How To File Bankruptcy for Free in New Hampshire
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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 May 10, 2023
If you're having to do with less income due to a job loss, medical bills that no one could ever hope to pay off, or because you’re simply in over your head financially, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire may be the right path for you.
The most important thing to remember while researching your options is that the federal and New Hampshire bankruptcy laws are designed to give relief to honest but unfortunate individuals. While no one is happy about having to seek the protections offered by the Bankruptcy Code, you can't live free if you don't know how to pay for groceries because your creditors are taking more from you than you can afford to give.
Read on to learn about how the bankruptcy process works in New Hampshire to see if this is the fresh start you need.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in New Hampshire
Filing for bankruptcy protection isn’t automatically free. The court filing fee is$338. But the largest expense most filers face is hiring a lawyer. Luckily, you don’t have to hire a lawyer to file bankruptcy. You can do it on your own or use Upsolve’s filing tool. This guide walks you through how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire for free.
- Collect Your New Hampshire Bankruptcy Documents
- Take a Credit Counseling Course
- Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
- Get Your Filing Fee
- Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
- File Your Forms With the New Hampshire Bankruptcy Court
- Mail Documents to Your Trustee
- Take a Debtor Education Course
- Attend Your 341 Meeting
- Dealing with Your Car
Collect Your New Hampshire Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire involves a lot of paperwork. To prepare to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire, you’ll first need to collect certain documents. You'll need these documents as you go through the process. Start by:
Getting a free copy of your credit report — ideally one from each of the three credit reporting agencies. If you file using Upsolve’s free filing tool, it will pull your credit report for you.
Gathering all the bills or collection notices you’ve received in the last 90 days. These documents will help ensure you're properly disclosing all of your debts.
You'll also need:
Your two most recent federal income tax returns.
The paycheck stubs you've received in the 60 days before filing bankruptcy.
Bank statements for all of your bank accounts, including a statement that covers the date of your bankruptcy filing (you’ll have to to wait until after filing to get that).
You’ll need these documents even if you file with an attorney. It can also be very helpful to have up to the last year of bank statements to figure out your expenses. As you go through your files to gather these items, pull anything else that you think might help you prepare your case, such as a recent divorce decree, your homeowners' insurance, a copy of your vehicle title, retirement account statements, and similar documents.
Take a Credit Counseling Course
Before you can file your New Hampshire bankruptcy case, you have to complete a credit counseling course. You can take the course at any time in the 180 days before filing your case. Several companies have been approved in the state of New Hampshire to offer the class online or by phone.
The course ensures that everyone who’s filing bankruptcy is aware of all their debt relief options. There is a small cost to take the course, but it shouldn’t be more than $50. If your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can apply for a waiver, so you don’t have to pay the fee.
When you finish the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. You should send a copy of the certificate to the bankruptcy court with the rest of your documents so the court knows you’ve met this requirement.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Anyone filing Chapter 7 must fill out several bankruptcy forms and submit them to the court. The forms are the same no matter where you live. There are several different forms, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court provides a full list of the documents you'll need for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire.
All of the forms are available for free online as fillable PDFs from USCOURTS.gov. You can also download a comprehensive instruction manual. If all of this sounds a little intimidating, and you don't think you can afford to hire a lawyer, see if you're eligible to use Upsolve’s free filing tool. If you use Upsolve's tool, you’ll complete a questionnaire, and our software will generate the forms based on the information you provide.
If you're working with either a lawyer, you'll still have to gather the required information, but you won’t have to worry about filling out the paperwork. At a bankruptcy law firm, the lawyer or legal staff will use the information you provide to fill out the forms.
As you go through this process, take your time and be as diligent and thorough as possible. Everyone filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire has to sign these forms under penalty of perjury and omitting information can cause serious complications.
Get Your Filing Fee
It costs $338 to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in any U.S. Bankruptcy Court. If you make less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may be eligible to apply for a fee waiver. Even then, it's up to the court to decide whether to waive the fee or have you pay it in installments.
If you aren't eligible to have the filing fee waived, it's best to plan on paying it in full when you go to court to file your case. The court accepts payments in the form of cash, money order, or cashier's check. The court won’t accept personal checks or credit cards from people who file without a lawyer. This is called filing “pro se”. If you're paying by money order or cashier's check, it should be made payable to "Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court."
If you have to file before you can pay the full filing fee, you can ask the court for permission to pay the fee in installments after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire. This can be especially helpful if a creditor is garnishing your wages. The garnishment has to stop because of the automatic stay once you file your bankruptcy case with the court. This means you’ll start receiving your full paycheck again.
If you aren't getting garnished or facing other serious collection efforts like foreclosure, it’s best to take the time to collect the fee in full beforehand. Otherwise, if you're unable to make all the payments timely, you risk having your bankruptcy case thrown out of court.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
At this time, only lawyers filing bankruptcy on behalf of their clients can file electronically in New Hampshire. If you don’t have a lawyer, you’ll have to submit the original signed hardcopy of your bankruptcy forms to the court.
If you're working with Upsolve, you'll receive a single PDF packet to print. Luckily, that makes this part of the process as easy as finding a printer. Print all your documents on regular 8.5" x 11" white paper. This is the typical paper used in a home or office printer. Make sure you print everything single-sided in black ink. Do not staple your packet together.
If you've completed all the forms on your own and you have them saved on your computer as several different files, make sure to give yourself enough time for this step. All the forms needed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy look similar. This makes it very easy to get confused. Double and triple-check the Chapter 7 checklist to make sure you have everything.
After printing, sign each document in the correct spot. Upsolve’s downloadable packet flags each signature line to make this easier. Go through each line to make sure your signature is everywhere it needs to be, otherwise you may have to resubmit your papers.
Finally, although the court only needs a single copy of your signed forms, you’ll have to bring a full set of signed forms to your 341 meeting after you file your case. So many people choose to print a second set and keep it in a safe place. Alternatively, if you have access to a copy machine, you can sign everything on one set, then make a photocopy.
File Your Forms With the New Hampshire Bankruptcy Court
If you're filing bankruptcy without a lawyer, you won’t be able to file online. This means you’ll have to get hard copies to the Bankruptcy Court in Concord.
Although it's possible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire by mailing everything to the court, it can be a bit stressful to rely on the mail system. Instead, if you can, visit the courthouse in person to hand everything in. Although you can have someone else drop off the papers, it’s better if you go to make sure the court has everything to assign a case number. Without it, there is no automatic stay, which is what stops all collection efforts.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Hampshire is located in Concord and is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for federal holidays. Since the end of the day tends to be the busiest, try not to arrive right before 4:30 p.m. Make sure you know the courthouse rules before you go so you aren't surprised by the security checkpoint at the building entrance.
If you can’t make it to the court during business hours, you can also submit everything through the court's dropbox. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully so the court records the date of your bankruptcy on the date that you dropped everything off. If you’re facing collection efforts such as a bank account levy, it’s important to make sure your case is filed by a certain date.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the bankruptcy court is temporarily accepting filings in a different manner. You can check the court’s website for the latest information.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your Chapter 7 case, a bankruptcy trustee will be assigned to administer the case. It's the trustee's job to make sure that you're complying with all federal and New Hampshire bankruptcy laws and procedures. The trustee is entitled to a copy of your two most recent federal income tax returns and a bank statement that covers the date you filed your bankruptcy case. It's your job to submit this information to them no less than seven days before your 341 meeting.
All trustees operate independently, and each has a different process for administering their cases. You'll find out who the trustee handling your case is when you receive an official notice from the court shortly after filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire. The trustee assigned to your case may send you a letter asking you to submit other information or documentation to their office before your 341 meeting.
You need to cooperate with your trustee, so keep an eye out for any such requests and submit everything they ask for promptly.
Take a Debtor Education Course
In addition to taking a credit counseling class before filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire, you have to take a financial management courseafter you file your case with the court. If you don’t complete this requirement the court won’t enter a discharge in your case. There are many state-approved providers, so you can choose the option that works best for you.
You must complete the course within 60 days after your 341 meeting. If you don’t, the court can close your case without entering the discharge. A lot of people take the course before the 341 meeting. That way, when they’re done with the meeting, they know they have completed the requirements for filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire.
Once you're done, make sure you file your certificate of course completion with the court. This lets the bankruptcy judge know that you're now eligible to have your discharge entered when the time comes.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting — also known as a "creditors' meeting" or “meeting of creditors” — will take place 20–40 days after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire. Even though it's called a creditors' meeting, it's rare for creditors to attend or participate in the meeting.
Instead, it typically involves the person filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire and the trustee assigned to their case. The meetings are relatively short, averaging 5–10 minutes per case. So the court schedules several meetings for the same 30-minute time slot on any given day. This means you'll see what it’s like for other folks who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire when you attend your meeting.
It’s unlikely anything will go wrong at this meeting. But the trustee has to verify everyone's identity before conducting the meeting, so make sure you bring a valid government-issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your Social Security number. Finally, bring a signed copy of your bankruptcy forms to the meeting so the trustee can use them while questioning you.
As a COVID-19 safety measure, all 341 meetings are being held by phone or video conference right now. This hasn’t been adopted as a standard practice, so keep an eye on your mail so you know what to expect and how to attend your meeting.
After the 341 meeting is over and you submit your debtor education certificate, you’re done. You should receive your discharge within 2-3 months.
Dealing with Your Car
If you’re waiting to file bankruptcy in New Hampshire because you’re worried about losing your car, you might want to reconsider. The good news is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy gives you several options for dealing with your car.
If your car is paid off and its current market value is less than $4,000, you can keep it under New Hampshire’s exemption law.
If you're still paying on a car loan when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire, you can choose how you want to deal with it. If your current loan payment works for your budget and the loan balance isn’t a lot higher than the car’s value, you can keep everything the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement with your lender. Similarly, if you're leasing the car and are current on the lease payments, you may be able to keep the car if you continue paying each month.
On the other hand, if you're struggling with the monthly payment or the car is in bad shape, filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire gives you the opportunity to surrender the vehicle and discharge the balance of the loan. If you like the car, but you owe more on the loan than the car’s worth, you can redeem the vehicle by paying the creditor the current value of your car in a lump sum after filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire. If you redeem the vehicle, the rest of the loan will be discharged in bankruptcy.
If you’re planning on buying a car, it may actually be easier to wait until after your bankruptcy is discharged because your credit score may go up after the bankruptcy is over.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Means Test
Before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire you have to make sure you're eligible for Chapter 7 relief by completing the two-part New Hampshire means test. This test was developed to make sure that only folks who truly need bankruptcy debt relief are able to get it.
The first part of the test compares your household income to the median household income in the state. If your income is less than the median income limits, you "pass" the means test. If you make more than the applicable limit, you can move on to part two of the test. Here, you’ll calculate whether you have the necessary disposable income to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, which requires a repayment plan. If you don’t have the necessary disposable income, you’ll qualify to file under Chapter 7 in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Forms
Most of the New Hampshire bankruptcy forms are the same forms used by bankruptcy courts across the country. These are available as fillable PDFs. There are a handful of local forms created by the district of New Hampshire for use in New Hampshire bankruptcy cases only. These forms are available as PDFs and Microsoft Word documents.
When you first head to court to file your bankruptcy petition, you'll only need one of the local New Hampshire bankruptcy forms and the Verification of Creditor Mailing List. All other New Hampshire Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are required only in certain circumstances after your Chapter 7 case has been filed with the court.
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New Hampshire Districts & Filing Requirements
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of New Hampshire covers the entire state. It released a Pro Se Debtor Guide to help people file for bankruptcy without a lawyer. There are some specific rules you should be aware of.
Everyone filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire must file their paperwork with the federal courthouse in Concord. You aren’t allowed to file your paperwork online. You'll have to mail it to the courthouse or take it there in person. You can view any COVID-19 operating changes on the court’s website.
If you're paying your bankruptcy filing fee in installments, you must make the first installment payment within two weeks of filing your papers. The minimum down payment needs to be at least one-quarter the $338 filing fee, or $83.75. You can make up to three additional payments to cover the balance of the fee. You must pay the entire fee within 120 days of filing bankruptcy or the court could throw out your case.
You can pay the filing fee with cash, a bank check, or a money order. People who don’t use a lawyer aren't allowed to pay with credit cards.
After filing your Chapter 7 paperwork, the District of New Hampshire's Local Rules require you to send every paycheck stub you've received in the 60 days before your case was filed directly to your trustee, rather than filing them with the court.
It's also important to remember that the New Hampshire Bankruptcy Court requires everyone to bring a full copy of their bankruptcy forms to their 341 meeting.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you file bankruptcy, everything you own is considered an asset. In Chapter 7, Bankruptcy exemptions protect some of your personal property and real estate from being sold at the liquidation sale. Your trustee can sell your non-exempt assets and property at a liquidation sale to pay off your debt.
If you’ve lived in the Granite State for at least two years before filing bankruptcy, you can choose between the New Hampshire bankruptcy exemptions and the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Both include a generous wildcard exemption that allows you to protect any property that’s not otherwise protected by an exemption. New Hampshire’s exemptions allow filers to protect up to $13,900 worth of property that isn’t protected by another exemption. The Federal wildcard exemption protects up to $13,100 worth of property that isn’t otherwise protected.
If you use New Hampshire’s exemption laws when you file:
You can protect your car if it’s worth less than $4,000.
You can protect up to $13,400 worth of household goods like furniture, TV, or musical instruments, with a maximum of $690 per item.
Health aids, spousal support (alimony), and child support are completely exempted, meaning they can't be taken no matter how much they’re worth.
If you own a home, the New Hampshire homestead exemption will protect up to $120,000 of equity for individuals and up to $240,000 if you’re married and file your taxes jointly.
The federal exemption laws are fairly similar:
You can protect your car if it’s worth less than $4,000.
You can protect up to $13,400 worth of household goods, but each item is only protected up to $624 per item.
Health aids and support payments are also completely exempted, so your creditors can’t take them.
However, under the federal homestead, you can only protect up to $25,150 of equity in your home if you’re filing as an individual, and $50,300 if you’re married and filing jointly. A bankruptcy attorney can help you figure out which set of exemptions is right for you.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in New Hampshire for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is $1,350. This is slightly above the national average. The cost ranges from $1,200 to $1,500. The good news is this is typically a flat-rate fee. That means you'll know the total cost before you hire your attorney. Bankruptcy attorneys charge based on how complicated a client’s case is.
Even though the cost is an important factor when hiring a professional, it’s not the only thing to consider. Take advantage of free consultations to see which attorney is the right fit for you.
New Hampshire Legal Aid Organizations
Since not everyone who needs assistance with a civil legal matter can afford to hire a lawyer, many organizations provide free legal aid in New Hampshire to low-income residents. If you aren't comfortable representing yourself in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire check out the modest means resources from the New Hampshire Bar Association or contact any of the New Hampshire legal aid organizations listed below.
Legal Advice & Referral Center, Inc.
15 Green Street, Concord, NH 03301-4823
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
New Hampshire Judges
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Judges
|District of New Hampshire||Hon. Bruce A. Harwood|
|District of New Hampshire||Hon. Peter G. Cary|
|District of New Hampshire||Hon. Michael A. Fagone|
|District of New Hampshire||Hon. Christopher J. Panos|
New Hampshire Trustees
New Hampshire Trustees
|Michael S. Askenaizer||Michael@Askenaizer.com|
|Victor W. Daharemail@example.com|
|Edmond J. Fordfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Olga L. Gordonemail@example.com|
|Steven M. Notingerfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Timothy P. Smithemail@example.com|