Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 29, 2020
When overdue credit card statements, medical bills, and other debts begin to pile up, debt collectors start calling. And calling. And calling. Thankfully, there are debt relief options available for those struggling with mounting debt. Members of low-income households can even successfully file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney’s help.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
It has been observed that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The idea that you could file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without consulting a bankruptcy lawyer can seem too good to be true. If you’re dealing with debt challenges that are significant enough that you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy, you’re likely wary of believing that you can benefit from a significant debt relief process for free. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is kept purposefully straightforward because the bankruptcy courts recognize that those who are eligible to file for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code aren’t in a position to afford paid legal services.
Only members of low-income households are allowed to benefit from the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Consumers who earn a relatively decent, steady income file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or a specialized bankruptcy alternative (Chapter 12 for farmers, Chapter 11 for small business owners, etc.) instead. Because only low-income filers submit Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions, and these filers generally can’t afford the services of a bankruptcy law firm, the courts designed the Chapter 7 process so that most filers can prepare their bankruptcy cases on their own.
Preparing a bankruptcy petition is a time-intensive process. Hiring someone to do the legal “heavy lifting” for you can be less stressful than tackling the bankruptcy process on your own. However, it’s important to know that unless you want to hire an attorney, you are navigating special circumstances, or you have an unusually complex financial situation, you can file bankruptcy successfully without a lawyer.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
One of the primary differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that filing under Chapter 13 is much more complex than filing under Chapter 7 is. As a result, if you earn too much income to pass the Chapter 7 Means Test (which sets the income eligibility limits for Chapter 7 filers), you’ll want to schedule an initial consultation with a bankruptcy law office to discuss whether filing a Chapter 13 case is a good option for you.
Developing an attorney-client relationship with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer will help to ensure that your repayment plan is successful. The vast majority of Chapter 13 petitions prepared without a lawyer’s help ultimately fail. If you’re worried about affording paid legal advice, don’t panic. You can structure your repayment plan to include your legal fees. That way, you’ll be able to pay them off over time, using funds that would have otherwise gone to alternative creditors.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
Filing without assistance isn’t the best approach for everyone. If you don’t earn much money and you’d like free or low-cost professional help with your legal issues, you can contact legal aid societies in the Oklahoma City area to see if you’re eligible for assistance.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Stepping into a legal aid society is like walking into a busy law office. You’ll be screened for assistance eligibility, just like a private attorney would ask questions before agreeing to take your case. Also like a busy law office, you may not be able to meet with an attorney right away. Legal service organizations are funded by donations and grants, so they don’t always have the resources to meet client needs immediately. If you’re placed on a waitlist, you’ll be able to meet one-on-one with a staff or volunteer lawyer once you reach the top of that list.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
A good rule of thumb is that the less money you make, the more likely you’ll qualify for legal aid assistance for free or at a reduced rate. However, each legal aid organization is independent and sets its own eligibility guidelines. Therefore, you’ll want to contact specific organizations to confirm your eligibility before making any assumptions.
With that said, many organizations follow the directive of the Legal Services Corporation. This organization, which was founded by Congress nearly 50 years ago, funds legal aid societies in the United States. Recipients of LSC funding must, at a minimum, offer services to members of households whose annual income doesn’t exceed 125% of the federal poverty line.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Below, you’ll find phone numbers and other contact information for legal aid societies in or near Oklahoma City. Remember that each organization treats the matter of eligibility differently; if you aren’t eligible for help at one, you may be eligible for help at another.
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Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you’re unsure of whether you should file bankruptcy, you can speak with a qualified credit counselor at no cost. You can schedule a free credit counseling session with an accredited, non-profit credit counseling agency at any time. If you’ve determined you want to file for bankruptcy but you have questions, you can schedule a no-cost consultation with a bankruptcy law firm that offers this service. Most consumer bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation to anyone who is curious about filing for bankruptcy.
Meeting with a lawyer (not a paralegal, as paralegals can’t offer legal advice) in a consultation setting doesn’t obligate you to file bankruptcy or work with a lawyer. All you invest in this scenario is your time; it’s a risk-free process. To find a consumer bankruptcy lawyer near you, get a recommendation from a loved one or check out the following sites:
The Oklahoma State Bar Association website
Local bar association websites
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) website
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Filing without a bankruptcy attorney’s assistance is commonly referred to as “filing pro se.” Approaching Chapter 7 bankruptcy this way will save you money and allow you complete control over your case. However, this isn’t the best approach for everyone. You should do whatever makes the most sense for you and your financial situation.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
Filers who choose to approach case preparation pro se don’t have to do so without helpful guidance. There are many resources online that are designed to help pro se filers complete their bankruptcy processes successfully. For example, Upsolve’s Learning Center is a free resource that is always available to the public without a login. This educational hub features both general and geographically specific guides to filing bankruptcy pro se. It also provides access to hundreds of articles about bankruptcy law and non-bankruptcy debt relief alternatives.
Eligible Chapter 7 filers can also streamline their efforts to achieve a fresh start by preparing their bankruptcy forms using Upsolve’s free filing tool. Although this platform is only accessible to those filing “simple cases,” it is an excellent resource for those who are eligible to use it. It is secure, easy to navigate, and provides access to all the forms you’ll need to complete your bankruptcy petition. Taking the guesswork out of the pro se filing process is a major function of the filing tool.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
If you prefer printed guides or just want to supplement your online research, you can pick up self-filing information at your nearest bankruptcy court. Courts usually publish free information on the types of bankruptcy, requesting a filing fee waiver, preparing for the meeting of creditors, and other helpful aspects of bankruptcy law.
Old Post Office Building
215 Dean A. McGee Avenue Oklahoma City, OK 73102
United States Post Office and Courthouse
101 N. 5th Street Okmulgee, OK 74447
224 South Boulder Avenue Tulsa, OK 74103
Unless your case is particularly complex or you own a lot of expensive property, you can successfully achieve a fresh financial start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a lawyer’s assistance. If you want to work with an attorney, you can do so at any time. This may be the best option for you, as no two financial situations are exactly alike. However, if you choose to file pro se, make sure to take advantage of any free self-filing resources that you find to be helpful. Focusing on the benefits of the process can help you navigate it quickly and with minimal stress.