Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 27, 2020
Not so long ago, many people resisted filing for Ohio bankruptcy because the process of filing for bankruptcy was stigmatized throughout American culture. When the Great Recession of 2008 occurred, it served as a wakeup call for Americans. The illusion that if you were hardworking and financially responsible, you’d never fall on times too difficult to manage without help was shattered. Most people who file for Cleveland bankruptcy are both responsible and hardworking. They struggle to pay their debts and make ends meet through little or no fault of their own. Thankfully, because the process of filing for bankruptcy has now lost its stigma, more Buckeyes are opting to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities that bankruptcy affords.
If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy in Cleveland, you should know that there are two primary bankruptcy approaches that may be available to you. First, Chapter 13 allows filers to restructure their debts so that their monthly payments due are significantly lowered. After they complete a 5-year repayment plan, the remainder of their eligible debts is eliminated. Second, Chapter 7 is an option available to filers who don’t earn much income and can’t reasonably be expected to pay back their creditors under a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 eliminates many kinds of debt in as few as 90 days. For this reason, if you’re eligible to file under Chapter 7, it’s generally considered the more immediately transformative debt relief solution. Especially if you don’t own much property of great value, this is probably your best available option. Filing for bankruptcy isn’t always the ideal solution to financial challenges. For example, if you’re a homeowner and are primarily in need of a mortgage modification, you might not benefit much from filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. But for many people struggling to meet their household expenses and pay their debts at the same time, filing any type of bankruptcy can change their lives for the better.
Cleveland Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Understandably and unfortunately, one of the x-factors that keeps some people from exploring the benefits of filing bankruptcy in Cleveland is the pressing concern of, “How much does a Cleveland bankruptcy lawyer cost?” This concern is understandable because most low-income filers can’t afford to hire a lawyer to help them with their case. But it’s unfortunate that worries about the cost of a bankruptcy lawyer keep potential bankruptcy filers from exploring this option because most low-income filers don’t need to hire bankruptcy assistance in Cleveland if they’re filing under Chapter 7. The Court tries to keep this process straightforward so that most filers can successfully complete this process without hiring an attorney unless they want to pay between $690 - $1,200 for some professional assistance with their Chapter 7 case.
How to File Bankruptcy in Cleveland, Ohio for Free
It’s important to feel confident and informed before you commit to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland. To learn more about what you can expect from the Ohio bankruptcy process, please consider the following information about the paperwork, educational requirements and potential challenges associated with this valuable debt relief option.
Collect Your Cleveland Bankruptcy Documents
When you’re working through all the forms required by the Court for filing under Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland, you may become understandably frustrated by the number of times the Court asks about certain areas of your finances. For example, you’ll be asked about your income, expenses, and debts repeatedly. To ensure that you’re answering these questions accurately and consistently, it helps to have certain personal financial documents available for easy reference. Before you begin tackling the paperwork required for filing bankruptcy in Cleveland, take a little time to request a free copy of your credit report from any of the three major credit reporting agencies, locate your most recent tax return and gather recent pay stubs and bank statements. A little preparation now will save you a headache or two later.
Take Credit Counseling
Deciding to file for Cleveland bankruptcy isn’t a minor event. Committing to the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland requires an investment of time, energy and communicating personal information to strangers. It’s partially because filing for bankruptcy is a significant decision that the Court seeks to make sure you’ve made an informed decision before you submit your case. It tries to accomplish this aim by requiring all filers to complete a credit counseling course during the six-month period before they file for bankruptcy. This course will help you understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of bankruptcy and other debt relief options available to you. When researching credit counseling courses, make sure to choose one that has been approved by the Department of Justice for filers in the Northern District of Ohio.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The most time-intensive part of how to file bankruptcy in Cleveland involves completing all the forms required by the Court. Some filers like to sit down and work until these documents are complete and ready to file, while others prefer to work through them a few at a time. No matter what your style is, remember to periodically double-check your math, as mistakes can lead to delays in your case or even its outright rejection. Thankfully, all of the forms you need to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland come with clear, step-by-step directions. As a result, your forms may take you some time to complete, but you should be able to complete them successfully without hiring a lawyer.
Get Your Filing Fee
When you’re having trouble paying your existing bills, the thought of incurring another expense can be enough to set you on edge. It’s therefore understandable that when many people filing bankruptcy in Cleveland learn that the process of having their Chapter 7 case evaluated costs $335, frustration results. Thankfully, not all filers are required to pay this generally mandatory fee. The Court understands that this fee can cause filers financial hardship. It therefore allows filers who live below 150% of the poverty line to apply for a fee waiver. It also allows Cleveland bankruptcy filers who earn more than that amount to request that they be permitted to pay this fee in smaller installments.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
Do you have a printer at home? If not, you may need to make a trip to any of the 27 branches of the Cleveland Public Library. The Court doesn’t allow filers to submit their forms online, so if you don’t have easy access to a printer, you’ll have to either stop by a commercial printing service, like Kinkos, or you’ll need to pop by the library to print your forms for a modest fee. If you’re printing completed Cleveland bankruptcy forms you filled out as PDFs, make sure not to leave them lying around. They contain sensitive information you don’t want to be stolen. If you’re printing blank forms to fill in by hand, this risk won’t be an issue.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
From the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to West Side Market, you likely live in Cleveland partially because you enjoy all it has to offer. One of the advantages of living in Cleveland is that it offers an easy way to file for bankruptcy in person. Cleveland’s impressive Metzenbaum Federal Courthouse located at 201 Superior Avenue. Make sure to plan ahead when filing bankruptcy in Cleveland, as there’s no public parking lot available. If you’re planning on driving to the Courthouse, make sure to bring cash or a credit card to park in a privately-owned ramp or lot. Also, make sure to bring along a spare set of your bankruptcy forms so the clerk can stamp it for your records.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Now that you have submitted your bankruptcy case to the Court, it’s time to complete the last two major tasks associated with filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland. You’ll need to take an educational course (discussed below) and you’ll need to attend a meeting with your Trustee. The Court can’t manage all aspects of the bankruptcy process on its own because its schedule is already overloaded. So, it assigns a Trustee to every Ohio bankruptcy case to manage specific parts of the process. Before your Trustee meeting takes place, you’re required to forward some personal financial documents for the Trustee’s reference. You’ll be given specific instructions once your Trustee is assigned, but you’ll likely need to forward recent pay stubs and your most recent tax return.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Do you remember how the Court required you to attend a credit counseling course before you could file for Cleveland bankruptcy? As a “bookend” to your bankruptcy process, you’re also required to attend a debtor education course at the end of your legal journey as well. This course focuses on personal financial management and is designed to ensure that your financial situation is stronger, more resilient and more grounded as you move forward after bankruptcy. You’re permitted to take any debtor education course offered that has been approved by the Department of Justice for residents of the Northern District of Ohio.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Don’t spend any nights awake worrying about your 341 meeting. If you’d like to prepare for your meeting, there are several things you can do to get ready. However, all you need to do is show up on time, bring your photo ID and an official copy of your Social Security card and answer your Trustee’s questions respectfully and honestly. Just as you needed to be honest when filling out your paperwork, you’ll need to be honest during this meeting because your Trustee will place you under oath when the meeting begins. The anticipation of this meeting is one of the most stressful parts of filing bankruptcy in Cleveland, but the meeting itself is routine. Expect it to last no more than a 15 minutes and try to dress semi-professionally so that you make a positive first impression.
Dealing with Your Car
If you’re responsible for making monthly payments on a car or truck, you may be wondering what filing bankruptcy in Cleveland will mean for your vehicle. This is an excellent question because exemptions don’t apply to property that doesn’t have any equity. When you’re still making payments on a car, the Court will let you keep it if you either redeem the car by paying the remainder of its balance in one payment, or you successfully reaffirm your debt. To reaffirm your debt, you’ll need to explain to the Court why you should be granted permission to keep making payments per the terms of your loan. The Court will generally only reject this request if you can’t explain how you’ll be able to make payment per the terms of your loan from now on. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to avoid making any more payments on your car, you can surrender the car by returning it to your creditor. Essentially, if you give your car back, the Court won’t hold you accountable for any more payments on that vehicle.
Ohio Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Cleveland
Ohio Bankruptcy Means Test
Chapter 7 judgments erase debt obligations, so it is in the Court’s interest to only let those residents who can’t pay back their creditors over 5 years apply for a discharge under Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland. As a result, the Bankruptcy Code imposes income limits on Chapter 7 filers generally and requires them to pass the Ohio bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7 specifically. The Ohio bankruptcy Means Test for Chapter 7 will evaluate whether (when taken together) your household size, income and expenses render you eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protections. If you don’t pass this Means Test, an experienced attorney can help you explore alternative bankruptcy solutions to your financial challenges.
Median Income Levels for Ohio
Ohio Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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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.
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Ohio Bankruptcy Forms
The only Ohio bankruptcy forms that the Northern District requires from everyone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Cleveland are standard, federal forms. Unless you need to make a specialized request of the Court or you need to notify the Court of information not contained in your standard paperwork, all the forms you need are standardized. The Northern District doesn’t broadly require filers to complete any local forms.
If you are concerned about what filing for Cleveland bankruptcy will mean for your property, know that you can use Ohio bankruptcy exemptions to keep most or all of your property safe from being sold by your Trustee for the benefit of your creditors. You will use a form called Schedule C to tell the Court which Ohio bankruptcy exemptions protect your specific property from sale by your Trustee. Unless you have unusually expensive property, exemptions should protect most, if not all, of your possessions.