10 step guide on how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma without a lawyer. This guide provides an overview of the bankruptcy process for filers seeking debt relief in the Oklahoma Bankruptcy Court.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated November 21, 2020
If you’re finding yourself having to choose between which bill to pay this week and which one to table for next week, you’re not alone. Especially in the era of COVID-19, with hours reduced or cut altogether, a lot of folks who have never missed a payment for anything in their life find themselves in this situation. And just about all of them are good hard-working people that had something unexpected happen.
Whether that’s a job loss, a natural disaster, unexpected medical expenses, or a global pandemic, you should not feel like you’re failing anyone. Life sometimes happens, and the best and most responsible thing you can do may just be to ask for bankruptcy protection. This guide will give you an overview of what you can expect of the bankruptcy process and the things everyone filing bankruptcy in Oklahoma should know and provide you with links to helpful resources for the rest of your journey.
How to File Bankruptcy in Oklahoma for Free
AChapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma normally involves a $335 court filing fee. But, if your household income is belowa certain threshold and you can't afford to make installment payments for the filing fee, the bankruptcy court can waive your fee. Next, let’s take a look at what it takes to file bankruptcy in Oklahoma.
Collect Your Oklahoma Bankruptcy Documents
There are a number of documents you’ll need to collect when preparing to file your Oklahoma bankruptcy. Some of them, like your most recent income tax return and your recent pay stubs are needed under bankruptcy law. Others are helpful to make sure that you’re not forgetting anything when you’re filling out your forms.
You may think that you have the information in your head and don't need to look anything up, but it's not that simple. Remember, you will be signing the bankruptcy forms under oath and penalty of perjury, so "accidentally forgetting" information can have serious consequences.
To make sure your list of debts and debt collectors is as complete as possible, get a copy of your credit report from each one of the three reporting agencies. You’ll also need a full 6 months of paycheck stubs to complete themeans test calculation and your bank statements will come in useful when tracking your monthly expenses and putting together a budget for life after bankruptcy.
Take Credit Counseling
If you’re in more debt than you can handle, you have a number of debt relief options on how to deal with it. That’s why everyone filing bankruptcy has to complete a credit counseling course before their bankruptcy petition can be submitted to the court. Since the certificate of completion you’ll get is valid for 180 days, you can take the course at any time in the six months before filing bankruptcy.
The course is a single class that takes about 1 - 2 hours to complete. If you’re outside of the Tulsa area, it's probably best to plan on taking this course online or by phone, as only two of the providersapproved to offer this course in-person options, and both of them are in Tulsa. All other approved providers can work with you by phone, online, or both.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Completing the bankruptcy forms is typically the most labor-intensive and time-consuming task of any Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. If you hire a lawyer, they’ll do the heavy lifting by having you provide your bankruptcy documents to their office first, then asking you questions to find out all of the necessary information. It's important to be completely honest in answering your lawyer's questions, as they can only help you if they know all the facts.
Folks that are filing bankruptcy without a lawyer ("pro se") can either complete the forms themselves, or if they’re eligible to do so, use Upsolve’s free online tool. When you’re done completing the forms, you should give yourself a little bit of time to walk away from it all before coming back to do a final review of everything. Remember, these documents are going to be part of the court record in your Oklahoma bankruptcy case, so it is important to make sure you didn't miss any questions.
Get Your Filing Fee
The total fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $335. If your household income is greater than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you’re not eligible to have your court filing fee waived. While it may seem strange that the court is charging people a fee to file bankruptcy, keep in mind that everyone filing bankruptcy got to that point in their lives a different way. Bankruptcy laws protect all who don’t have enough disposable income to pay their debts as they come due. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don't have any money; it just means their minimum monthly payments add up to more than they can afford to pay.
If you’re unable to collect the full court filing fee, plan ahead by completing an application to make payments after filing your case. When you go to the bankruptcy court to file your case, you’ll hand in the application and a small down payment. The initial payment varies from $40 - $100, so make sure you call ahead to find out the exact amount you’ll need to submit with the application.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
This will be the last step before you head to the courthouse to file all the paperwork needed for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Some of the information contained in the forms is time sensitive, so be sure to make any necessary updates if some time has passed since you filled everything out. It's helpful to have a checklist in front of you as you print everything. A lot of the forms look alike and it’s easy to lose track.
Make sure you print everything on white 8.5" x 11" paper and keep everything in the same order as the checklist you’re using. Even though it may seem a little wasteful, don't print on both sides of the paper. Since these documents are going to be part of the bankruptcy court's file for your Oklahoma bankruptcy case, they can’t be double-sided.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The first thing you’ll have to figure out is which district your bankruptcy case has to be filed in. There are three districts in the state, and the county you live in determines which one you have to go to. Start by checking this list of counties to determine the proper district for your Oklahoma bankruptcy.
Depending on which district you fall into, you will have to head to either Muskogee, Tulsa, or Oklahoma City. Either way, remember that you will have to go through security on your way into the courthouse and leave anything that might make the Federal Marshals nervous at home. Plus, since a lot of courts have changed their operations in response to the coronavirus, make sure you check their in-person filing options before you head to the courthouse.
Once inside the courthouse, head to the clerk's office. The clerks in that office will take your bankruptcy forms and your court filing fee and provide you with a case number after processing everything. While you’re in there, remember that even though this is an extremely stressful time for you, the clerks are here to help you and should be treated with courtesy.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma has a bankruptcy trustee appointed to handle their case. One of the things the trustee has to do is compare the information you provided on the documents you filed with the Oklahoma Bankruptcy Court to the information contained in your tax return. This means that, at minimum, you have to be ready to send your most recent income tax return to your trustee.
Since the trustees operate independently from each other, each one handling their own caseload, they have developed different processes. After your case is filed, make sure to keep an eye out for any correspondence from your trustee, as it’s not unusual for them to send letters with a request for additional documents. If you get such a request, make sure to carefully review it and comply with the instructions contained in the letter by the deadline. Otherwise, you risk a delay in the entry of your discharge or, in extreme cases, have your case tossed out.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The purpose of filing Chapter 7 in Oklahoma is to get a fresh start.This fresh start begins when you file your case and the automatic stay goes into effect. It becomes permanent when your bankruptcy discharge is entered. Before the bankruptcy court can enter the discharge in your case, you have to complete bankruptcy course 2 and file your certificate of completion with the court.
This course focuses on providing you with financial management skills and tools that will help you make the most of your fresh start after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma is done. As before, it’s very important to confirm that the company you plan on using to complete this requirement is approved for the Oklahoma bankruptcy district you live in. A full list of all providers for all three districts is available from the Office of the United States Trustee. If you liked the company that you did the first course with, it's ok to ask if they are also approved to offer bankruptcy course 2 and, if so, go through them to fulfill this requirement.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting, also called the meeting of creditors, takes place about a month after your bankruptcy case is filed. Everyone filing bankruptcy has to attend a 341 meeting. They are scheduled in half-hour increments, but since most 341 meetings only take about 5 minutes, multiple cases are scheduled at any one time. This is actually not a bad thing, as it typically means that you'll be able to watch a few of them before your case is called, so you know exactly what to expect.
The primary purpose of the 341 meeting is for the bankruptcy trustee that is handling your case to ask you certain questions while you are under oath and on the record. The questions are not hard, and actually, this is the one time where people who have a lawyer still have to do exactly the same thing as people who file pro se. Your creditors are invited to attend this meeting, listen to your answers, and even ask you questions directly, though that doesn’t actually happen in most cases.
Dealing with Your Car
Your car is an asset in your Oklahoma bankruptcy case. This means you have to list it on your Schedule A/B. This is true even if you think (or know) that the car isn't really worth much, as it's ultimately up to the trustee to find the answer to that question.
If you have a car loan you are still making payments on, you should find out if you have any equity. If your car is owned free and clear, or if you have equity, then as long as its value (or equity) is less than the allowed exemption, nothing changes.
A lot of people filing Chapter 7 in Oklahoma still have a loan when their case is filed. If that’s you, rest assured there is a way of dealing with your car that works for your situation. If you don't want the car, or can't easily make the monthly payments, you can surrender the vehicle. If you want to keep it, you’ll have to find a way to pay for it. One way is to enter into a reaffirmation agreement that, in effect, pulls the loan out of the pool of discharged debts, and keep everything as it was before your case was filed. Another way is to get rid of the loan by paying the bank for the current fair market value of the vehicle. This process of redemption is especially beneficial if the loan balance is much greater than the value of the motor vehicle.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Means Test
Not everyone is able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma. Only people whose household income is less than the applicable income limits automatically pass the Oklahoma means test for bankruptcy. If you make more than the median income, you’ll have to complete the full means test analysis to determine if you can file a Chapter 7.
Data on Median income levels for Oklahoma
Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 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)|
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Forms
The official national bankruptcy forms are the largest part of the Oklahoma bankruptcy forms needed for your Chapter7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma. In addition to these national forms, all of which are available for free online, each district has a certain number of local forms. These local forms are often well beyond what is needed in a typical Oklahoma bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, with one exception. The Declaration Regarding Your Payment Advices is a sort of cover page for the paycheck stubs you are required to submit.
Eastern District of Oklahoma Requirements
The Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District is located in Muskogee and covers 26 counties. This district also requires everyone to use a local form when submitting their paycheck stubs. Additionally, a number of local forms for various bankruptcy matters, including Chapter 13 bankruptcy, are available on its website. While it's good to keep this resource in mind, you shouldn't need any other local forms when you first go to court to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma. None of them are needed when you initially file your Oklahoma bankruptcy case.
Northern District of Oklahoma Requirements
The Northern District of Oklahoma, established in 1925, comprises 11 counties in the northeastern corner of the state. The court itself is located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to the district specific declaration of payment advices, this district requires everyone filing bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney to complete and file this Pro Se Filing Disclosure.
Western District of Oklahoma Requirements
The largest of the three districts, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District hears cases from 40 counties and is located in Oklahoma City. Given the large geographic area this district covers, 341 meetings take place in Oklahoma City, Enid, and Lawton. The county you live in determines where your 341 meeting will be scheduled.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Exemptions
Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t require a repayment plan like Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Instead, when people file Chapter 7, they agree to let the bankruptcy trustee sell their nonexempt property. Most basic personal property is protected by an exemption. Real estate used as a home is protected by a homestead exemption. Retirement accounts, social security, and most tools used for business purposes typically protected by an exemption as well.
The bankruptcy trustee can’t reach property that is exempt (or protected) by the Oklahoma bankruptcy exemptions. Although some states allow the use of federal bankruptcy exemptions, Oklahoma is not one of them.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
The cost of a bankruptcy lawyeraverages around $1,000 for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma. Since the specific facts of your situation determine the relative complexity of your case, most Oklahoma bankruptcy lawyers will provide you with a quote at the end of your free initial consultation. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy fees generally vary greatly, as a Chapter 13 case lasts for a much longer period of time.
Oklahoma Legal Aid Organizations
If you can’t afford a lawyer for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you don't have to hire one. But, if you’re not quite comfortable going through the process without a bankruptcy lawyer, look into the Oklahoma legal aid organizations near you. These nonprofits provide free legal assistance to qualifying individuals and families on a wide-ranging number of cases, including Oklahoma bankruptcy cases.
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|