Written by Attorney Jacquelyne N. Mosley-Pastrana.
Updated July 28, 2020
Plenty of people don’t think that filing bankruptcy in Trenton will help their lives, but it's more common than you think. Boris Becker, the youngest male player to win Wimbledon and Toni Braxton, famous R&B star, both filed for bankruptcy and both bounced back. And you can too. You may be wondering if bankruptcy is right for you. Things like medical issues, job loss, or divorce happen, often times not matter what you do to prevent it. The Founding Fathers knew well that bills can pile up and leave productive citizens feeling like they have nowhere to turn, so they ensured the creation of a national bankruptcy law to help those folks make life better again. In other words, the bankruptcy laws exist to help people who are in over their head.
Bankruptcy is a legal process by which honest people can take back control over their financial situation, stop creditor harassment, and take steps to deal with their debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy filed because it provides relief for folks who simply don’t have the income to pay their debts. Many honest people decide to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton because - due to circumstances outside of their control - they can no longer afford to pay their creditors, whether that’s due to a decrease in income, an increase in expenses, or both.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes away your debt to give you a fresh start. If you make enough money to pay at least a portion of your debts, you are not a good candidate for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton. After all, how is it fair to get all of your debts erased if you can actually pay them? Since creditors are usually not happy with partial payments, some in this position consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. Chapter 13 bankruptcy makes paying your debts more manageable by setting up a 3 to 5-year payment plan based on what you can actually pay, rather than what your creditors want you to pay them each month. Both chapters have the benefit of giving you a "stay" so creditors can’t demand payment from you as you complete your bankruptcy. Both result in the entry of a discharge order eliminating your debts.
There are various legal aid agencies for both English and Spanishspeakers that can help you file your Trenton bankruptcy. There are many resources listed on the District of New Jersey bankruptcy website. Some help is free through nonprofits that hire and rely on volunteer attorneys to help with cases such as yours. Each nonprofit can be found online and contacted by email or phone to set up an appointment to meet. Upsolve can also help you with filing your bankruptcy in Trenton.
Trenton Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Anyone can file bankruptcy in Trenton without a lawyer, but since not every case is the same, you may encounter the need for legal help. You may need legal advice about strategy, or you may run into problems passing the Means Test. If this is the case, you may find it worthwhile to hire a lawyer. The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is between $965 - $1,550 for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton. The cost increases according to the complexity of the case, depending on which problems that an attorney may see coming in your case. Many lawyers offer free consultations or free initial case discussions, so there is no risk in talking to a Trenton bankruptcy lawyer and having them answer some of your questions. This will help you evaluate the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer as well, as you can ask how much your total fee for filing bankruptcy in Trenton would be. Those in the Garden State have also found that asking questions about the lawyer's experience and knowledge of the issues in the case can help in choosing the best lawyer for their case. It’s a good idea to base your decision on the whole package, not just price.
How to File Bankruptcy in Trenton, New Jersey for Free
You can learn how to file bankruptcy in Trenton by accessing up to date information about the process and taking advantage of free online resources. What follows is an explanation of the steps you will need to take to prepare for filing bankruptcy in in Trenton.
Collect Your Trenton Bankruptcy Documents
You will need to collect all documents relating to your income, debts, and assets to get a full picture of your financial situation. Income is money you make, which you can find in documents such as your paystubs, W-2s and 1099. If you no longer have them, your current or former employer should have copies. Calling the human resources office or your payroll department is usually an easy way to get them. Your debt is all the money you owe to anyone, whether that’s a bank, a mortgage company, a local business, a family member, or a friend. A copy of your credit report, recent bills for debts not listed on your credit report, and a divorce decree help determine your debts. You can get a free credit report online. Everything you own is an asset. This includes real property, like your house, personal property like your car and furniture, and things like bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts. For a full picture of the assets in your Trenton bankruptcy, you will need copies of your bank statements, your most recent tax return, and a copy of your vehicle title, if any. You can obtain a copy of your taxes through an online request to the IRS. Collecting these documents and information ahead of time will help you navigate through your New Jersey bankruptcy more smoothly. You will refer to these documents throughout the process of filing bankruptcy in Trenton.
Take Credit Counseling
Before filing bankruptcy in Trenton, you are required to take an approved credit counseling class to explore your options. The credit counseling course is the first of two financial courses required. It provides information and evaluates your decisions in spending the money you have. It uses exercises such as creating a budget and ranking expenses. You can use the guidance it provides to help in your situation. To complete this requirement, take the one-hour approved credit counseling class from any of the listed providers. You can access the course by phone, online, or in person. After a review of their situation with a credit counselor, a lot of New Jerseyans decide that filing bankruptcy in Trenton is their best bet. After completing the class, you will get a certificate of completion. File this certificate of completion with the rest of the documents for your Trenton bankruptcy at the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing your bankruptcy forms can be long and repetitive. Fortunately, the bankruptcy documents you collected will come in handy to help with your Trenton bankruptcy forms. You will outline your financial situation by answering all the questions on each form. If you use the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court's website to obtain your bankruptcy forms, be cautious about getting the most current forms from the site. Don’t use the search bar on the Court's website, as some of the results you get may not be up to date. If you can’t find the form you are looking for on the Court’s Forms page without using the search bar, remember, you can also find the New Jersey forms and instructions through Upsolve. You can type your answers into the forms using Adobe, or you can handwrite the answers. You will have to provide values for the items you own, so you should give yourself enough time so you can do your best with the valuation. Many from the Garden State underestimate their expenses (Schedule J), which is a mistake. That may come to hurt you later, so go ahead and be honest about eating your Trenton Tomato Pie and Taylor Ham. When filing bankruptcy in Trenton, the Court recommends protecting your private identifying information such as your social security number. For example, your entire social security number will only appear on your Statement About Your Social Security Number form. Then on the rest of your forms, you will only list the last four digits, as requested.
Get Your Filing Fee
The cost to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton is $335. Filing bankruptcy in Trenton under Chapter 13 costs $310. The fee should be paid in exact change in cash or in the form of a money order. If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you need some time to pay the fee, you can request to pay it in two to four installments after your New Jersey bankruptcy case has been filed. Your installments are smaller payments until you have paid the amount in full. If you can’t afford the fee, you can request a fee waiver at the time you file your case. The Court will base its decision on your application, whether your income is 150% below the poverty line, and whether it looks as though you can make installment payments after filing bankruptcy in Trenton, when your creditors can no longer request payment from you. There usually is no hearing for either request unless the judge has questions. If the fee waiver is denied, you get the option to pay the filing fee in installments. It’s essential to pay your fee in full to make sure your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton is successful.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
When filing bankruptcy in Trenton without an attorney, you will print out your forms and deliver them to the courthouse. Legal documents must be printed one-sided, so your forms are required to be printed on only one side of the page. Garden State residents just like you printed and reviewed their forms carefully before signing in the appropriate spaces. Per local rules, you have to bring an original and a copy of all of your bankruptcy forms to the Court when filing your case. If you can’t print this many pages at your home or from work, you can use the Trenton Public Libraryto print the original for $0.20 per page. Then, after signing everywhere you need to sign, make a copy for $0.10 per page. You can then file the required original and copy of your forms with the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The Trenton Bankruptcy Court serves many counties in addition to Mercer County. You can get to the Trenton Bankruptcy Court at 402 East State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608 by car or bus. If you drive, parking is available on Merchant Street. Buses also stop right outside the courthouse, making it easy for you to get to the courthouse to file your New Jersey bankruptcy. Regular business hours of the Court are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday not including federal holidays. After you arrive at the courthouse, you will go through security and then head to the Clerk's Office on the first floor. You will stand in line ready to file the documents for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton, including your credit counseling certificate. Be prepared to handle your filing fee when you file your bankruptcy. Bring either an application for fee waiver, application for installment payments or with exact change to pay the filing fee. If you don’t want to visit the courthouse in person for the purpose of filing bankruptcy in Trenton, you can mail your forms to the Court's address instead. If you do this, make sure you include a self-addressed envelope with exact postage for the court to mail you your file stamped copy. Keep in mind, however, that submitting your Trenton bankruptcy petition in person gives you the advantage of having a clerk to review your everything. If there is a problem, you’ll have the opportunity to fix it and avoid having it be an issue later in the process.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After filing bankruptcy in Trenton, the Court will assign you a case number, Trustee, and date for your 341 meeting. As the overseer of your case, the Trustee will review your Trenton bankruptcy forms and determine whether you have any unprotected assets to pay your creditors. The Trustee will request your recent pay stubs and your taxes at least a week before your 341 meeting. You only have about a month from the time you file until your 341 meeting, so it’s important to remember that the Trustee expects you to send the information right away.
The Court mails your creditors a Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case, to inform them that you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton. This form has essential information about your New Jersey bankruptcy case and sets the deadlines for your creditors to object or take other action in your case. It may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. Most creditors do not object, and by getting this form from the Court, the creditor has notice that certain debts are being wiped away through your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton. If you get more than one of these forms from the Court, it’s most likely returned mail because of an incorrect address listed for one of your creditors. You will need to find the correct address for the creditor, mail the creditor the notice, and amend the address in your bankruptcy matrix to solve the problem of returned mail. New Jerseyans like you typically have no issue in fixing this problem and are able to lock in their discharge by ensuring each creditor is informed about their Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
To prepare you for life after your Trenton bankruptcy, the Court requires you to take an approved pre-discharge bankruptcy course. The discharge is a court order you receive near the end of your successful bankruptcy that releases you from your obligation to pay your debts. While the first course evaluated how you spend money, this course will teach you strategies for making solid financial choices on topics such as how to use credit. This course is one of the most critical steps to getting your discharge but often forgotten. If you are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton, the course should be taken no later than 2 months after your 341 Meeting. If you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you should complete this course before you finish your payment plan. You have the option to take the course by phone or online. There is also a free in-person-class is provided once a month. Complete an approved 90-minute course, get your certificate of completion, and submit it to the New Jersey Bankruptcy Court to make sure your discharge is entered when the time comes.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
About a month after you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton, you will have your 341 meeting, sometimes called the Meeting of Creditors. Don't let the name intimidate you. Although any creditor can show up to this meeting, it’s typically just you and the Trustee, and your attorney, if you have one. It’s rare to see creditors at these meetings. If you are filing bankruptcy in Trenton under Chapter 7, your 341 Meeting will be at the Trenton Bankruptcy Court at 402 East State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608. It will take place in a room across from the Clerk's office. If you filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the meeting will take place at the Chapter 13 Trustee's Office at 1 Aaa Dr # 101, Robbinsville Township, NJ 08691.
You should come prepared with your photo identification and your original social security card. You and 8-10 people will meet with the Trustee within the hour you are assigned. After showing the Trustee your identification, you will swear an oath to tell the truth, and answer the Trustee's questions about your New Jersey bankruptcy. Others just like you, have completed this 5-10-minute meeting without issue by providing truthful but brief answers.
Dealing with Your Car
Commuting in Trenton has increased but remains below the national average. About 60% of people in Trenton drive a car to work, 24% carpool, while about 10% ride public transit. When you file bankruptcy, you can decide whether you can(or should) keep your car. If you own your vehicle outright, the decision might not be so hard, because you can use an exemption to keep it after filing bankruptcy in Trenton. You may wonder what to do if you still owe money on your car. If you want to keep the car, you have some options for ways to keep it. The debt won't be wiped away in your Trenton bankruptcy, but you will get to keep the car. If you can afford to keep making the same payments on the vehicle, you can choose to reaffirm the loan. Some in Capital City choose reaffirmation when the value of the car is higher than what they owe. It is not an easy decision because a missed payment could lead not only to repossession of the vehicle, but also leaves you obligated to pay the full loan balance, no matter what happens to the car.. It requires approval from the Court.
Another option to keep the car is by negotiating with the lender to buy it for the car's value and discharging the balance of the loan as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton. This is known as a redemption, but few choose this option because they don’t have the cash after filing bankruptcy in Trenton. There are redemption lenders available to assist, but that is not recommended. Remember that this puts you back into a loan where rates tend to be high and the debt would not clear after your New Jersey bankruptcy. In either case, if you want to proceed with a reaffirmation or redemption, you are required to file a motion and get Court approval.
If you owe more than the value of the car or can no longer afford the payments, you may consider surrendering the vehicle. It isn't easy, but others have done it by making alternative plans to get them around and later buy a cheaper car. When you surrender your car, you return the vehicle and the debt is wiped away in your Trenton bankruptcy.
New Jersey Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Trenton
New Jersey Means Test
In 2005, Congress created new requirements to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, to allow only those who qualified by limited income or a Means Test Calculation to file. Those in Capital City must pass the New Jersey bankruptcy Means Test and be careful not to underclaim their expenses even as the cost of living in Trenton is lower on average than in the rest of New Jersey. You can also qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Trenton if the Means Test does not apply to you because of the type of debt you have or your occupation and the timing of when you incurred the debt.
Median Income Levels for New Jersey
New Jersey Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for New Jersey
New Jersey Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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New Jersey Bankruptcy Forms
Fully complete the New Jersey bankruptcy forms, and be consistent across forms. You may not have 19 mood rings, or a chihuahua named Fendi, but if you do, it has to be listed in the forms you file for your Trenton bankruptcy.
New Jersey Exemptions
When filing bankruptcy in Trenton, it’s essential to know that you have access to both New Jersey bankruptcy exemptions and federal bankruptcy exemptions, but you can’t pick and choose between the two. Exemptions protect your property and money during bankruptcy. Most Capital City residents use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the state exemptions. With federal exemptions, you can use the homestead exemption to protect your home.