Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t have to be scary and confusing. We provide helpful tips and resources to help you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in your state without a lawyer.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated February 9, 2022
People face financial struggles all the time, and the residents of Oklahoma are no different. Even whole towns have had to declare bankruptcy, as the residents of Moffett, Oklahoma know all too well. And thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are encountering money troubles even if they’ve never missed a credit card or student loan payment in their entire life. There are debt-relief options available to help people work their way out of debt or avoid foreclosure. But sometimes getting out of debt is unrealistic and bankruptcy becomes the best option, especially when the debt is the result of unexpected medical bills.
Filing for bankruptcy is a major decision and the process can seem daunting. Ideally, you can hire an attorney to help you through it. But most bankruptcy attorneys aren’t free. Luckily, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without an attorney and this guide will tell you how to do it.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Oklahoma
There are several costs associated with filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One of the most prominent is the court filing fee of $338, though you could be eligible for a fee waiver if your income falls below a certain monthly income threshold. There is another notable bankruptcy cost that doesn’t have an available waiver, unfortunately: hiring a bankruptcy lawyer. In many cases, this will be the most expensive cost of bankruptcy. But it’s possible to avoid paying expensive attorney fees by following a few key steps and handling your Chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself.
Collect Your Oklahoma Bankruptcy Documents
You’ll need several documents to complete the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Some of these are required by the Bankruptcy Code whether or not you’re filing with an attorney. These include:
Tax returns from the last two years.
Pay stubs from the last 60 days.
Bank statements that cover the time period you filed bankruptcy. This means if you filed bankruptcy on January 15, you’ll need the bank statement that covers January 15. Of course, this often becomes available only after filing, but that’s ok! You won’t need it until then.
Other documents are helpful to have when you’re completing your bankruptcy forms. These will provide the information you need to be truthful and complete with your bankruptcy filing. Because you have to sign your forms under oath, you could get into serious legal trouble for intentionally misleading the court. These documents that help you make sure you don’t leave anything out include:
Older bank statements, such as those from the past six to twelve months, that can help you calculate your monthly expenses.
Bills and statements from creditors.
Letters from debt collection agencies and other third-party debt collectors.
A credit report. In addition to checking on your credit history, your credit report can help identify your creditors. Federal law allows you to get one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the consumer credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). These don’t take long to retrieve, but if you’re working with Upsolve during your bankruptcy, they can get copies of your credit report for you.
Take Credit Counseling
Bankruptcy is just one of the many options you have fordealing with unmanageable debt. So before you file, bankruptcy law requires you to take a credit counseling course that goes over other debt-relief options.
You must complete this course in the 180 days before you file your bankruptcy petition with the court. And the class can only come from a provider that’s been approved to offer the class to filers from Oklahoma.
These classes only last one to two hours and most of the classes are offered online or by telephone. You’ll need to pay a fee for the course, but a fee waiver is possible. After finishing the class, you’ll get a certificate of completion that you provide the court along with the rest of your bankruptcy paperwork.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Filling out the Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms is often the hardest part of filing bankruptcy. Most of the necessary forms are the same across the country and can be downloaded for free as fillable PDFs from United States Courts.
If you’ve hired an attorney, they’ll complete the forms for you, but you’ll probably need to provide copies of financial documents and complete a questionnaire. They’ll then take this information to complete the forms for you to review to ensure their accuracy. If Upsolve is assisting you, then you’ll complete an online questionnaire and Upsolve’s software will generate the necessary forms based on the information you gave.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy costs $338. This filing fee can be waived if your household income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines (there’s a table later in this article that shows what these numbers are for Oklahoma residents). If you aren’t eligible for the fee waiver and can’t afford the $338 filing fee, you can arrange to pay the filing fee in installments. To do this, you need court approval, which you can request by completing a special form. If approved, you’ll make four payments within 120 days of filing your bankruptcy petition. The court usually sets the due dates for this payment plan.
Paying your filing fee in installments is a good option if you need to file bankruptcy as quickly as possible, but don’t have $338 in cash. This situation could arise if you wanted to use bankruptcy’s automatic stay to stop a wage garnishment. But, if you’re not facing a situation where you have to file as soon as possible, it’s usually best to wait until you have enough money to pay the filing fee in full. This is because if you miss one of the filing fee installment payments, the court might dismiss your bankruptcy case.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
This is the last step you need to do before filing your bankruptcy forms at the courthouse. If you have a computer and printer, this shouldn’t be an issue. Just remember the following guidelines when printing out your forms:
Only print one side to a page.
Only print on letter-size paper (8.5” x 11”).
Don’t print in color, just black and white.
Because many of the forms look alike, it’s easy to miss a page or get them out of order when you’re printing them out and organizing them into a packet for filing. To make sure you’re not missing anything, it’s helpful to have a checklist to refer to. Also, try to print two copies of all your forms. One copy will get filed with the court and one copy will serve as a record indicating what you filed and the information you put on the forms.
If you don’t have access to a computer and printer, you can usually find an office supply store, library, or a shipping retailer that will let you print out forms for a fee. And regardless of how you print your forms, you’ll need to sign the relevant pages. Upsolve users will get their completed forms electronically, with special dividers that note what forms need to be signed.
File Your Forms With the Oklahoma Bankruptcy Court
Depending on which county you live in, you’ll need to file your bankruptcy petition at the Oklahoma bankruptcy court for the Northern, Eastern, or Western District. Regardless of which District applies, you can file either in person or by mail. Electronic filing is currently only available to attorneys, although that may soon change for some Districts.
You can mail your forms in or have somebody drop them off for you, but it’s usually best to file your forms yourself and in person. That’s because if there’s a problem with your documents, filing them yourself will alert you to the issue and allow you to fix it immediately, if possible.
When filing in person, you need to prepare ahead of time for the courthouse visit. You’ll have to go through a security checkpoint as you enter, just as you would in other federal buildings. The U.S. Marshal deputies who operate the security checkpoints will likely appreciate you leaving behind any objects that might make them nervous.
Because of the coronavirus, it’s possible that one of the Districts in Oklahoma may have imposed modified filing rules. These can change at any time, so it’s best to check with the specific court’s coronavirus update page to get the most up-to-date coronavirus protocols for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
After you file bankruptcy, your case will get assigned to a bankruptcy trustee. One role of this person is to confirm the accuracy of the information you put on your bankruptcy forms. To do this, they’ll need you to send them some of your financial documents, such as:
Bank statements for any open bank accounts you had when you filed bankruptcy. These statements must cover the time period that includes the date of your bankruptcy filing.
Your most recent federal income tax returns from the last two years.
These documents must be sent to the trustee at least seven days before the 341 creditors’ meeting. In most cases, trustees will send you a letter identifying who they are and explaining the documents they need you to send them. Be sure to carefully comply with the trustee’s requests promptly. Any delay could slow down or even throw out your bankruptcy case.
Take a Debtor Education Course
To help you make the most of the financial fresh start offered by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, part of the bankruptcy process includes taking a financial management skills and tools course. You need to take this class from an approved provider and finish the class within 60 days of the 341 creditors’ meeting. If you don’t complete the class on time, you will not be receive a bankruptcy discharge. After finishing the class, you’ll receive a certificate of completion that you need to provide the court confirming you met this requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
One of the key points during the Chapter 7 process is the 341 meeting, sometimes called the meeting of creditors or creditors’ meeting. These meetings provide an opportunity for the creditors to learn more about your financial situation. Creditors are allowed to attend this meeting and listen to your answers to the trustee’s questions or ask you questions themselves. In the majority of 341 meetings, though, creditors don’t show up and it’s just you and the trustee. So most of the time, the only questions you face come from your trustee.
The questions you need to answer aren’t difficult, but your responses will be under oath and on the record. As long as you’re honest and have provided truthful and complete information on your bankruptcy forms, the meeting will be done in less than 10 minutes and you’ll be ready for the next step in your bankruptcy.
If you’re still nervous about the 341 meeting, you can prepare ahead of time to know what to expect. Because of how these meetings are scheduled, you should also have the chance to see other people have their 341 meetings and you’ll quickly see there’s little to worry about.
One thing to keep in mind is that because of the coronavirus pandemic, your 341 meeting could be held by telephone or videoconference. To confirm how your meeting will take place, check with your trustee.
Dealing with Your Car
When people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they’re sometimes surprised to learn that they can keep their car. How this process works depends on the value of your car, whether it’s subject to a lease, and whether you’re still making payments on a car loan. There’s also the fact that you may not want to keep your car.
You might choose to turn in your motor vehicle if it’s worth less than what you owe under the car loan. In this situation, you can surrender your car. This means you no longer have a vehicle (don’t worry, getting one after bankruptcy is possible), but now you don’t have to make any more car loan payments. This is true even if there’s still a balance on your car loan after your lender sells it at auction.
As for returning your vehicle that’s under a lease, you’re required to inform the bankruptcy court and the leasing company of what you’re planning on doing about it on your Statement of Intentions. If you return a leased car as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, whatever is left owing on the lease is eliminated by the bankruptcy discharge.
If your car has been paid off or has positive equity (it’s worth more than what’s still owed on the car loan), then you can keep your vehicle as long as its value is less than the applicable exemption. In Oklahoma, the vehicle exemption is $7,500.
If the car you keep isn’t paid off yet, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement where you continue making your monthly car payments. If you would rather not have to keep up your monthly payment, there’s an option called redemption. This lets you buy your car for its fair market value in a lump sum, even though it’s less than the remaining balance on the car loan.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Means Test
Chapter 7 bankruptcy isn’t available to everyone — after all — how fair would it be if someone making six figures could simply file Chapter 7 to get rid of their debts. You’re only eligible to file for Chapter 7 if your household income meets the criteria established by the Bankruptcy Code. To find out if you meet the criteria, you have to take a Means Test.
There are two parts to the Means Test. The first part is to determine your household income and if it is more or less than the median household income limit. If yours falls below the median income in Oklahoma, you are eligible to file for Chapter 7. If your income is higher than the median household income, you have to proceed to part two.
The second part of the Oklahoma Means Test looks at your monthly living expenses to determine your disposable income. After adding up all of your eligible expenses, if the sum is higher than your income, you’ll be eligible to file Chapter 7.
Data on Median income levels for Oklahoma
Oklahoma Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2022
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Oklahoma
Oklahoma Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2022
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Forms
The bulk of your bankruptcy forms are the same no matter whether you file. But some courts in certain states will require you to complete local forms. Most of the forms in an Oklahoma bankruptcy will consist of national forms. But there might be a few that involve local forms. One example is the Declaration Regarding Your Payment Advices. This acts as a cover page when you submit paystubs as a part of your bankruptcy filings. You can find a copy of this form and any other local forms from the appropriate Oklahoma bankruptcy court for the Northern, Eastern, or Western Districts.
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Oklahoma Districts & Filing Requirements
Like many other states, Oklahoma has multiple Districts, each with a dedicated bankruptcy court. Where you live in Oklahoma will determine whether you need to file your bankruptcy petition in the Eastern, Northern, or Western District. If you’re not sure where to file, you can use the Federal Court Finder tool. You can put in your location and it’ll give you a list of federal courts in your area, including the applicable bankruptcy court.
Eastern District of Oklahoma Filing Requirements
To file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Eastern District, you must either mail in your petition or drop it off in person. To pay the filing fee, you must use a cashier’s check or money order. If you’re paying your filing fee in installments, you must complete Official Form B 3A and include it with your bankruptcy filing. You must also include the first installment payment of at least $75.00. Any special procedures due to the coronavirus can be found on the front page of the Eastern District’s website.
Northern District of Oklahoma Filing Requirements
Filing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition can be done either in person or by mail. To pay your filing fee, you can use a money order, cashier’s check, or cash (exact change only). If you want to set up an installment payment schedule for your filing fee, you’ll need to complete Official Form 103A to get the court’s permission.
If there are any special rules or policies in place concerning the coronavirus, you can see the announcements on the front page of the Northern District’s website.
Western District of Oklahoma Filing Requirements
You must file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy documents either in person or by mail. To pay your filing fee, you must use a cashier’s check or money order. To pay the filing fee in installments, you’ll need to get the court’s approval by completing Official Form 103A. Any changes to court procedures due to the coronavirus can be found on the Western District’s coronavirus info page.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Exemptions
Unlike Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there is no repayment plan in Chapter 7. Instead, creditors are paid only if the filer has non-exempt property that the trustee sells. Yet some types of property are off-limits, or exempt, making a liquidation of assets quite rare even in Chapter 7. These exemptions exist to make it easier to get a financial fresh start and prevent someone filing for bankruptcy to have to start over from almost nothing.
Many exemptions cover basic needs, like a personal vehicle, equity in a home, tools for work, child support, alimony, retirement accounts, social security, and basic household goods. But non-exempt personal property is sometimes subject to certain limitations. For instance, the personal vehicle exemption is limited to $7,500.
Exemptions can exist under both federal and state law, with some states giving individuals the option of choosing which exemption to use. Oklahoma isn’t one of these states and instead requires all Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers to rely on exemptions available under Oklahoma law. Unfortunately, Oklahoma doesn’t provide wildcard exemptions that can be used for any type of property.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Most bankruptcy lawyers charge a flat rate for handling Chapter 7 cases. In Oklahoma, that rate usually ranges from between $800 and $1,250. The exact amount will depend on several factors, but the most important will be how complicated your case is. As you might imagine, the more complex a case is, the more an attorney is likely to charge. If you’re shopping around for a lawyer, price is important. But it’s only one factor to consider when deciding who to hire.
Oklahoma Legal Aid Organizations
It’s understandable if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. But on the other hand, you might not feel comfortable handling the case by yourself. Thankfully, there are legal aid organizations in Oklahoma that help bankruptcy filers for free or only charge a small fee for their services. This includes providing legal advice concerning what types of debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy and if Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are realistic debt relief options.
Oklahoma Court Locations
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Oklahoma||Hon. Tom R. Cornish|
|Northern District of Oklahoma||Hon. Dana L. Rasure|
|Northern District of Oklahoma||Hon. Terrence L. Michael|
|Western District of Oklahoma||Hon. Janice Loyd|
|Western District of Oklahoma||Hon. Sarah Hall|
|Gerald R. Miller|
|Sidney K. Swinson|
|Karen S. Walsh|
|Scott P. Kirtley|
|Patrick Joseph Malloy III|
|Gerald R. Miller|
|Steven W. Soule|
|Sidney K. Swinson|
|Karen S. Walsh|
|Kevin M. Coffey|
|Ginger L. Goddard|
|Douglas N. Gould|
|Joel C. Hall|
|Susan J. Manchester|
|John D. Mashburn|
|Lyle R. Nelson|