes, the IRS makes the process easy through an online request form. You will gather information on what you own, this includes, bank, investments, stocks, and retirement account statements. Then you can get a grasp on who you owe money by obtaining copies of your credit report. This may be the same or different when you review your report from the three major credit bureaus. If you have other obligations you pay such as a court judgment or child support, make a list and get the paperwork for those too. Gathering these now will help you from scrambling to find them later in the process of filing bankruptcy in Fargo.
Take Credit Counseling
The bankruptcy law requires that each person filing bankruptcy in Fargo take two education classes. The credit counseling course is taken before you file, and the financial management course is taken after you file. The course required before filing offers information about your choices for managing debt. The course must be taken from an agency approved by the Department of Justice. Credit counseling is designed with activities meant to get you thinking about which option is best for dealing with your debt. Activities include fitting your income and expenses into a budget and exploring whether you can reduce your expenses and pay down your debt. The course is available for you to take by telephone or online in 60-90 minutes. When you finish the course, you get a certificate of completion that you provide to the Court with your Fargo bankruptcy petition.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Your Fargo bankruptcy will run more smoothly because you took the time to gather the necessary bankruptcy documents to complete your bankruptcy forms. There are 24 bankruptcy forms you will need from the Bankruptcy Court’s website, and you can also find the specific forms and instructions quickly on Upsolve’s North Dakota bankruptcy page. The Bankruptcy Court also offers instructions on completing the forms. Provide all the information the forms request because it is making a full assessment of your financial situation. When you are completing the forms, you may think some of the information you are asked for is unnecessary when it comes to filing bankruptcy in Fargo, but remember it is part of the Court’s process. From costume jewelry to any property you own, it is required that you disclose the information. Don’t make the common mistake of undervaluing your expenses in your Fargo bankruptcy and be forthright with your sources of income. Thorough Fargo residents review all three copies of their credit report to make sure they have listed all creditors, and use the instructions on the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court website to complete their Creditor Matrix in the required format.
Get Your Filing Fee
Before your Fargo bankruptcy can be filed, it is required that you handle your filing fee. For your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo, it is $335 and for your Chapter 13 bankruptcy it is $310. If you can’t afford to pay the $335 to file your Chapter 7 case, then you can request a fee waiver. You will submit your application with your bankruptcy forms and the Court will determine if you are eligible based on your North Dakota bankruptcy paperwork and whether your household income falls at or below the Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines. If the Court determines you aren’t eligible you may be given the opportunity to submit installment payments. You would make up to four smaller payments to the Fargo Bankruptcy Court until you have paid your Chapter 7 bankruptcy fee in full. Now, if you can afford to pay the fee, but you just need time to pay it, you can request installment payments. The Court will decide using the same process. If installments are granted, it is recommended you pay your entire filing fee as soon as possible.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
You took the steps to carefully fill out your Fargo bankruptcy forms, and now it’s time to see your work in print. You may be tempted to save paper, but the documents you file with the Bankruptcy Court must be printed one-sided. You can print at home, the public library, a local print shop, or with a mobile printing service like the one at Bapp’s Coffee House. Check that you have printed the required documents. Some filing bankruptcy in Fargo use a list to ensure they have each form. There are lists provided on either the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court website or the US Bankruptcy Court website. Review each page of your North Dakota bankruptcy carefully and sign in the spaces provided when you are ready.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
No matter where you live in North Dakota, you’ll file your Fargo bankruptcy at the Fargo US Bankruptcy Court. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except on federal holidays. You can find lots of parking for a fee. Some buses (including the 11, 13, 18) run near the courthouse because of its downtown Fargo location.
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in person has its benefits because the Clerk’s office staff is experienced in spotting common initial errors such as a missing form or signature. This is not to say they will catch all errors, but if they see one in your Fargo bankruptcy, they will give you the opportunity to take back your documents and fix them before you file. Once you do file, be prepared to pay your fee with cash, money order or cashier’s check or have your request for installments or waiver ready. If you decide to mail your Fargo bankruptcy filing, send it to the courthouse at 655 1st, Suite 210, Fargo, ND 58102-4932.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Fargo you’ll get the information about your Trustee, case number and 341 meeting. The Trustee is assigned by the Court and will manage your Fargo bankruptcy. Although most Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases have no assets to sell, the Trustee will review your bankruptcy case for any unprotected property that could be sold to repay your creditors. Be sure to send any requested information to your Trustee and not to the Bankruptcy Court, because you want to make sure your Trustee gets it. Once you have your Trustee’s information it is prudent to send your most recent taxes to the Trustee so they can arrive as needed, at least a week before your 341 Meeting.
Your creditors will get information about your 341 Meeting and its rights through the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy form sent out by the Court. The Court uses your creditor matrix to send out the notices and if one of the addresses is incorrect you may receive a letter marked Undeliverable. If this happens to you, you can fix the problem and send the notice out. There is no fee required for changing an address of a listed creditor. Find the creditor’s address, send the creditor the notice, and amend the creditor matrix. Use the court’s amendment cover sheet when making changes to your Fargo bankruptcy after you’ve filed.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
An easy requirement you must complete after filing is taking a second bankruptcy course. While the first course explained your options for managing debt, this predischarge course will focus on saving money and setting goals to reach after your Fargo bankruptcy closes. Depending on your financial situation, after your debt is wiped out, you may have money left to save, but the downside is that is not true for everyone. Whatever your specific situation, you can still set goals that apply to your situation. To complete this requirement, choose an approved agency to take this 90-minute course. You can take it by online or by telephone. After you finish the course you will get a certificate of completion that you will file at the Fargo Bankruptcy Court. This must be completed within 60 days of the initial date set for your 341 Meeting or your case may be closed without a discharge having been entered.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About a month after you file your Fargo bankruptcy you will attend your 341 Meeting. Although it is called the “Meeting of the Creditors” very rarely do creditors attend. There are five cities where 341 Meetings take place. Residents of Fargo meet with Trustees in Fargo and dress business casual. Business casual is simple and plain, not like you just left a fancy dinner at Maxwells. To prepare for your meeting, bring photo identification and social security card. Your meeting will take place in a conference room. When it is your turn, the Trustee will call you and you will swear an oath to tell the truth. The Trustee will ask about the Fargo bankruptcy you filed. Relax and you will be in and out of the meeting in no time.
Dealing with Your Car
It is a big decision deciding what to do about your car after filing bankruptcy in Fargo, but you can decide which option suits you. Some own their car outright and are able to keep it through an exemption. Exemptions protect value of property you want to keep. A way to keep the car if you don’t own it, is through your Fargo bankruptcy, you can reaffirm the loan or redeem it. Reaffirming is where you agree to keep the loan through bankruptcy. In most cases it is the same terms as you had before. You will still owe on the car loan, but you will have the car. When filing your own bankruptcy you will file a motion for the Court to approve the reaffirmation agreement. To redeem the car you pay a lump sum based on the car’s value, not how much you still owe on it. Redemption can be hard because not many people have the money and may find themselves looking to enter into another loan with a high interest lender in order to keep their car.
Others decide that it’s best to have the debt cleared with their Fargo bankruptcy and surrender their car. Many who surrender their car, often do it because the value of the car is lower than what they owe. The creditor takes back the car and the debt is discharged as part of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo. Remember that when you’ve made a decision about what to do with your car, you’ll add it to your Statement of Intention.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Fargo
North Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test
To file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fargo you must pass the North Dakota bankruptcy Means Test. North Dakota has a low unemployment rate overall, so if your income is low enough compared to families of your size in the state, you can pass. If you don’t pass by income, you can calculate your expenses to determine your disposable income, and if it is negative, you pass. If it is positive, you may want to review whether you have additional expenses you can account for, such as higher than typical monthly medical expenses, or you may want to speak to an attorney about your Fargo bankruptcy options.
Median Income Levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
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Poverty Levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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North Dakota Bankruptcy Forms
When completing your North Dakota bankruptcy forms, remember to follow the Court’s instructions for creating your creditor matrix, and attach the creditor verification form. If you later need amend or make changes, use the Amendment cover sheet. You should include your phone number under your signature on you Voluntary Petition form for your Fargo bankruptcy.
North Dakota Exemptions
For residents filing bankruptcy in Fargo you can use the North Dakota bankruptcy exemptions to protect what you own in Chapter 7. The $100,000 homestead exemption is generous and unique because, while other states limit the acreage, there is no limit on the size of the land here.