Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
Bankruptcy is a life altering experience, but not in the ways that you think. Filing for bankruptcy is an often underutilized tool by consumers. We are afraid to damage our credit more than we already have and are unsure what the implications are. But the good news is, that if you follow this guide you will learn that you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rochester for free, on your own, while keeping your property and your dignity. The bankruptcy system was designed to give consumers like you and me a fresh start. If you have debts such as credit card debts and medical bills, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide you relief by discharging your debts so that you don't have to pay them back. Thankfully, bankruptcy does not affect your ability to fix your credit score even though it remains a mark on your report for 10 years. Almost instantaneously after receiving your discharge, you will be able to start rebuilding your credit through secured credit cards. Soon thereafter, you will be able to take out loans and apply for more credit. Rochester is filled with many inspirational people such as abolitionist Frederick Douglass and feminist Susan B. Anthony. Many companies have gotten their start in Rochester, such as Xerox and Kodak (who was able to emerge from bankruptcy in 2013). There is a world of opportunity for you in your own community of Rochester, and bankruptcy can help set the foundation to create a memorable life there. If bankruptcy seems like the right fit for you, you can file your bankruptcy and the courthouse located at 100 State Street in Rochester.
Rochester Bankruptcy Lawyers - Estimated Cost
Sometimes, we need assistance when dealing with legal matters. This is where bankruptcy attorneys come in. On average, a Rochester bankruptcy lawyer costs you between $965-$1,550. This is a one-time fee that will cover all of the standard work in your Rochester bankruptcy case. Typically, the first meeting with your lawyer is free. There are a couple reasons why bankruptcy lawyers are worth this investment. First, bankruptcy lawyers know the bankruptcy laws. Bankruptcy lawyers are familiar with both the national and local rules pertaining to bankruptcy practice. They are familiar with the forms, the process, and the trustees and judges in the bankruptcy court. Second, they will share their knowledge with you and be there for you every step of the way in the process. When you meet with your lawyer for the first consultation, they will ask you about your financial situation, starting with your debts, and gather information about your income, expenses, and any property you own. You can ask the bankruptcy attorney questions at this consultation regarding the bankruptcy process, your individual case, and their fees. It is a good opportunity to get to know each other as you will be working closely together in this process for the next 4 to 6 months. The message here is this, if you can afford to hire a lawyer to file your bankruptcy, do it! You will save yourself time, resources, and stress. They are the experts on this topic and will guide you every step of the way; it is a worthwhile investment. If your case is not complex, then you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rochester for free without a lawyer!
How to File Bankruptcy in Rochester, New York for Free
The bulk of your time during the bankruptcy process will be dedicated to filling out the Rochester bankruptcy forms. Later on in the process you will complete your credit counseling course and attend your 341 meeting. Being organized and prepared throughout the bankruptcy process is the best way to ensure a smooth and successful Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rochester. Later on in the guide, you will learn what documents you already have at home and what forms you can find online that will help you move this process along.
Collect Your Rochester Bankruptcy Documents
Filling out the Rochester bankruptcy forms can seem very daunting. However, you can make the process a little easier by gathering these things: your tax returns, your pay stubs, credit report and your bank statements. Most of these should be available at your fingertips online. Your tax returns are available by request from the IRS online or by mail. Your pay stubs, depending upon your employers payroll service, should be available online. If not, check in with your human resources department to see how you can retrieve yours pay stubs. You’re entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the credit bureaus; you can also request these online.
Take Credit Counseling
The credit counseling course is a required educational course that you must take before filing bankruptcy in Rochester. The law requires that you successfully complete this course in the 180 days before you file for bankruptcy. The course is designed to teach you about the options to deal with your debt, including bankruptcy. The one hour course is offered in person at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, Inc. at 1000 University Avenue, Suite 900 in Rochester. You can also take the course remotely either online or by telephone. Once you have completed the course, you will submit your certificate of completion to the bankruptcy court along with your other bankruptcy forms.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The Rochester bankruptcy forms will give the court and the trustee a clear and accurate picture of your finances from your income and expenses to your debts and your assets, which is everything you own. You can find all the forms that you need for free on the court's website. To prepare for filling out these forms, you can use the information already available to you such as your pay stubs, income tax returns, credit report, and bank statements. The most common mistake made on the bankruptcy forms is forgetting important information. Even if you think something’s not important, such as a job you worked for a week or a small inheritance, it’s crucial for the success of your New York bankruptcy case that you don’t leave anything out.
Get Your Filing Fee
To get your case on the court's docket you will have to pay the required filing fee. The filing fee for individuals and spouses filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rochester is $335. If you are not able to make that payment when you file your case, you may apply for a fee waiver. Your application for a fee waiver will be submitted with your bankruptcy forms and decided by a judge. If you earn less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, the judge may grant your application; in this case, you will not have to pay the filing fee. If your application is denied, the court may propose an installment plan so that you can payments make over time. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver when you file your Rochester bankruptcy case, you can apply for an installment plan right when you’re filing bankruptcy in Rochester. The process is the same for this application as a fee waiver.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
After you are satisfied with the final version of your Rochester bankruptcy forms, you are ready to print and submit them to the Court. You should print at least two versions of the forms. Print only one-sided. If you don’t have a printer at home you can print at your local library or a Kinko's. For your reference, below is the location, hours & directions to the Rochester Public Library.
Hours of operation:
Monday - Thursday 9:30AM - 9:00PM
Friday 9:30AM - 5:30PM
Saturday 9:30AM - 1:30PM
Go to Court to File Your Forms
If you live in Rochester, you will be filing your Rochester bankruptcy forms at the courthouse located at 100 State Street in Rochester. More specifically, you will need to visit the bankruptcy clerk's office within the courthouse to get your forms officially filed. The bankruptcy clerk will briefly look over your forms to see if they are complete, and if they're missing any pages or signatures. The courthouse is open 8 AM to 4:30 PM excluding weekends and federal holidays. A few things to keep in mind before you go to court is that parking may be limited, so it may be best to bring some cash if you need to pay for parking. Another thing to keep in mind is that if there is inclement weather, you may consider calling the court in advance to see if they’re open. Also, the courthouse is a secure government building, and you will need to go through metal detectors before you enter. Electronics like cell phones are not allowed in the courthouse and will be held at the entrance during your visit. Lastly, you should dress business casual when making a visit to the courthouse.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The trustee is an independent contractor for the federal government and one is assigned to each and every Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rochester. They are responsible for reviewing your bankruptcy forms, retrieving any money you paid to creditors after you filed for bankruptcy, and selling any eligible property to pay your debts. Before the trustee can review your bankruptcy documents, you will need to send them your pay stubs, tax returns, and some recent bank statements. You must send all the required paperwork to the trustee at least 10 days before your 341 meeting. The trustee will review all your documents, and prepare any questions they may have for you at your 341 meeting. To find out how to contact your trustee, if you don’t receive any correspondence directly from their office within 2 - 3 weeks of filing bankruptcy in Rochester, please visit the US Trustee website. Once in touch with your trustee, you may ask them how they prefer to receive your documents (mail, email, or fax).
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing bankruptcy in Rochester, and as a prerequisite to your discharge, you will need to take the financial management course. This one hour course will educate you on healthy financial practices that you may use after you receive your discharge. You can take approved courses in person, online, or by phone. The nearest in person course is Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, Inc. located at 1000 University Avenue, Suite 900 in Rochester.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 Meeting is the first and typically only Court appearance you will have to make in your Rochester bankruptcy case. It’s an opportunity for the trustee and your creditors alike to ask you questions about your bankruptcy forms. Your trustee may ask you if you forgot to include anything in your bankruptcy forms and allow you the opportunity to do so. The trustee may also ask you about any debts you may have paid after you filed for bankruptcy or any sums of money you have acquired after you filed for bankruptcy. It’s rare that creditors show up at these meetings but they are allowed to do so. You should dress business casual for these meetings and bring your driver's license and original social security card for identification. This meeting should take no longer than 10 to 15 minutes depending on the amount of questions your trustee has for you.
Dealing with Your Car
Most people want to know what will happen to their car after filing bankruptcy in Rochester. Given that a car in this day and age is essential to daily life, there are a few options to keep your car in this process. If you own your car, you can claim a state or federal exemption to protect it. Bankruptcy exemptions are an important part of your pre-bankruptcy planning, and should be considered before you file. If you still owe money on your car, you can continue making payments, buyout your car, or surrender it. The first option, to continue making payments, is referred to as reaffirmation. Your lender will require you to sign a reaffirmation agreement to agree to keep making payments, with the condition that if you don’t they can repossess the car and sue you for what’s left owing. You can also do what’s called a redemption, where you buy your car out for its value. Lastly, if you owe more than your car is worth, you can surrender your car to eliminate your obligation to pay the loan. All these options require careful consideration before you file for bankruptcy.
New York Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Rochester
New York Means Test
The New York bankruptcy Means Test is a measure to prevent abuse of the bankruptcy system. This test will compare your income to the state median income for your family size. If you earn below that amount, you pass the Chapter 7 Means Test and you do not have to do anything further. If you earn more than that median income, you’ll have to provide information about your expenses to demonstrate that you don’t have the means to pay your debts. Before you file for Rochester bankruptcy, you will need to consider if you meet the requirements of the Means Test, and the consequences if you do not.
Median Income Levels for New York
New York Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Poverty Levels for New York
New York 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 York Bankruptcy Forms
The most challenging of the New York bankruptcy forms to complete are the Means Test and Schedule C because they will determine if you can even file for bankruptcy in the first place. For example, you will need to know what property you will claim as exempt, thereby protecting it, before filing your bankruptcy. You will also need to know if you can pass the Means Test. As mentioned before, utilizing your pay stubs, income tax returns, bank statements, and monthly bills will be tremendously helpful in filling out your forms. The hardest part of your Rochester bankruptcy forms is including all your financial information, from your jobs to inheritance, to personal property and homes. You can find all the forms you need for free online.
New York Exemptions
The New York bankruptcy exemptions are designed to help you protect your property while you are going through your Rochester bankruptcy. By choosing the right exemptions, you will be able to keep your property safe from your creditors and in your possession. Notably, in New York, the Homestead Exemption provides more protection from your home than the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Choosing between the federal and state exemptions will be a crucial part of your pre-bankruptcy planning as New York allows you the option to choose either, but not both.