Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.
Updated October 9, 2021
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’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cedar Point, an amazing theme park for roller coasters and more. What you may not know is that it’s also ranked among the top 10 states in terms of bankruptcy filings.
If you’re considering filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio you are not alone. Ohio requires that you use the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions. If you’re a homeowner and have equity in your home, this is good news as Ohio state law offers considerable protection in this area.
How to File Bankruptcy in Ohio for Free
This article contains a roadmap of all the necessary steps to successfully file Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own in Ohio. Filing on your own is called filing “pro se” and it’s not uncommon.
Collect Your Ohio Bankruptcy Documents
The initial step for filing Chapter 7 in Ohio is to gather all of your documents. This will include 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 title to any vehicles or boats. If you own your home, you’ll need the deed to your home along with recent mortgage statements and proof of homeowner’s insurance.
Gather any documents regarding your retirement benefits and life insurance with any possible cash value. You’ll need to list all your creditors and how much you owe, so it’ll be helpful to obtain your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from one (or all) of the different credit reporting agencies. Having that will be a great starting point for your list of debts.
Take Credit Counseling
Bankruptcy law requires that you complete a mandatory credit counseling course before filing for bankruptcy protection. Here is a list of all approved providers for Ohio bankruptcy cases. 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’re working with an attorney, they'll assist you with this task and take care of the filing for you.
If you’re filing a Chapter 7 in Ohio on your own you’ll want to take advantage of all of the resources you can. You can start by checking if you’re eligible to use Upsolve’s free tool to prepare your forms. If so, you’ll complete a questionnaire and the answers will be used to populate the forms electronically.
If you’re filling everything out yourself, this helpful guide from the U.S. Courts will walk you through most of the forms. Beyond the regular forms (approximately 23), some courts require certain local forms in addition to the official forms. This depends on the district you’re filing in.
Get Your Filing Fee
The fee for filing Chapter 7 in Ohio is currently $338. 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 can’t afford the fee, and you earn less than 150% of the federal poverty line, you can file an application for a fee waiver which will be reviewed by the court. If approved, you won’t need to pay the fee. If the court denies your request, or you’re not eligible to apply, you can file an application to pay the fee in installments. That will buy you some extra time to come up with the full amount while getting the bankruptcy process started.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Once the forms are complete and you have worked out how you’ll pay the filing fee, it’s time to print your forms. Make sure to only print one-sided (double-sided pages are not accepted.) If you don’t have a printer at home or access to one at work, you can try your local library or a Kinko’s to print and make copies of your bankruptcy forms. It’s a good idea to keep a complete set for your own records.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
When filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio, your bankruptcy petition has to be submitted to the courthouse in paper. If you’re not able to go yourself, 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’s also a good idea to check the hours for the court and confirm there are no specific coronavirus restrictions in place.
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 bankruptcy trustee to handle your case. Often your Chapter 7 trustee will require specific documents in addition to the bankruptcy forms to prepare for your creditors’ meeting. You will be notified by mail from your trustee what these documents are. They’re usually the same kind of 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 before your scheduled 341 meeting. If you haven’t heard from your trustee, and the date of your 341 meeting is approaching, feel free to reach out to their office directly.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing, you’ll have to complete a second bankruptcy course, the financial management course. This is required by the Bankruptcy Code. 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’s the latter, consider taking the course before your 341 meetings, so you can submit the certificate to the court clerk while you’re at the courthouse.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
When filing a Chapter 7 in Ohio you will be required to meet with your bankruptcy trustee. This is your 341 meeting or “Meeting of Creditors.” There’s no judge and the meeting tends to be relatively brief. Make sure 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. One purpose of this meeting is to confirm the information in your bankruptcy paperwork is true and accurate. If something 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 a follow-up meeting.
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’re able to keep your car will depend on the value. You can use either a Kelley Blue Book Guide or NADA to determine the vehicle’s current value, 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.
If you’re still making payments on your car, make sure you’re current on your payments if you want to keep it.
Ohio Bankruptcy Means Test
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 6 months) is below the median income for your family size in Ohio, you pass the means test. If your income is above that amount, you may still qualify for Chapter 7 after completing a more in-depth means test analysis.
Data on Median income levels for Ohio
Ohio Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2021
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Ohio
Ohio 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)|
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. 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 bankruptcy 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. Exempt property includes:
Homestead (real estate you live in):$145,425 in equity in your home. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(1).)
Motor vehicle: $4,000 in one vehicle. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2329.66(A)(2).)
Tools of the trade: $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 $1,000 to $1,500. 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.
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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