Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 8, 2020
Even though fewer New Hampshire bankruptcy cases were filed in June 2019 than the year before, overall filings are up in 2019. If you are one of the many Americans that has to choose which bill to pay each month because there simply isn't enough money to go around, then you know that living up to the Granite State's motto is almost impossible in a situation like this. Whether you are suddenly having to do with less income due to a job loss, are facing medical bills that no one could ever hope to pay off, or are simply in over your head, 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 the honest but unfortunate debtor. While no one is happy about having to seek the protections offered by the Bankruptcy Code, you cannot 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.
How to File Bankruptcy in New Hampshire for Free
Even though everyone filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire is required to pay a $335 court filing fee, you can apply for a fee waiver. If the court finds that you are eligible to have the fee waived, you will be allowed to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire for free.
Collect Your New Hampshire Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire involves a lot of paperwork. The good news is, most of the work is done before your case is filed with the court, so you control the timing. The first thing you should do when preparing to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire is collect certain documents you will need as you go through the process. This includes getting a copy of your credit report, ideally one from each of the three credit reporting agencies, and gathering all bills or collection notices you have received in the last 90 days. Together, these documents should be sufficient to make sure that you are properly disclosing all of your debts. You will also need both, your most recent federal income tax return and the paycheck stubs you've received in the 6 months before filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire. Other documents that may come in useful as you are preparing to file your case are recent bank statements, including statements for any retirement accounts you may have, and a copy of your vehicle title. As you go through your file to gather these items, go ahead and pull anything else that you think will aid you in preparing for your New Hampshire bankruptcy case, such as recent a divorce decree, your homeowners' insurance and similar documents.
Take Credit Counseling
Before your New Hampshire bankruptcy case can be filed you have to complete a credit counseling course. You can take the course at any time in the 6 months before your case is filed. There are a number of companies that have been approved by the Office of the United States Trustee to offer the class to folks filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire offering it online or by phone. Unfortunately, there are no approved providers in the state that offer the course in person at this time. The purpose of the course is to ensure that everyone filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire is aware of their debt relief options before actually heading to court. There is a small cost associated with this course, but it should not exceed $50, depending on the provider you choose. If your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may be able to apply for a waiver of the course cost. When you are done, you will receive a certificate of completion. This certificate is provided to the court with the rest of your New Hampshire bankruptcy documents to create a record for the court that you have complied with this requirement and therefore are eligible to be a debtor in bankruptcy.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The bankruptcy forms are the documents that are submitted to the court by everyone filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire. There are several different forms, including your Voluntary Petition, your Schedules, and your Statement of Financial Affairs to name just a few. The full list of documents you will need for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire is listed on page one of this checklist. All of the forms are available for free online, and you can even download a comprehensive instruction manual created by the federal judiciary as part of the recent form modernization project. If all of this sounds a little bit intimidating to do on your own, and you don't think you will be able to afford to hire a lawyer, see if you are eligible to have Upsolve help you with this process. If you are working with either a lawyer or Upsolve you will still have to do the homework needed to provide all of the required information, but the task of putting it in all the correct spots on the forms will be handled by someone else. As you go through this process, make sure to 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 lead to serious complications in your case.
Get Your Filing Fee
Only folks who make less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to apply for a fee waiver and even then, it is up to the court to decide whether the fee should be waived rather than requiring the debtor to pay it in installments after filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire. If you are not eligible to have your filing fee waived, it is 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 from folks filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire without a lawyer ("pro se"). If you are 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 are able to collect the full amount, you can ask the court for permission to pay the fee in installments after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire has been filed. This can be especially helpful if a creditor is garnishing your wages. The garnishment has to stop once your bankruptcy case is filed with the court and you will start receiving your full paycheck once again. If you are not getting garnished, and there is no hard deadline to file your New Hampshire bankruptcy case, such as a scheduled foreclosure, it is best to take the time and collect the fee in full beforehand. Otherwise, if you are unable to make all the payments timely, you risk having your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire thrown out of court.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
At this time, only people filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire with the help of a lawyer are able to have their bankruptcy forms filed electronically. If a lawyer does not represent you, you will have to submit the original signed hardcopy of your bankruptcy forms to the court. If you are working with Upsolve, you will receive a single PDF file to print, making this part of the process as easy as finding a printer. Even though filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire is a legal proceeding, all documents are printed on regular size, 8.5" x 11" white paper, so any home or office printer can handle it without issue. If you have completed all the forms on your own and you have them saved on your computer as a number of different files, make sure to give yourself enough time for this step. All the forms needed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire look very similar, making it very easy to get confused about what has been printed already versus what you still have to print. Finally, although the court only needs a single copy of your signed forms for the purpose of filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire, you have to bring a full set of signed forms to your 341 meeting after the case is filed. Rather than having to stress about getting everything printed and signed again when it's time for your 341 meeting, it is best to print a second set now. Alternatively, if you have access to a copy machine, you can sign everything on one set, then simply make a photocopy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Although it is possible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire by mailing everything to the court, that can be a bit stressful as you will be relying on the mail system to get everything there by a certain date. Instead, if you can, you should visit the courthouse in person to hand everything in. That way, when you are done, you know your New Hampshire bankruptcy case has been filed and the automatic stay took effect. The Bankruptcy Court is located in Concord and is open to the public from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Since the end of the day tends to be the busiest, try not to arrive right before 4:30 so you have enough time to personally hand everything in. As you head to the courthouse, make sure you review the information on visiting the courthouse beforehand, so you are not surprised by the security checkpoint at the building entrance, or end up having to check your laptop with building security because you didn't realize you are not able to bring it in. If you are unable to make it to the court during business hours to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire, you can also submit everything through the court's Dropbox. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully so the date of filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire for your case matches the date that you dropped everything off. This is especially important if you want to prevent a creditor from doing something, such as levying your bank account and therefore need to make sure your case is filed by a certain date.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire has been filed with the court, a trustee will be assigned to administer the case. It is the trustee's job to make sure that you are complying with all federal and New Hampshire bankruptcy laws and procedures. As part of doing their due diligence, the trustees are entitled to a copy of your most recent federal income tax return it's your job to submit it to them no less than 7 days before your 341 meeting. The trustees all operate independently from one another, so each one of them has developed a different process for administering their cases. You will find out who the trustee handling your case is when you receive an official notice like this one from the court shortly after filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire. The trustee that is assigned to your case may send you a letter asking you to submit certain other information or documentation to their office before your 341 meeting. Since one of the duties you have as a debtor in bankruptcy is to cooperate with your trustee, make sure to keep an eye out for any such requests, so you can make sure to submit everything timely.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
In addition to taking a credit counseling class before filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire, you have to take a financial management course after your case has been filed with the court. If you do not complete this requirement the court will not enter a discharge in your case. Since the discharge is the court order that prohibits your creditors from attempting to collect any pre-petition debts ever again, it is likely the main reason you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire in the first place. There is no hard deadline to complete the course, but if it is not done within the 60 days after your 341 meeting, it is possible that the court closes your case without entering the discharge. A lot of people plan on taking the course before the 341 meeting, so when they are done with the meeting, they know they have completed the minimum requirements everyone filing Chapter 7 in New Hampshire has to complete. Once you are done, make sure you file this certification with the court, as that lets the judge know that you are now eligible to have your discharge entered when the time comes. As before, it is important to go through a company that has been pre-approved to offer the course for folks filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting or "creditors' meeting" as it is often called will take place about 20 - 40 days after filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire. Even though it is called a creditors' meeting, it is rare for creditors to attend or participate in the meeting. Instead, it typically involves only the person filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire and the trustee assigned to their case. Since the meetings are relatively short, averaging about 5 - 10 minutes per case, the court schedules a number of them for the same 30-minute time slot on any given day. This means you will see other folks who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire when you attend your meeting and may even get the opportunity to watch a few of them go through the process before your case is called. The trustee has to verify everyone's identity before the meeting can be conducted, so make sure you have a valid government issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number when you prepare for the meeting. Finally, everyone filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire has to bring a signed copy of their bankruptcy forms to the meeting so the trustee can use it while questioning them.
Dealing with Your Car
A lot of folks hold off on filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire because they are worried about how it will affect their car without realizing that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy actually gives them more options than they otherwise have. If your car is paid off, then as long as its current reasonable value is less than $4,000 you can keep it. If you are still paying on a car loan when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire is filed, it is up to you how to deal with it. If the payment works for your budget and the loan balance does not exceed the value of the car by an unreasonable amount, you can keep everything the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. On the other hand, if you are struggling with the monthly payment or the car is in bad shape, filing bankruptcy in New Hampshire gives you the opportunity to surrender it and discharge the balance owing on the loan. If you like the car, but the loan balance includes negative equity from a prior trade-in, making it unreasonable to keep the loan, 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.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Means Test
Before you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire you have to make sure you are eligible for Chapter 7 relief by completing the New Hampshire means test for bankruptcy. This test is intended to make sure that only folks who truly need the relief are able to obtain it even if their household income exceeds the median household income. If your income is less than the income limits, you "pass" the means test. If you make more than the applicable limit, the New Hampshire means test for bankruptcy calculates whether you lack the necessary disposable income to file a Chapter 13 case; if so, you qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire.
Data on Median income levels for New Hampshire
New Hampshire Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for New Hampshire
New Hampshire 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)|
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Forms
The New Hampshire bankruptcy forms are comprised of the official national forms and certain local forms created by the district for use in New Hampshire bankruptcy cases only. When you first head to court to file your case, you will only need one of the local New Hampshire bankruptcy forms, 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.
District of New Hampshire Requirements
After your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire has been filed, the District's Local Rules require you to send every paycheck stub you have received in the 60 days before your case was filed 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. Finally, the court has put together a guide for folks planning on filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire without a lawyer ("pro se") providing detailed information about all relevant requirements.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire everything you own is considered an asset and the applicable exemption laws determine which assets, if any, may be sold for the benefit of your creditors. If you have lived in the Granite State for at least 2 years when your case is filed, 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 is not otherwise protected when your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire is filed.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire is $1,350, which is slightly above the national average. However, if you are having a hard time protecting all of your assets despite the availability of a wildcard exemption, hiring a lawyer for your New Hampshire bankruptcy case may save you money in the long run.
Attorney cost estimate: $1,200 – $1,500
New Hampshire Legal Aid Organizations
Since not everyone who needs assistance with a civil legal matter can afford to hire a lawyer, various organizations exist to provide free legal aid in New Hampshire to low-income residents. If you are not comfortable representing yourself in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Hampshire check out the pro bono resources offered by the New Hampshire Bar Association or contact any of the New Hampshire legal aid organizations listed below.
New Hampshire Court Locations
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. Daharfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Edmond J. Fordemail@example.com|
|Olga L. Gordonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Steven M. Notingeremail@example.com|
|Timothy P. Smithfirstname.lastname@example.org|