This article contains a roadmap to follow all the necessary steps to successfully file chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio on your own. Filing on your own, also known as filing “pro se,” is not unusual for bankruptcy in Ohio. You can educate yourself to do so by using resources on the Ohio Bankruptcy court websites or by seeking assistance with a trusted provider like Upsolve. You can certainly also look at other bankruptcy options but the below will focus on chapter 7 under Ohio bankruptcy law.
Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.
Updated August 25, 2020
Ohio, the Buckeye State, is known for many historical figures including John Glenn, the first man to walk on the moon, the Wright brothers and for eight U.S. Presidents. It is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cedar Point, an amazing theme park for roller coasters and more. It is also ranked among the top 10 states in terms of bankruptcy filings. If you are considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio you are not alone. Ohio bankruptcy requires that you use only Ohio state bankruptcy exemptions, but if you are a homeowner with equity in your house this is good news as these exemptions offer considerable protection in this area.
How to File Bankruptcy in Ohio for Free
This article contains a roadmap to follow all the necessary steps to successfully file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio on your own. Filing on your own, also known as filing “pro se,” is not unusual for bankruptcy in Ohio. You can educate yourself to do so by using resources on the Ohio Bankruptcy court websites or by seeking assistance with a trusted provider like Upsolve. You can certainly also look at other bankruptcy options but the below will focus on chapter 7 under Ohio bankruptcy law.
Collect Your Ohio Bankruptcy Documents
The initial step for filing chapter 7 in Ohio is to gather all of your documents. This will include any information about your income, pay stubs from at least the last two months, tax returns (both federal and state) from the last two years, bank statements, and the deed to your home if you own (along with recent mortgage statements and proof of homeowner’s insurance) and title to any vehicles or boats. Also, gather any documents regarding your retirement benefits and life insurance with any possible cash value. You also will need to list all your creditors and how much you owe in any Ohio bankruptcy. It can be helpful to obtain your credit report for this part so that you can be certain you are including all the correct information and collection agencies. You can get a free copy from one of the main reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
Take Credit Counseling
Ohio bankruptcy law requires that you complete a mandatory credit counseling course prior to filing for your chapter 7. You will be able to find approved providerson the court’s websites. Most agencies will offer both required courses (the second one is for after you file), and you may also have the option to complete them online or over the phone. Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Midwest, Inc is headquartered in Ohio and offers multiple physical locations in both districts where you can go in person if you prefer. There is a cost to these courses, but when filing chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio, the total cost for both should not exceed $50.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
After you have obtained the necessary forms, you will need to fill each page out using the documents you gathered.. If you are working with an attorney, they will assist you with this task and take care of the filing for you. If you are filing a chapter 7 in Ohio on your own you will want to take advantage of all of the resources you can. First, you can start by checking if filing on your ownis a good fit. If you are partnering with Upsolve, your answers from the questionnaire will be used to populate the forms electronically. Additionally, if you are filing in the Northern District of Ohio you can find a helpful guideon the court’s website which will walk you through most of the forms. Beyond the regular forms (approximately 23), there are specific local forms which vary depending on which district and division courthouse you are filing in. Make certain that you are using the correct local forms before filing chapter 7 in Ohio.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee for filing chapter 7 in Ohio is currently $335. According to Ohio’s Local Bankruptcy Rule 1002-1, the fee has to be paid in full and by one of the following allowed methods: cash (exact amount only), money order or cashier's check made payable to Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court. If you feel you cannot afford the fee, and you earn below 150% of the federal poverty line you can file an application for a fee waiver which will be reviewed by the court pursuant to Ohio bankruptcy laws. If the court is in agreement, you will not need to pay it. If the court denies your request, you can still file an application to pay the fee in installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once the forms are complete and you have worked out how you will be paying the filing fee, it is time to print your forms. Be certain that you are only printing one-sided pages (double sided pages are not accepted.) If you do not have a printer at home or access to one at work, you can try your local library or a Kinkos nearby to make copies of your bankruptcy forms. It is a good idea to keep a complete set for you own records.. Additionally, if you are filing chapter 7 in the Northern District of Ohio, you will have the option of getting notices electronically. Pro se debtors filing bankruptcy in Ohio have the opportunity to participate in the Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (DeBN) Program where you can receive notices and orders from the court electronically by e-mail. If you have your own computer and reliable internet access this can be a great option.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
When filing chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio, regardless of the DeBN option, the bankruptcy petition must be filed in person at the appropriate Clerk’s Office. If you are not able to personally appear, you can only send someone in your stead if they have a legal right (such as a power of attorney) to do so. To save yourself time and aggravation, check in advance to make certain that you are going to the correct courthouse location and that you have all the necessary documentation (the filing fee, your completed forms, the credit counseling certificate of completion,and proper identification). It is also a good idea to check the hours for the court as it is not uncommon for some court offices to close at 4 p.m. or 4:30 rather than than the standard 5 p.m. CT.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
At the time you are filing your chapter 7 in Ohio (or very soon after) your case will be assigned to a chapter 7 trusteewho will oversee your case and conduct your court hearing. Often your chapter 7 trustee will require specific documents for your hearing and will want to review them in advance. You will be notified by mail after filing bankruptcy in Ohio from the trustee what these specific documents are, although they are likely many of the documents you used to fill out your bankruptcy forms. Make certain to send all of the requested documents to your trustee well in advance of any stated deadline, and at a minimum you should aim for at least one week prior to your scheduled hearing. If you have not heard from your trustee, and the date of your 341 hearing is approaching, you should reach out to them directly.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing your chapter 7 in Ohio and before attending your 341 hearing you should complete your second required bankruptcy course as required by Ohio bankruptcy laws. You likely signed up for both required courses at the same time, so be certain to follow up and get that done. Remember that Ohio is the home to Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Midwest, Inc. where you can complete this second course as a workshop in person. When you complete your second bankruptcy course, make sure to find out whether the agency you take course 2 with will file the certificate of completion with the court, or if you will need to do so yourself. If it is the latter, you can aim to file it on the date of your 341 hearing to save a trip, but make certain to file it with the Clerk’s Office rather than handing it to your trustee.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When filing a chapter 7 in Ohio you will be required to appear for one court hearing. This is your 341 hearing or “Meeting of Creditors”. This hearing will be before your chapter 7 trustee, not a judge, and tends to be relatively brief. Make certain to bring both your identification (picture ID) and proof of your social security number (social security card or other government issued document) The trustee will ask you questions regarding your income, assets and debts. You can help yourself prepare and get a sense of how this hearing is going to go by watching this video. The reason for this hearing is to confirm the information in your bankruptcy paperwork is true and accurate. So long as you were honest and complete in filling out your Ohio bankruptcy forms, the hearing will go smoothly. If something small comes up that needs to be corrected, the trustee may ask you to file an amended form or provide additional information. Follow up on this quickly and chances are it will not delay your case or require another hearing.
Dealing with Your Car
How to deal with your car is always a top concern for those filing chapter 7 in Ohio. The answer will depend on whether you own your car outright or are making payments on it. In both scenarios, whether you are able to keep your car will depend on the value. To determine the value you should use either a Kelley Blue Book Guide or NADA to determine the vehicle’s current worth, based on both age and condition. Then, if you are still making payments on your car, subtract the balance of any outstanding loan to determine the equity. In Ohio, state bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect up to $4,000 worth of equity in one vehicle, so if the equity is less than that or the overall value is less than that, you will be able to keep the car. One important caveat, however, is if you are making payments on your car, you must be current or able to become current on those payments at the time that you are filing chapter 7 in Ohio. If you are behind on your payments, and not able to catch up within a reasonable amount of time, it may make sense to surrender your car in the bankruptcy.
Ohio Bankruptcy Means Test
In order to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio you need to make certain that you are qualified to do so. You can find out by checking income limits. If your current monthly income (based on the last two months) is below the average median income for your family size in Ohio, then you will most likely qualify for filing chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio. Even if your income is above that amount, you may still qualify for chapter 7 by going through the full Means Test.
Data on Median income levels for Ohio
Ohio 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 Ohio
Ohio 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)|
Ohio Bankruptcy Forms
Ohio uses federal bankruptcy forms for the bulk of your paperwork. When filing bankruptcy in Ohio, it is still important to check the specific rules for your court to make certain you are including and completing all necessary local forms. Ohio has two different federal districts: the Northern District of Ohio and the Southern District of Ohio. Each district is further divided into a number of different geographic divisions.
Northern District of Ohio Requirements
The Northern District of Ohio includes five separate divisions, located in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown. It is located in the northern half of the state and covers forty of the state’s eighty-eight counties. Forms for the Northern District of Ohio can be found on the court’s website.
Southern District of Ohio Requirements
The Southern District of Ohio has only three separate divisions which are found in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. The Southern District of Ohio serves just over half of the counties in Ohio (48.) Forms for the Southern District of Ohio can be found on the court’s website.
Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions
When you are filing a chapter 7 in Ohio, it is important to be certain that you understand your exemptions properly. Exemptions allow you to protect your property up to varying amounts depending on the type of property you own. Even though bankruptcy law is federal law, every state has the option to “opt out” of federal exemptions. Ohio is a state that has taken advantage of this option, so you are limited to the use of Ohio state bankruptcy exemptions only. Ohio bankruptcy exemptions, however, are very favorable to consumers, particularly homeowners, as you can see below with some commonly-used Ohio exemptions:
Homestead exemption $145,425 in equity in your home. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(1).)
Motor vehicle exemption. $4,000 in one vehicle. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(2).)
Tools of the trade exemption. $2,550 worth of property needed in your trade or profession. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(5).)
Wildcard. $1,325 in the property of your choice. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(18).)
Ohio Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio usually costs around $690 to $1,200. You can also use the Upsolve attorney cost estimate by state to get an estimate for bankruptcy attorney fees in Ohio. If you are dealing with a more complicated chapter 7 bankruptcy case, it may be a worthwhile investment to have an attorney represent you.
Attorney cost estimate: $690 – $1,200
Ohio Legal Aid Organizations
Legal aid in Ohio is available at a number of different organizations. If you need help filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio, you can use the "Find your Legal Aid Tool" provided by Ohio Legal Help, or contact any of the legal aid organizations in Ohio listed below:
Community Legal Aid Services, Inc.
50 South Main Street, Akron, OH 44308
Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.
525 Jefferson Avenue, Suite 400, Toledo OH 43604-1371
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
1223 West Sixth Street, Cleveland, OH 44113-1354
Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati
215 East Ninth Street, Suite 200, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Ohio Court Locations
170 North High Street Columbus, OH 43215
Old Post Office Building
120 West Third Street Dayton, OH 45402
221 East Fourth Street Cincinnati, OH 45202
Howard M. Metzenbaum United States Courthouse
201 Superior Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114
John F. Seiberling Federal Building and United States Courthouse
Two South Main Street Akron, OH 44308
Ralph Regula Federal Building and United States Courthouse
401 McKinley Ave SW Canton, OH 44702
Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and United States Courthouse
10 East Commerce Street Youngstown, OH 44503
James M. Ashley and Thomas W.L. Ashley United States Courthouse
1716 Spielbusch Avenue Toledo, OH 43604
Ohio Bankruptcy Judges
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. John P. Gustafson|
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. Arthur I. Harris|
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. Russ Kendig|
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. Alan M. Koschik|
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. Jessica E. Price Smith|
|Northern District of Ohio||Hon. Mary Ann Whipple|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. Jeffery P. Hopkins|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. Charles M. Caldwell|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. John E. Hoffman|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. Kathryn Preston|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. Guy R. Humphrey|
|Southern District of Ohio||Hon. Beth A. Buchanan|
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|Josiah Locke Mason|
|Ericka S. Parker||ESPARKER@SBCGLOBAL.NET|
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