How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Oregon
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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
Filing for bankruptcy can feel scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a way to get back on your feet and stop worrying about debt collectors contacting you.
This guide walks you through the steps of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon. Bankruptcy isn’t the only option for debt relief, but it’s a powerful tool for people struggling with debt to change their life in a matter of months. Remember that knowledge is power. The more you know about your options, the better equipped you’ll be to tackle obstacles between you and financial security.
How To File Bankruptcy for Free in Oregon
Using a bankruptcy lawyer can be really helpful, but doing so is typically the most expensive cost in a bankruptcy case. You can absolutely file your Chapter 7 case without a lawyer. This is called filing “pro se.” This guide walks you through how to file your case on your own in Oregon.
Collect Your Oregon Bankruptcy Documents
The first step for anyone filing bankruptcy, even people who hire a lawyer, is collecting the required documents.
Specifically, you’ll need:
The last two years of tax returns, which you can get from the IRS online if you can’t find them.
The last 60 days of paycheck stubs. Your employer’s payroll department can give you copies of these.
A bank statement that covers the date you file your bankruptcy petition.
It’s also a good idea to get copies of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. If you file with Upsolve, it will pull your credit report for you. The credit report makes it easier to figure out who your creditors are and how much you owe them. It will also be helpful to collect the monthly statements and letters from debt collectors and collection agencies.
Other documents that aren’t necessary but can be helpful are:
Bank statements from the last 6-12 months.
Recent statements from your car loan and mortgage, if you have them.
A copy of your divorce decree if you were divorced in the last 10 years.
Even though it takes a while to get your paperwork together, having all your documents in one place will make it a lot easier to fill out your bankruptcy forms.
Take Credit Counseling
Before you can file your bankruptcy case, you need to take a credit counseling course. The class will talk about your income and expenses and help you think about a proposed debt repayment plan.
You must take this class from a provider approved by the state of Oregon within six months (180 days) of filing your bankruptcy petition with the court. The course takes about two hours to finish, and you can do the course over the phone or online from home. At the end of the course, you’ll get a certificate that you’ll need to give to the court when you file bankruptcy.
The costs for this class vary. Be sure to shop around, especially if you’re planning on taking the course online. If you can’t afford the course, you can apply for a fee waiver.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
One of the added benefits of taking the credit counseling course before completing the bankruptcy forms is that you can familiarize yourself with the terminology and the information you’ll need to list on the forms.
If you hire a lawyer to help you, they’ll give you a questionnaire to fill out. Then they’ll complete the forms for you based on your information. Upsolve works similarly. If you file with Upsolve, you’ll fill out an online questionnaire, then our software will generate your forms using that information.
If you’re working through the paperwork on your own, you can find fillable PDFs online, along with detailed instructions to help you complete them. Most of these forms are federal, so they’re the same across the country. You should also check out the court's instructions on how to prepare your creditor mailing matrix.
Be careful and honest when you go through the forms. To ensure you get your discharge, don’t skip any questions or leave out important information.
Get Your Filing Fee
The filing fee for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is $338. Usually, it’s a good idea to file your bankruptcy case when you can pay in full, even if it means waiting a little longer to file. But if you’re facing wage garnishment or foreclosure, you may want to file quickly. Once you file, the court issues an automatic stay that prevents creditors from coming after you.
In this case, it makes sense to ask the court to let you make installment payments. The court will set the minimum installment fee. The payment plan lets you make up to four payments, but if you can’t pay the full $338 in 120 days, your case can be dismissed with no refund.
The Oregon Bankruptcy Court accepts checks and money orders in person or by mail. At the moment, the court won’t accept cash payments as a COVID-19 safety precaution. You can also use a credit card to make installment payments online.
If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can ask the court to waive the fee for you.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
If you’re filing bankruptcy in Oregon without a lawyer, you’ll have to bring or mail all of your forms to the courthouse.
Print everything on regular white 8.5 x 11-inch paper in black ink on one side of the page only. Oregon’s bankruptcy court provides instructions for filing, including a list of documents. As you print each document, check it off the list to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t forget to read through everything and sign in all the required places. You’ll need one copy of the documents to file your case. You should print (or make) a second copy of your bankruptcy filing for your own records.
If you file with Upsolve, your forms will come in a single downloadable packet that includes dividers that flag each signature page.
File Your Forms With the Oregon Bankruptcy Court
Some of the information on your bankruptcy forms is time-sensitive, so try to file your case the same week you print your documents. Do one last review of the court’s checklist to make sure you have everything you need.
In most states, you can’t file your bankruptcy online unless you’ve hired a lawyer to file your case. Oregon is an exception. It allows you to upload your documents online. You can also bring your documents to the courthouse in person, or mail them. Normally, the court has locations in Eugene and in Portland, but the Eugene office is closed as a COVID-19 safety measure. In the Portland office, you can put your documents in a drop box that the court staff will review. Someone else can drop these off you if necessary. Before you file, make sure you check the latest COVID-19 rules.
If you go to the federal courthouse, make sure you bring a valid picture ID and be prepared to pass through a security checkpoint. Finally, if you aren’t familiar with the part of town the courthouse is located in, look up the best parking options before you head out because the court doesn’t validate 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. You’ll receive a letter from the court with this information.
Your main interaction with your bankruptcy trustee will be at the meeting of creditors. You need to provide certain additional documents to the trustee before the meeting including:
Your most two recent federal income tax returns, and
A bank statement that covers the date you filed bankruptcy.
Your trustee may send you a letter asking for other documents or information they’d like to see. When you hear from your trustee, carefully review what they want and how they want you to give it to them. Do they ask you to mail things in or can you upload them to a website? Make sure to follow the instructions your case trustee gives you. The sooner they see everything they need, the sooner you can wrap up your case.
Take a Debtor Education Course
The credit counseling course you took before filing bankruptcy allowed you to become a debtor in bankruptcy. You’re also required to complete the personal financial management course before the court will discharge your bankruptcy case. This course focuses on financial management and gives you some easy-to-use financial management tools to make the most of your fresh start.
You need to take the course from a state-approved provider, but you can take it online or over the phone. After you finish, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. You must file this with the court before it will discharge your bankruptcy. If you don’t send the certificate within 60 days of the 341 creditor’s meeting, the court can close the case without a discharge, so don’t be late! You can take the course before the meeting to get it over with.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
Your 341 meeting — also known as your creditors’ meeting — will take place about 20-40 days after you file your Chapter 7 case. You don’t need to stress out about the meeting (though it’s totally normal if you do), but you should prepare by reviewing your bankruptcy documents. You can bring a copy of this paperwork with you to the meeting, along with a copy of your bank account statements.
At the meeting, the trustee will check your ID and then put you under oath to answer some questions about you and your financial situation. If you don't understand a question, ask the trustee for clarification. Creditors can attend your 341 meeting to ask questions about your bankruptcy, but this rarely happens. Remember to take a deep breath and answer truthfully, and it’ll be over before you know it.
This meeting is a requirement for the court to enter your discharge, so mark your calendar when you get the official notice from the court. After the meeting, you’ll need to submit your completion certificate from the personal financial management course within 60 days to finish your bankruptcy case.
At the moment, all 341 meetings across the country are being held via telephone or video conference as a COVID-19 measure.
Dealing with Your Car
One of the most important decisions in your bankruptcy case is what to do with your car. As with most things, you have options.
If you don’t have any equity in the car, you can surrender it and walk away from the loan. If you don't want to give up your car, but you also don't want to keep making payments on a loan with bad terms, you can redeem it for its current value. You do this by paying whatever the car’s current market value is. The discharge will remove any remaining liability you have on the loan.
If you like your car, your loan, and the monthly car payments, then you can keep everything the same by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. Similarly, if you’re leasing the car and you want to continue the lease agreement, you can talk to the car owner about continuing the arrangement.
If you have equity in the car, or if it’s paid off completely, then it’s protected under state law if it’s worth less than $3,000. After bankruptcy, it can be easier to buy a car because your credit score may go up.
Oregon Bankruptcy Means Test
Only some people are allowed to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon. As part of your bankruptcy paperwork, you have to show that you’re eligible for Chapter 7 by taking the means test.
This is a two-part test. First, compare your household income to the median income for Oregon. If your household income is lower than the median, you “pass” the test. Otherwise, you’ll take part two of the test, comparing your household expenses, disposable income, and debt. If your debt is high enough compared to your income, you’ll qualify to file for Chapter 7. Otherwise, you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Data on Median income levels for Oregon
Oregon Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2023
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty levels for Oregon
Oregon Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2023
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 are a combination of national forms and local forms. The national forms are the same in every state, and you can download them for free online. You’ll also need to file some local forms. The Oregon Bankruptcy Court has a guide to the bankruptcy process for people who file without a bankruptcy attorney.
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District of Oregon Requirements
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon serves the whole state. There are two bankruptcy courthouses, located in Portland and Eugene. However, the Eugene courthouse is currently closed because of COVID-19. You can file your case at the Portland courthouse by mail, in person, or online.
Oregon lets people pay their bankruptcy fee in installments by credit card, mail order, or check. If you don’t pay the installment fee on time, the court can throw out your case without issuing a refund.
Oregon Bankruptcy Exemptions
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your personal property and real estate can be liquidated and sold to pay off your creditors. However, bankruptcy exemptions protect specific property from being sold.
Oregon’s bankruptcy law lets Chapter 7 filers protect their property with either federal exemptions or state exemptions. You can choose which set of exemptions work best for you.
Under federal law’s homestead exemption, you can protect up to $25,150 of equity in your house if you file your taxes individually, or $50,300 if you’re married and file jointly. The Oregon bankruptcy code protects up to $40,000 for an individual filer and $50,000 for married filers.
Federal law protects up to $4,000 of equity in your car, while Oregon protects up to $3,000. Both systems also have a wildcard exemption, which protects up to $13,400 worth of household goods, furniture, and clothing. Under Oregon law, each item can be worth up to $675, but under the federal system, each item can only be worth up to $625.
Other types of assets, such as health aids, alimony, and child support payments, are completely protected under both sets of laws.
Oregon Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
Attorneys generally charge a flat fee for Chapter 7 cases. In Oregon, the average cost is between $499 and $1,500. The cost depends on how complicated your case will be. Remember that cost isn’t the only thing you should consider when hiring a lawyer. In some cases, a lawyer could save you money because they know the law and might be able to protect more property than you could on your own. You can attend a free consultation with lawyers you’re interested in working with to see which might be a good fit for your situation.
Oregon Legal Aid Organizations
If you think Chapter 7 is right for you but you don't have enough money to pay for a lawyer, look into legal aid options. These organizations provide low-cost or even free legal services for civil cases. Getting legal advice can be a good option for people who aren’t comfortable filing on their own. The Oregon Bankruptcy Court also has a list of low-cost legal organizations.
Legal Aid Services of Oregon
520 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1130, Portland, OR 97204
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Oregon Court Locations
1001 Southwest Fifth Avenue Portland, OR 97204
Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse
405 East Eighth Avenue Eugene, OR 97401
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|