Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated July 28, 2020
You may miss the worry-free, rides on River Cities Speedway. Or when life was less stressful and you could watch games at Ralph Engelstad Arena without thinking how you are going to pay tomorrow’s bills. You may wish you were back at the University of North Dakota knowing what you know now, but the struggle of debt has you underwater. You aren't the only one in Grand Forks that feels like bills are on the rise while your pay isn't. Others like you have experienced the unexpected financial blow and have discovered how to move forward by filing a Grand Forks bankruptcy.
You may wonder if bankruptcy is the way to go for you or about filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks. Bankruptcy often misunderstood as a negative, but it’s a tool written into our country’s Constitution to help honest, productive citizens to get relief from debt. Most people file a Grand Forks bankruptcy because of the unexpected such as loss of a job, death of a family member, or an illness or accident. Whatever the reason, filing bankruptcy in North Dakota can provide a way to rise above and relieve the stress and worry of mounds of debt.
Most people filing bankruptcy choose to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Forks. If you fall within the income limitation, it wipes away the debt in 4-6 months. If people don't fit within the income limits of Chapter 7, the second most frequently filed is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 crafts a plan to repay creditors over 36-60 months. Most choose Chapter 7 over Chapter 13. It wipes away debt more quickly and gets you on the path to a fresh start faster.
Many who need to file bankruptcy tend to wait because they can’t afford a lawyer. You don’t need to wait. You can file your Grand Forks bankruptcy yourself, and you don’t have to go it alone. There’s free legal help when you need it. Locally, Legal Services of North Dakota is housed in an office at the University of North Dakota and helps low-income folks with their legal matters. You can apply for legal services by phone, online, or at an outreach location. With help, including the next steps from Upsolve, you can get out of the stress and back on track to your new start.
Grand Forks Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
When you decide filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks is what you want to do, you can file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own. Some find that their particular case is not cut and dry with the number of creditors and other complexities. In such cases, you may decide to hire a lawyer to help with your North Dakota bankruptcy. Some bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation where they will look at the details of your case and let you know whether they can help. The meeting is not just for the attorney to tell you what they think, but also for you to ask those burning questions. Questions such as issues you can expect to encounter and about the calculation of fees. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Grand Forks will run you between $1,100-$1,200. The expense could be more or less, depending on the particulars of your case.
How to File Bankruptcy in Grand Forks, North Dakota for Free
Filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks does not need to cost you money you don't have, because you can do it yourself. Others in Grand Forks have done it. From collecting your documents to the requirements after you file, you can complete this step by step process yourself.
Collect Your Grand Forks Bankruptcy Documents
Getting the full picture of your economic situation is a good starting point for filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks. You will get documents you will need to provide a summary of your income, debts, and assets. To start, you will need copies of your credit report to review and confirm your debts. Make a list of anyone not on your reports, such as family members to whom you owe money. Gather the documents of the other payment obligations you have. Some paperwork you may need to access online or request. You can get your recent taxes through the IRS and paystubs through your employer.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks, you are required to take an approved credit counseling course. This pre-bankruptcy course is aimed to educate Grand Forks residents like you about bankruptcy and other debt relief options. Some of the tools used to teach are budget creation and ways to slash spending. The one-hour credit counseling course is usually about $50, but agencies providing the course are required to offer the course for free to those who can’t afford to pay for it. There are no in-person options for taking the course, but you can complete it at your convenience by phone or online. After you finish the class, you will receive a certificate of completion that is valid for six months. You provide the Court with your certificate of completion when you file your Grand Forks bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Forks, you will complete the bankruptcy forms with the information about you and your finances. The forms and instructions are available on the Bankruptcy Court’s website. If you’re having trouble finding the primary forms you need, get them on the North Dakota bankruptcy page on Upsolve’s website. The prep work of gathering the information about what you owe to creditors, what you make, and what you own will come in handy in your Grand Forks bankruptcy forms. The information you provide may seem intrusive and repetitive but remember the Court requires this from all Grand Forks residents filing for bankruptcy. Remember to list all the property you own and income you get from all sources, including any side job. Grand Forks County filers make sure to use the Court's guidelines to create the creditor matrix.
Get Your Filing Fee
You will pay your filing fee to the Fargo Bankruptcy Court when filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks. The Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing is $310, and the Chapter 7 filing is $335. If you need help paying your filing fee, apply for a waiver or installments. The Court will determine your eligibility based on your Grand Forks bankruptcy paperwork. It will look at whether, based on your family’s size, your income falls at or below the HHS guidelines. If granted installments, you have 120 days to make the payments until you have fully paid your $335 for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. If your fee waiver is approved your filing fee is fulfilled, but if denied, then you may get the chance to pay your fee in installments. Make sure your payment is waived or paid in full to avoid having your case dismissed.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
You have taken steps to complete your Grand Forks bankruptcy documents. Now you should print them one-sided. All the paperwork, including petitions, schedules, and supporting documentation, will need to be one-sided. You'll notice the forms look similar and many have found it helpful to review the filing requirements to make sure they have printed everything. If you can't print at home, some have found it cost-effective to print at the Grand Forks Public Library for $0.10 per page. Cautious Grand Forks residents took the time to review the information on each page of their forms. They sign as required and include their phone number under their signature on the Voluntary Petition Form before filing their North Dakota bankruptcy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Now that you’ve finished the hard work, you’ll file your Grand Forks bankruptcy. Like other residents, you’ll file your North Dakota bankruptcy at the US Bankruptcy Courthouse in Fargo. You can find the Court at 655 1st, Suite 210, Fargo, ND 58102-4932, which is an hour drive from Grand Forks. Some residents mail their bankruptcy paperwork to the Court. If you do, enclose a money order or cashier’s check. Cash is accepted if you file in person, but personal checks and credit cards are not.
The Courthouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (except federal holidays) for you to file your North Dakota bankruptcy. You can pay for street parking or nearby hourly parking. The advantage of submitting your Grand Forks bankruptcy documents in person is that the Clerk's office staff can review it. Clerks can't provide legal advice, but if you're missing an attachment or supporting evidence, you have the chance to fix it right away. After you file, the Court will send information about your Trustee, case number, and 341 Meeting. You can sign up for electronic notices to ensure you get the notifications from the Court to your email.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your Grand Forks bankruptcy, the Court will send each of your creditors the Official Form 309A Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It has vital information about your bankruptcy case. If you get one of the notices meant for your creditor as returned mail, one of the addresses on your Creditor Matrix was likely incorrect. If this is the case, you should send the notice to the creditor. You can find the right address by calling your creditor, checking your records, or searching online in places like the Secretary of State website. After you find the address, mail out the notice. Then, using the Court's amendment cover sheet, you can amend the address on your creditor matrix.
During this time, the Trustee assigned to your case will review your Grand Forks bankruptcy case for unprotected assets to pay your creditors. In most cases, there will be no unprotected assets, but the Trustee will need documentation from you to verify. For example, your taxes are required by the Trustee at least a week before the 341 Meeting. You’ll see a month is not a long time, so it's essential that documents are sent promptly to the Trustee. Be sure to send the documents to the Trustee and not the Court where you filed your North Dakota bankruptcy.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
You won't want to put off the essential steps of getting your Grand Forks bankruptcy discharged, especially when they are so easy to fulfill. The second bankruptcy course, also known as the pre-discharge education course is one of these easy to meet requirements. To complete the 90-120 minute pre-discharge education course, you'll pick an approved agency. You'll have the option to take the course online or by phone, and after you finish, you'll receive your certificate of completion. File your certificate with the Court on or before 60 days from the first date set for your 341 Meeting. This second bankruptcy course will walk you through creating a budget to save money. You might think some of the information is basic and making assumptions that you have money to save, but like many Grand Forks residents, take it with a grain of salt. You too can complete exercises and make it relevant to you by personalizing the goals you want to accomplish after your Grand Forks bankruptcy.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
You’ll have your meeting of the creditors also known as your 341 Meeting about a month after filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks. The name implies you will meet with your creditors, but typically no creditors attend even with notice of your Grand Forks bankruptcy. You’ll be happy to know you don’t need to go to the Fargo Bankruptcy Courthouse for this meeting because there is a 341 Meeting location closer to home. You’ll meet with your Trustee at the Federal Building at 102 North 4th Street in Grand Forks. Prepare by bringing both your government-issued photo ID and social security card with you to the 341 Meeting.
When you arrive at your 341 Meeting, you'll wait to meet with the Trustee in a conference room. The Trustee will ask for your ID and social security card when it's your turn. You will be sworn in, and your answers will be under oath. It means that even though you aren't in a courtroom, you are promising to tell the truth and give honest answers. The Trustee will ask questions about any changes in your financial situation and confirm the information in your Grand Forks bankruptcy case. Many find it a relief that the meeting is very short. They provide the Trustee with the necessary information in a concise way and are surprised by how quickly the meeting completed.
Dealing with Your Car
With over 57 miles of bike trails with scenic views in Grand Forks, biking is second to driving. During bankruptcy, you have a few options about what to do with your car. It's not an easy decision. Many filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks find comfort in remembering that the car they have now, isn't the only car they will ever get. Many are approved for credit shortly after their bankruptcy filing.
If you own the car you have, you can use an exemption to protect your vehicle through the Grand Forks bankruptcy. Some that owe money for a vehicle redeem the car by paying a lump sum to keep it. When you redeem the car, you are buying the vehicle from the lender by paying the value of the car. Paying a lump sum is hard, and some instead decide to keep the car loan with the same lender and reaffirm the debt. It also means the debt will continue after the bankruptcy. Many choose reaffirmation out of necessity and when the value of the car is higher than the amount they owe. You’ll ask the judge to approve the reaffirmation agreement. The judge will decide whether you have a need and you’ll be warned about disadvantages, including possible repossession if you miss payments.
Many decide to return the car to the lender. Also, known as surrender, it is a good idea when the payment is unaffordable or the amount owed is higher than the car's value. You can inform the Court and lender you wish to surrender the car. Then the lender will get the vehicle, and your debt under the car loan will be wiped out in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
North Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Grand Forks
North Dakota Means Test
In 2005 Congress adjusted the requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to stop possible fraud or abuse by including a Means Test. To file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Forks, you either qualify as exempt from the Means Test or you pass the North Dakota bankruptcy Means Test. The North Dakota bankruptcy Means Test requires that you fit within the income limitations through the calculation of your income or disposable income. If you can't pass at least one of the tests, then there is a presumption of abuse. The presumption of abuse exists because any money left over at the end of the month is presumed available to pay your debt. Don't worry. You can recalculate, seek the help of a lawyer, or consider filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if your income is too high.
Median Income Levels for North Dakota
North Dakota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
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.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
North Dakota Bankruptcy Forms
The process of filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks requires that you submit North Dakota bankruptcy forms to the Court. The Chapter 7 requirements listed on the North Dakota Bankruptcy Court's website contains the forms and when each is due. Some national forms have some local conditions such as following the local instructions for your creditor matrix and including the verification form. Also, some forms you may not need, but it is a good idea to know where to find the local forms and rules to follow if you need to make any changes.
North Dakota Exemptions
Although you can’t use federal bankruptcy exemptions when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Grand Forks, you can use the North Dakota bankruptcy exemptions. Those in North Dakota frequently use the North Dakota automobile exemption, which is close to $2,950 for individuals, but goes up to $32,000 for those with a disability and doubles to $64,000 for couples filing jointly. Another of the North Dakota bankruptcy exemptions is the $100,000 homestead exemption which does not increase for couples filing jointly. Exemptions help most folks filing bankruptcy in Grand Forks to keep all their property during their Chapter 7 bankruptcy.