Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 9, 2020
Filing for bankruptcy can be a scary thing, but it does not have to be. Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is a way to get yourself back out into the daylight, where answering the phone is no longer associated with anxiety, because debt collectors will not be allowed to call you anymore. This guide will walk you through some of the most important things to know about filing an Oregon bankruptcy. Even though you're probably not happy to be here, remember that knowledge is power, and the more you know about your options, the better equipped you are to tackle any obstacles to your family's happiness and financial security. There is no shame in taking advantage of the protections afforded to you by the bankruptcy courts; life happens and sometimes things don't go as planned. What's important is that you take care of yourself and your loved ones; don't let the fact that things got away from you prevent you from getting back on track.
How to File Bankruptcy in Oregon for Free
If you are comfortable filing Chapter 7 in Oregon without a lawyer ("pro se"), you can absolutely do so, and the court has even published a detailed guide for pro se debtors. Alternatively, you may also be able to find a pro bono (free) lawyer, or use Upsolve to assist you in completing all the forms for free. If your monthly income is below a certain amount, you may also qualify for a waiver of the court filing fee, saving yourself the $335 that folks who are in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon normally have to pay.
Collect Your Oregon Bankruptcy Documents
Everyone who files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon should start by doing this as your bankruptcy documents will be helpful in every step of the way going forward. The first thing you should do is collect all the paycheck stubs that you and your spouse have received in the last 6 months. If you are getting paid by direct deposit, odds are they have been emailed to you and should be easy enough to locate in your inbox. If you get regular checks, and haven't kept track of the stubs, ask your payroll department to provide you copies. You should also get a copy of your credit report from each one of the three reporting agencies. You are entitled to get a free copy once per year and can request them directly from the agencies, or go through a third party. The other documents that will come in helpful when filing bankruptcy in Oregon are recent statements for your car loan and mortgage (if any), your two most recent federal income tax returns, and, if you were divorced in the last 10 years, a copy of your divorce decree.
Take Credit Counseling
Every person who wants to file an Oregon bankruptcy has to first complete a credit counseling course. This course is a requirement under the Bankruptcy Code, and it has to be completed in the 6 months leading up to your filing. The course will review your income and expenses and, if possible, put together a proposed debt repayment plan for you. Since you have to file a certificate of completion after filing Chapter 7 in Oregon, make sure you take the course through an provider approved by the United States Trustee to offer the course in Oregon. Most people take the course online, from the comfort of their home. If you are interested in attending the course in person, check out Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) of Southern Oregon, Debt Reduction Services, Inc., or Money Management International, who offer this course in person in Medford, Eugene, and Portland, respectively. The course itself usually takes less than 2 hours and having your bankruptcy documents, including a listing of your regular monthly household expenses, handy during the course will make things more efficient on your end. The costs for this class vary, so be sure to shop around bit, especially if you are planning on taking the course online.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
One of the added benefits of taking the credit counseling course before completing the forms you need to file for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is that it helps you familiarize yourself with the terminology and what is considered relevant information. Now that you are a more familiar with the particulars of your financial situation, completing the forms should come just a little bit easier. If you hire a lawyer to help you, they will complete the forms for you after collecting all the necessary information through a questionnaire or in person interview. If you are eligible to file through Upsolve, we will assist you to make sure everything is completed properly. If you are completing the forms on your own, you can obtain them for free online, along with these detailed instructions on how to complete them. You should also check out the court's instructions on how to prepare your creditor mailing matrix. Just remember, filing bankruptcy in Oregon means that you have to make certain disclosures to the court, and skipping questions, or omitting important information from your forms is not an option if you want your discharge.
Get Your Filing Fee
The court filing fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is $335. If you are able to pay this fee in full on the day you go to the courthouse to file your case, you should bring it with you in the form of a money order, or cash (in that exact amount). Even though the Oregon Bankruptcy Court's website indicates that it accepts personal checks, it's not clear whether that extends to people filing for bankruptcy protection, too. Most bankruptcy courts across the country only accept personal checks from law firms or similar organizations. If you can't raise the full fee before filing bankruptcy in Oregon, it is possible to get your case filed anyway and ask the court to allow you to pay the filing fee in installments instead. This will get your creditors off your back now and put an end to any kind of wage garnishments that may be negatively affecting your ability to come up with the full fee before filing your case. Finally, if your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, and there is no way that you can pay the full fee in installments even after your case is filed, you can ask the court to waive the fee for you by filing this application.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
This part of the process may seem pretty self-explanatory, but is worth some comments, nonetheless. Folks filing bankruptcy in Oregon without a lawyer ("pro se") have to bring all of their forms to the courthouse themselves. Per the court's website, only one copy of your documents is needed to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon. You should print (or make) a second copy for your own records that you can refer to later on in the process. Everything gets printed on white 8.5" x 11" paper, one page per sheet. In other words: Even though you will be using quite a lot of paper, don't print the bankruptcy forms you plan on filing with the court double-sided. The court has published Instructions for Filing and Individual Bankruptcy Case that lists all the documents you will have to print in order. Since the forms all look very similar to one another, it's a good idea to print that list first, then use it to make sure you are in fact done printing everything needed for an Oregon bankruptcy.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Since a some of the information on your bankruptcy forms is time-sensitive, try to head to the courthouse to file everything in the same week you printed it. Even though it may seem a little bit redundant, take advantage of the checklist for filing that the Oregon Bankruptcy Court has published on its website. Not only does it give you a second opportunity to make sure you are not missing any forms needed for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon, it also provides you with a valuable overview of the process as a whole. The bankruptcy court has two locations where documents can be filed. You should check out this listing to determine which division your county falls into. Since everyone filing bankruptcy in Oregon has to enter a federal building to do so, make sure you bring a valid picture ID and be prepared to pass through a security checkpoint on the way in. Finally, if you are not familiar with the part of town the courthouse is located in, look up the best parking options before you head out as the court will not be able to validate your parking.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Shortly after your case is filed, the Office of the United States Trustee will assign a trustee to administer your case. In fact, everyone filing Chapter 7 in Oregon has a trustee assigned to their case. Your main interaction with your trustee will be at the creditors' meeting after your Chapter 7 in Oregon is filed. In preparation for this meeting, you have to provide certain additional documents to the trustee to enable them to do their job. The bankruptcy code requires that you send a copy of your federal income tax return for the prior year to your trustee at least 7 days before your creditors' meeting. In addition, your trustee may send you a letter outlining which other documents or information they would like to review. When you hear from your trustee, carefully review what it is they want and how they want you to submit it to them. One of the Chapter 7 trustees for the Eugene division allows folks to upload documents, rather than send everything by mail. Make sure to follow the instructions your case trustee gives you, as cooperating with your case trustee is a major component of filing Chapter 7 in Oregon.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
The credit counseling course you took before filing bankruptcy in Oregon allowed you to become a debtor in bankruptcy. Completing bankruptcy course 2 renders you eligible for a discharge (assuming there are no other hurdles to having a discharge entered in your case, such as such as a prior bankruptcy). This course focuses on financial management and is intended to provide folks who filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon with some easy to use financial management tools to ensure that the discharge has a maximum impact and that you can make the most of your fresh start. The course must be completed through a company that is approved by the United States Trustee for Oregon to provide it. As with the first course, you can take this one online or by phone. Unfortunately, folks who want to take this course in person will have to travel Medford, as CCCS of Southern Oregon is the only provider offering bankruptcy course 2 in person. Once done, you will receive a certificate of completion that has to be filed with the court to confirm that you have complied with this requirement. If you do not, the court may close your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon without first granting you a discharge.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting, also known as your creditors meeting, will take place about 20 - 40 days after filing Chapter 7 in Oregon. Although it sounds stressful, it is really nothing to be worried about as long as you take just a moment to prepare. While creditors can attend your 341 meeting to ask you questions about your Oregon bankruptcy, it's mainly a meeting with your trustee. After the trustee confirms that you are who you say you are by checking both a picture ID and social security card (or acceptable alternative), you will be placed under oath to answer some questions. As long as you remember to take a deep breath and answer truthfully it will be over before you know it. Your trustee's questions are all about you and your financial circumstances and if you don't understand a particular question, it is perfectly ok to ask the trustee to clarify or restate it. Attending the creditors meeting is one of the requirements for the court to enter your discharge, so be sure to mark your calendars when you get the official notice from the court after filing Chapter 7 in Oregon. The court's filing checklist further recommends that you bring copies of your bank account statements to the meeting (though your trustee may have already asked for those ahead of time).
Dealing with Your Car
If you have a vehicle, you will have to deal with it as part of your bankruptcy. After all, everything you own is an asset in your case. If you don't have any equity because you are still making payments on your car loan, then filing Chapter 7 in Oregon gives you the opportunity to walk away from the car and the loan. If you don't want to surrender the vehicle, but you also don't want to keep making payments on a loan with bad terms, you are able to redeem it for its current value, thereby paying only what the car is worth. The discharge will remove your liability on whatever is left owing on the loan after your either surrender or redeem the vehicle. Finally, if you like your car, and your loan (including the monthly payments you have to make on it) make sense for your family, then you can keep everything basically the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. If you do have equity, or your car is paid off completely, then as long as it's worth less than $3,000 it is protected by the Oregon bankruptcy laws as long as you claim the correct exemption on your Schedule C.
Oregon Bankruptcy Means Test
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon the discharge will relieve you from the responsibility of having to pay back (most of) your debts. To prevent people who are actually able to pay at least some of their debts from taking advantage of this, everyone whose debts are primarily consumer debts (i.e. not related to a business venture) has to complete the Oregon means test for bankruptcy. The first part of this test compares your household income to the applicable income limits for your state. If you fail this first portion of the test (by making too much money), but the second part of the Oregon bankruptcy means test concludes that you do not have the ability to pay even a portion of your debts, you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon.
Data on Median income levels for Oregon
Oregon 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 Oregon
Oregon 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)|
Oregon Bankruptcy Forms
The forms you have to file with the court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon are a combination of national forms and local forms. The national forms are the same in every state and can be downloaded for free online. The Oregon Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms are also available online for free on the court's website. In addition to the specific forms you are required to file in this district (see below), the court's local forms include a Motion to Avoid a Judicial Lien on Real Property, an outline on how to redeem personal property securing a debt, and this application to pay your filing fee in installments.
District of Oregon Requirements
Oregon is a single bankruptcy district for the entire state with courthouses located in Portland and Eugene. The county you live in determines which of the two courts will handle your case. Oregon bankruptcy laws requires that, instead of filing your paycheck stubs with the court, you send them to the United States Trustee as the same time that your schedules are filed with the court. If you have any secured debts, you should use the local form created by the Oregon bankruptcy court to declare you intentions with respect to those debts. If you use the national form instead, the you will also have to file a proof of service confirming that you mailed both the form you filed and this document to all the creditors listed on the statement.
Oregon Bankruptcy Exemptions
Bankruptcy exemptions are the specific provisions in the law that protect your assets. Pursuant to Oregon bankruptcy laws, you can choose to use Oregon bankruptcy exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions for your case (but you cannot mix and match). Since anything you own that is not exempt can be sold for the benefit of your creditors, it's important to carefully review which of the two options most benefits you. You should not rely on information about which Chapter 7 exemptions your friends, colleagues, or relatives used in their Oregon bankruptcy, as it tells you nothing about how well that would work in your case.
Oregon Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
For some people who need an Oregon bankruptcy hiring a lawyer makes sense because the risk of losing an asset or other complications not necessarily present in every case make it too risky to handle the case pro se (without a lawyer). The cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is typically determined at the conclusion of a consultation with the attorney about your specific situation and averages just under $1,000 per case.
Attorney cost estimate: $499 – $1,500
Oregon Legal Aid Organizations
If you think that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is right for you, but don't have enough income to pay for a lawyer, you may want to check out what options you have for assistance through legal aid in Oregon. If you can make it work for your schedule, you can visit a bankruptcy clinic offered by the debtor-creditor section of the Oregon State Bar throughout the state. Additionally, the court provides a list of resources for free or low costs legal assistance on their website. Finally, nonprofits such as Legal Aid Services of Oregon may be able to help.
Oregon Court Locations
Oregon Bankruptcy Judges
|District of Oregon||Hon. Trish M. Brown|
|District of Oregon||Hon. David W. Hercher|
|District of Oregon||Hon. Peter C. McKittrick|
|District of Oregon||Hon. Thomas M. Renn|
|Candace E. Ambornfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Stephen P. Arnotemail@example.com|
|Rodolfo A. Camachofirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Kenneth S. Eileremail@example.com|
|Jeanne E. Huffmanfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Amy E. Mitchellemail@example.com|