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 City, State. 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 Portland, Oregon.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated October 16, 2020
If you’re thinking about filing bankruptcy but you’re worried about affording an attorney’s legal services, there’s good news. If you’re eligible to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and your case isn’t unusually complex, you can file successfully on your own. If you’re filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your legal fees can be integrated into your repayment plan.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
If you don’t earn much income and you don’t own a small business, a lot of expensive personal property, or real estate other than your home, your best bet when filing consumer bankruptcy is likely going to be Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is unique in that it doesn’t require repayment of your dischargeable debts. Instead, your eligible debts will be eliminated in as little as 90 days.
Filing under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is an option that is only available to members of low-income households. The courts therefore understand that if you’re eligible to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7 that you probably can’t afford the services provided by a bankruptcy law office. As a result, they try to keep the process of preparing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case so straightforward that most filers can complete and submit their bankruptcy petitions successfully without a bankruptcy lawyer’s help.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy works differently than Chapter 7 bankruptcy does. Eligibility for Chapter 13 bankruptcy isn’t based on income limits. As a result, virtually any consumer in need of debt relief can file bankruptcy under Chapter 13. This process is more complex than Chapter 7 bankruptcy is, so it’s not a good idea to prepare your case yourself. Thankfully, paying for a bankruptcy attorney’s Chapter 13 services is fairly easy. You can pay a portion of your legal fees through your repayment plan over 3-5 years. This may allow you to pay for legal services through funds that would have been sent to your other creditors no matter what.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
If you’re hesitant to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without access to in-person legal advice but you’re worried about affording the services provided by a bankruptcy law office, consider connecting with a legal aid society. If you don’t earn much money, you may be eligible for their free or low-cost legal services.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Legal aid societies are non-profit organizations founded with the mission of providing free and low-cost legal assistance to members of low-income households. They operate much like private law firms do, but they aren’t as well funded. As a result, they screen potential clients for assistance eligibility based on their income level. Also, they often have to put clients on a waitlist before they can develop a one-on-one attorney-client relationship with a staff or volunteer lawyer. This is simply because their resources tend to be stretched thin when compared to public demand for their help.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
The best way to find out whether you’re eligible for legal aid society is to use the phone numbers listed below. Just call each Portland-area legal aid society and ask about their criteria. Many legal aid organizations base their eligibility criteria on the model set by the Legal Services Corporation. Societies that receive LSC funding provide free or low-cost legal services to (at a minimum) members of households that report an annual income below 125% of the federal poverty line. However, each organization sets its own criteria. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to make assumptions about whether you qualify until you contact individual organizations.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
The contact information for legal aid organizations in Northwestern Oregon is listed below. When you ask about eligibility criteria, inquire as to estimated wait times for new clients as well. This will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to schedule an appointment.
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Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you’re unsure of whether your legal issues are complex enough that you’d benefit from hiring an attorney during the bankruptcy process, you can ask a consumer bankruptcy lawyer questions in an initial consultation setting. Most lawyers who practice Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy offer free consultations to prospective clients. Attending this meeting doesn’t obligate you to hire that attorney or to file for bankruptcy. It is a no-risk setting that only requires the investment of your time. It’s a similar process to obtaining a free credit counseling session from an accredited, non-profit credit counseling organization. No cost and no risk.
To locate a licensed bankruptcy attorney, you can check out the NACBA’s website. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys maintains a searchable database of lawyers who practice Chapter 7 and/or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Similarly, the Oregon State Bar Association and local bar associations can be helpful when researching your options. Friends and family who have filed bankruptcy can serve as helpful resources as well.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
If your financial situation isn’t overly complex and if you don’t own unusually expensive property, you can choose to file without a bankruptcy attorney’s help if you feel confident doing so. Filing without an attorney’s assistance is referred to as “filing pro se.” If you choose to file pro se, you can take advantage of free online and printed resources for self-filers.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
Seeking a fresh financial start without a lawyer’s help can be intimidating at first. However, once you begin digging into the Chapter 7 process on your own, you’ll realize that it isn’t too stressful as long as you remain organized. Upsolve’s free filing tool helps self-filers remain organized, informed, and on track. This platform, which is available to eligible filers in the United States who are preparing “simple cases,” allows individuals to access and prepare all of their bankruptcy forms in a secure, streamlined, online hub. Once these forms are complete, filers can print them out and file them with the bankruptcy court directly.
Regardless of whether you’re eligible to use Upsolve’s free filing tool, you can always access hundreds of articles, bankruptcy guides, and other information related to debt management in Upsolve’s Learning Center. This hub is free and accessible to the public without a login. While its primary focus is assisting pro se Chapter 7 filers – through general and geographically specific guides – the Learning Center also features articles related to virtually every kind of bankruptcy issue and non-bankruptcy debt relief alternative. Here, you can learn anything from how to prepare for your meeting of creditors to how to consolidate your credit card debt.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
Another place that you can access free self-filing guides is the bankruptcy court nearest to where you live and work. The kinds of guides available vary from location to location. However, it can be helpful to browse through the court’s selection before you begin to prepare your bankruptcy petition.
1001 Southwest Fifth Avenue Portland, OR 97204
Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse
405 East Eighth Avenue Eugene, OR 97401
Although it isn’t the best debt relief option for all circumstances, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy often serves as an excellent way for low-income individuals and families to achieve a fresh financial start. If you decide that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best choice for you, you can file pro se unless your situation is unusually complex or you prefer to have a bankruptcy attorney prepare your case for you. Neither option is better or worse than the other. Each approach has benefits and drawbacks. You should choose whichever approach is right for you.