Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated August 17, 2020
A.C. is a city of chance and choice. Successful people like George Foreman and Mike Tyson have found success in this city. Their success today is connected to a past choice to seek bankruptcy relief. Even the former owner of Atlantic City Casinos, Donald Trump made this choice to keep his businesses afloat. Each of these visitors to the 609 decided to file for bankruptcy. They likely felt overwhelmed and wondered what to do, but like you, they looked forward to the future. Whether you are a working person, athlete, or businessman, taking hold of your life to get out of debt can make your life better. When divorce, medical issues, job loss, or just life happens, those in Monopoly City have wondered where to turn when the bills pile up. Just like you, they explored filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City. Congress created this system to help New Jerseyans just like you to deal with their debt.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the most common chapters those in the 609 file to take hold of debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City takes 4-6 months to complete vs. Chapter 13, which takes 36-60 months. At the end of both types of bankruptcies, debt is discharged or wiped away — the difference in Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you create a payment plan to repay your creditors at least a portion of what they are owed. Most people can’t reasonably repay any of their debts, so they file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City which will wipe away all dischargeable debts without requiring any payments first. Some debts, known as nondischargeable debts, such as student loans, recent tax debts or child support obligations can’t be wiped away.
Those who successfully filed Atlantic City bankruptcy have their debt wiped out and later go on to enjoy higher incomes and higher credit scores. Many wait until they get their tax refund to file for bankruptcy because they can pay a lawyer that way, but you can file your own bankruptcy. You can find free legal help to help you. In Atlantic County and other nearby counties, some non-profits help those in the A.C. just like you to successfully file. The Legal Services of New Jersey has many legal offices including one in Atlantic County offering free help to those filing for bankruptcy relief. It’s best to call 609-348-4200 or email SJLSAtlantic@lsnj.org to set up an appointment.
Atlantic City Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
You can successfully file your own bankruptcy, but if you have more complex issues, you may want to hire a lawyer to help. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Atlantic City is about $1,255 dollars. The price mostly depends on the complexity of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City. A lawyer is best suited to ask questions such as how fees are calculated and what problems you can anticipate. Most lawyers offer free first meetings known as consultations. After you find attorneys to meet with, you can ask initial questions about experience and strategy in addition to their opinion about your situation to help you decide if the attorney is right for you.
How to File Bankruptcy in Atlantic City, New Jersey for Free
You don't need to roll the dice; you can follow these steps to file your Atlantic City bankruptcy. Filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City is more straightforward when you have a roadmap to guide you.
Collect Your Atlantic City Bankruptcy Documents
Preparation makes perfect! Gathering all your financial documents will make filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City run more smoothly. To see how much debt you owe, it helps to get a copy of your credit report. Check that it is correct and complete. Make a list of any debts that are not listed, including judgments, medical bills, or tax debts. Like others in the 609 have done, gather documents related to your income and the money you make. Get statements for your debt to outline what you owe. Collect paperwork about the property (assets) you own. These documents include six months of pay stubs, two years of your tax returns, bank statements, retirement account statements, investment statements, real estate appraisals, copies of vehicle registrations. If you don't have these, you can get them by putting in a little bit of legwork. Contact current or former employers to get pay stubs and W-2s. You can request copies of your taxes from the IRS. You can ask the companies holding your accounts for statements of your bank, retirement, and investment accounts. This prep work will pay off in spades when you file your Atlantic City bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City, it’s required you take a credit counseling course. The credit counseling course helps you evaluate your options with tools such as creating a budget. The budget will help you gauge whether debt repayment is possible. After this, many decide that bankruptcy is the best option because repayment isn’t practical. You can quickly complete this one-hour approved credit counseling course from your home in Monopoly City by electing the online or phone course. If your household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you may qualify to have the fee waived. After you complete the course, you will get a certificate of completion that is valid for six months. You’ll file this certificate of completion with your Atlantic City bankruptcy documents.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Overall, your bankruptcy forms ask about what you own, what you owe, and what you spend. The depth you will go into on the forms may be more than you think is necessary but answer each question and keep in mind that all the questions are being asked for reason. Be cautious when using the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court website for help finding the forms for your Atlantic City bankruptcy. Some links may be broken, and you may have trouble finding the most current information. You can find up-to-date forms on the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court's website or you can get forms here on Upsolve. When completing your Schedules for your Atlantic City bankruptcy, make sure to protect your personal information. You have to use your full social security number on the Statement About Your Social Security Numbers, but on all other forms use only the last four digits. Even though A.C. residents tend to have a lower cost of living than many New Jerseyans, be careful not to understate your expenses.
Get Your Filing Fee
It costs $338 to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in and $313 to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Atlantic City. Installment payments are available if you need time to make the payments. You can make up to four installment payments until the amount is paid in full. If you are filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it may not be a good idea to apply for installments. If you need help paying your Chapter 13 filing fee, it does not support your ability to maintain a payment plan over three to five years. If you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City and you can’t afford to pay the fee, you can apply for a fee waiver. You can use the information in Schedules A/B, I, and J to help with the fee waiver. Submit either request to the Court with your bankruptcy paperwork. The judge will base the decision on whether you can afford to pay the fee on the bankruptcy documents you submit and on your income. Specifically, whether you fall below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. If denied, you will be able to pay the fee in installments. You don’t need to submit both applications to be considered for installments if your fee waiver is not granted. In that case, you’ll get information about the payments you’ll be required to make after filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
It is essential that you print each form one-sided after completing the information in the forms for your Atlantic City bankruptcy. The Court will require one-sided print-outs of all your documents, even if you plan to complete them by hand. The forms alone are about 70 pages. Review the printed schedules and supporting documents and make sure to keep them all in order. If you can’t print at home, the Atlantic City Public Library will let you print for $0.10 per page and the Atlantic City County Library will let you print for $0.15 per page. The Atlantic City County Library has mobile printing available so you can print your forms from your mobile phone. After reviewing their bankruptcy forms, prudent 609 residents sign each form in the designated space and make a copy for their own records. Then they are prepared to file their Atlantic City bankruptcy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Those in the 609 file their Atlantic City bankruptcy at the Camden Bankruptcy Court. The court is located at 401 Market Street, Camden, NJ 08101. Not only are Atlantic City bankruptcies filed here, but also the counties of Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, and some of Burlington County file at the Camden Bankruptcy Court too. You can find directions to the Camden Bankruptcy Court on the Court's website. The drive to the Camden Bankruptcy Court from Atlantic City is about an hour (with tolls) to an hour and a half (no tolls). Parking is available near the courthouse. You can also ride the train or bus to get to the courthouse. The advantage of filing at the Court is that the Clerk's Office can review your bankruptcy filing and you can fix errors before you file. For many, it’s not possible to get to the Courthouse in Camden just to hand in the paperwork. In that case, you can mail your Atlantic City bankruptcy filing to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of New Jersey, PO Box 2067, Camden, NJ 08101. Make note that the address to mail your bankruptcy forms is different than the address of the courthouse. Bring your fee waiver/installment application or exact change in cash, money order, or cashier's check for your filing fee. Also bring your original signed Atlantic City bankruptcy forms, a copy of your signed Atlantic City bankruptcy forms, and your certificate of credit counseling. If you are mailing the forms, include a self-addressed envelope to get your file-stamped copy of your filing from Camden back to your home in Atlantic City.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file your bankruptcy, you will get the information for your Trustee. The Trustee's job is to manage your case and look for any assets to pay your creditors. Most Chapter 7 bankruptcies don’t result in payments to creditors, but the Trustee will still ask for documents such as your pay stubs and taxes. The Trustee will likely request that you are prompt submitting any required documents, so they arrive at the Trustee’s office at least a week before your 341 meeting. The Court will let your creditors know you filed bankruptcy by sending them Form 309A. This notice gives your creditors essential information about their rights and other important information, including the date of the 341 meeting and deadlines to file an objection to your Atlantic City bankruptcy. Most creditors do not object, but the form is used to give them notice that you filed a New Jersey bankruptcy case. If you get a 309A form marked as non-deliverable mail, this usually means it was mailed to the wrong address and one of your creditors did not get notice. To fix this problem and make sure your creditor gets notice, find the creditor's updated address, mail the notice to the creditor, and amend your bankruptcy matrix.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The second bankruptcy course helps you set goals and create a plan to help you to be successful after filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City. This required course will take you about an hour and a half. Take the second course with an approved agency by phone or online at home. After completing the course, you will obtain your certificate of completion. Submit the certificate to the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court in Camden. Many A.C. residents find it helpful to file it as soon as possible, so they don't forget. If you file Chapter 13, it should be submitted before you make your last payment.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 Meeting of Creditors is important, and you need to attend regardless whether you have assets the Trustee might be able to sell or not. Your attendance is crucial to getting your discharge. You will be sent the information about the location after you file your bankruptcy. You can find directions for your 341 meeting location on the Court's bankruptcy website. Prepare by bringing your picture id, original social security card, and a pen and paper. You will meet with your Trustee in a conference room. Although creditors can come to this meeting, in most cases, they don't. There will be no judge at your 341 Meeting, but you should dress respectfully and sensibly. Wearing expensive clothes, shoes, and accessories is not consistent with filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City. Also, any fancy clothes, shoes, and accessories should be in your bankruptcy forms and the Trustee may wonder what else you’re hiding if the expensive looking watch you’re wearing to your meeting isn’t listed. Business casual office wear is a safe guide on how to dress. The Trustee will call your case and will spend between 5-10 minutes asking you questions about your Atlantic City bankruptcy. Answer the questions with brief and clear answers, and remember you’re under oath, so be truthful in everything you say.
Dealing with Your Car
Driving is a big part of getting around Atlantic City. To work, beaches, and running errands. During your Atlantic City bankruptcy, if you have a car, you need to decide what to do with it. If you own your car outright, then you can use an exemption to hold onto it. An exemption allows you to keep money and property during a bankruptcy. Some decide to keep their vehicles even though they still have a loan on it through a reaffirmation or redemption. Both processes need court approval through a hearing.
Reaffirmation is a process where you reassume the obligation for your auto loan. Usually, the terms are the same as they were in your original contract. Keep in mind that by doing this, you are assuming the debt, and it will not be discharged. On the other hand, a redemption allows you negotiate with the loan holder to pay a lump sum to keep the car. The amount you pay is based on the value of the vehicle. The problem is that those filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City usually don't have the cash on hand. You have the option of getting a new loan through a redemption lender, but be careful not to get yourself into a loan you can’t pay, as these types of loans usually come with a high interest rate. Many make transportation arrangements such as using the Atlantic City Rail to get around and decide to surrender their car. This allows them to have the debt cleared after filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City.
New Jersey Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Atlantic City
New Jersey Means Test
The New Jersey bankruptcy Means Test requires New Jerseyans filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City to qualify primarily by income limits. If their calculated monthly income is less than the median income of families of their size in New Jersey, they can file a Chapter 7. If it’s more, then they can subtract allowed expenses in the Means Test Calculator. If they have little or no income left after that, they pass the New Jersey bankruptcy Means Test and can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City.
Median Income Levels for New Jersey
New Jersey Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for New Jersey
New Jersey Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
New Jersey Bankruptcy Forms
The New Jersey bankruptcy form that you will spend the most time figuring out is probably the Means Test. The information should be consistent with the information on your schedules. Also, it’s essential to update your forms if you need to change the address of a creditor. You also have to make sure that you update your address if you move while in your Atlantic City bankruptcy.
New Jersey Exemptions
People just like you have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Atlantic City and used the federal exemptions or the New Jersey bankruptcy exemptions. The exemptions you choose are what protects your property after filing bankruptcy in Atlantic City.