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Rhode Island Bankruptcy

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In a Nutshell

Certain low income individuals may qualify to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island for free by having their court filing fee waived. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can ask the court to waive your filing fee by filing this application along with the rest of your Rhode Island bankruptcy paperwork.

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.  
Updated October 9, 2021

The Ocean State has some of the most generous exemptions available for folks filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. A Chapter 7 is the type of bankruptcy most people think of when they consider bankruptcy as an option. It's the quickest path to obtain a discharge relieving you from the responsibility of paying your (dischargeable) debts. It's called a liquidation bankruptcy because the Bankruptcy Code and the Rhode Island bankruptcy laws provide a framework for the sale of certain property for the benefit of your creditors. While this may sound like the worst possible solution, only about 4% of all Chapter 7 cases nationwide actually result in a distribution to creditors. This is because the exemption laws protect certain assets from liquidation even after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island or anywhere else is filed. So, if you are struggling to pay your debts and are considering liquidating a retirement account or selling some property to keep afloat, you should stop before doing anything drastic and consider your bankruptcy options. The Rhode Island bankruptcy laws are designed to ensure that only folks who really need the relief can actually file a Chapter 7 case, meaning that if you qualify to file, you are not taking advantage of anything that is not intended to protect you. More importantly, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island allows you to keep a lot of property that you might otherwise sell to pay your creditors, giving you a much better chance to rebuild going forward.

How to File Bankruptcy in Rhode Island for Free

Certain low income individuals may qualify to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island for free by having their court filing fee waived. If your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can ask the court to waive your filing fee by filing this application along with the rest of your Rhode Island bankruptcy paperwork.

Collect Your Rhode Island Bankruptcy Documents

Everyone filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island has to use the official bankruptcy forms to provide the required information to the court. In order to help you complete these forms, you should take the time to collect certain documents before you even get started. These documents will provide you with important information and having them nearby while filling out the forms helps keep you on track. One of the most important forms is the means test, which is the eligibility analysis to make sure you don't make too much money for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. For that, you will need every paycheck stub you've received in the last 6 months. Later in the case, you will also need a copy of last year's income tax return. In order to make sure you are listing every creditor you have it's a good idea to get a copy of your credit report from some or all of the credit reporting agencies. That way, you can cross-reference everything with whatever correspondence you may have received from debt collectors in the last 90 days and make sure that the court will send the notice that you have filed a Rhode Island bankruptcy case to everyone.

Take Credit Counseling

Even though you may not be in this situation due to any fault of your own, you do have to take credit counseling before you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. The course is not necessarily intended to counsel people on managing their financial resources, but instead to make sure everyone filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island knows what options they have to deal with their financial issues. It must be completed in the 6 months before your case is filed, which is why the certificate of completion you receive at the end is only valid for 180 days. Other than making sure you are inside this 6 month window, you can take the course whenever and wherever works best for you. The only thing to watch out for is making sure that you are taking it from a company that has been approved to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island. The Office of the United States Trustee conducts the approval process based on the requirements set forth in the Bankruptcy Code.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

The bankruptcy forms are the documents everyone filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island has to fill out and submit to the court. If you hire a lawyer, they will fill the forms out for you after you complete a simpler and more tailored questionnaire from their office and provide them with your bankruptcy documents. If you are filing without a lawyer ("pro se") you can either fill out the forms yourself, or, assuming you are eligible, work with Upsolve to complete the forms. All of the forms you need can be downloaded for free as a fillable PDF file, either as one full form packet, from the Rhode Island Bankruptcy Court, or individually from the Federal Judiciary. You can also download an instruction manual for free to help guide you through all of the forms. As you are filling out the forms, remember that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island means disclosing all the requested information, so be diligent and thorough and remember that you have to sign everything under penalty of perjury before filing your Rhode Island bankruptcy case.

Get Your Filing Fee

The court filing fee for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island is $338. If your household income is greater than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, you do not qualify for a fee waiver. If your income is less than that, you may have your fee waived, but only if the court finds that you are unable to pay the fee in installments after your case has been filed based on the information you provide in this application for a waiver. If you can, you should plan on paying the full fee at the time your Rhode Island bankruptcy case is first filed. The court accepts cash, as long as it is the exact amount, or a money order or cashier's check. You can purchase a money order for that amount at any United States Post Office for $1.25. If you have to file before you can save up the full amount, you can file an Application to Pay the Fee in Installments when your case is first filed. The court requires that everyone filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island pay at least 1/4 of the total fee, or $83.75, with their initial paperwork, so make sure you have at least that much. You will get the opportunity to pay the remainder of the fee in three more payments due over the following three months.

Once you have at least the first installment payment for your fee ready, it is time to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. Since only lawyers are able to file their clients' cases electronically, everyone filing bankruptcy without a lawyer ("pro se") has to submit all the forms to the court in paper. The good news is that all of the forms can be printed on regular 8.5" x 11" paper from any printer even though filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island is a legal proceeding and the papers are submitted to a federal court. If you didn't complete the forms in one packet (or got them sent to you as a single file from Upsolve), it's a good idea to print a checklist like this one first. All of the different forms look similar, so having a list identifying every form separately will help you keep track of everything. After all, the last thing you will want to hear when you are at the courthouse filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island is that you forgot to print the one document you absolutely can't file without.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

The Rhode Island Bankruptcy Court is located in Providence. You can find detailed directions, including public transportation options directly on the court's website. If you are driving to the courthouse but aren't familiar with the part of town it's in, take a few moments before you leave to check out the parking options in the area. Chances are you'll be stressed enough as it is, you're filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island, after all, so you don't want to add worrying about getting a parking ticket to that. Since the bankruptcy system is based on federal law, you will be going to a federal court, located inside a federal building. This, of course, means there will be a security checkpoint at the entrance. Have your picture ID ready, just in case the federal marshals at the door want to take a look at it on your way in. Once inside, head to the clerk's office; that is where they will assist you with filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island.

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

A trustee is assigned to handle your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island as soon as it is filed with the court. The trustee is an independent contractor for the Department of Justice, of which the Office of the United States Trustee is a subdivision. While this sounds really ominous and scary, and although trustees have significant powers, it really just means that it's the person that makes sure that you are doing everything the Rhode Island bankruptcy laws and procedures require from you. They act somewhat as a representative for your unsecured creditors, so you don't have to deal with each one of your creditors directly and if a debtor owns valuable assets that are not protected by an exemption, the trustee sells them and distributes the proceeds to creditors. Such a liquidation and distribution only happens in approximately 4% of Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases nationwide. One of your duties as a debtor is to cooperate with the trustee and provide them a copy of your most recent tax return at least 7 days before your 341 meeting. After filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island, you may receive a request directly from your trustee with instruction on how to submit your tax return and what other documents, if any, you should provide.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

After filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island you have to take bankruptcy course 2 before your discharge can be entered. This course focuses on financial management and aims to educate debtors in bankruptcy on how to manage their finances responsibly going forward. No matter how well educated you may be on financial management, you have to complete this course as you are not eligible to receive your discharge otherwise. As with the first course, you have to take it from a provider approved to offer it to people filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island. It typically takes about 1 - 2 hours and can be done from the comfort of your own home. There is a small fee associated with the course, so make sure you shop around a bit so you can find an approved course provider that works best for you and your budget. When you are done, it's important to let the court know about it. Often times the course provider will do so by filing the appropriate certificate with the court. Alternatively, you can complete and file this certification after you have completed the class. This will let the court know that you are ready to have the discharge entered in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The 341 meeting, or creditors' meeting as it is often called, is typically the most stressful part of the process for folks filing bankruptcy in Rhode Island. This is both completely understandable and not at all necessary at the same time. The 341 meeting is an opportunity for the trustee that is handling your case to ask you some of the questions that they are required to ask everyone who filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. While creditors are invited to attend the meeting and are even allowed to ask questions during it, this does not typically happen. The 341 meeting takes place approximately 20 - 40 days after filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island but you will be notified by the court well before then, giving you plenty of time to prepare. Make sure you get the courthouse early enough, so you have time to find parking and make your way through building security on your way in. Other than that, the most important items to bring are your government issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number, such as your original social security card, an original W-2, or other document that you did not yourself prepare that shows your full social security number.

Dealing with Your Car

If your car is paid off, then you can keep it as long as it is worth less than the available exemption. If you are still making payments on your car, then filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island gives you options to deal with your car (and the loan) that you do not have outside of bankruptcy. If you don't want to keep your car, or it doesn't make sense to keep it because of a high loan balance or unaffordable monthly payments, you can surrender it. Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island protects you from having to pay any balance left owing on the loan after the car is sold at auction. If you like your car and the loan makes sense for you and your financial situation, you can keep things essentially the way they were by entering in to a reaffirmation agreement. Finally, some folks filing Chapter 7 in Rhode Island are able to redeem their vehicle by paying the creditor an amount equal to its fair market value. So, while you still have to pay for your car (there's no way around that) this relieves you from having to pay the loan according to its terms.

Rhode Island Bankruptcy Means Test

Everyone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island first has to pass the Rhode Island bankruptcy means test. This test is intended to make sure only folks who truly cannot afford to pay even a portion of their debts are given the wide-ranging relief granted in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island. The first portion of the Rhode Island bankruptcy means test compares your income to the applicable income limits. If your household income is greater than the median household income in the Ocean State, you may nevertheless pass the Rhode Island means test for bankruptcy and file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island.

Data on Median income levels for Rhode Island

Rhode Island Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2022
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Data on Poverty levels for Rhode Island

Rhode Island Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2022

Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

Rhode Island Bankruptcy Forms

You can obtain a full set of the Rhode Island Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms from the court's website. For the most part, the forms you will need to file your Rhode Island bankruptcy case are based on the official national bankruptcy forms. There are, however, some Rhode Island bankruptcy forms that are unique to the Ocean State. You can find these forms on the court's website and can download them for free to use in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island, if necessary.

District of Rhode Island Requirements

When you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island, the court requires you to provide them with a list of your creditors' addresses in digital format, either on a CD or via USB stick. If you don't have access to a computer at home, you can type up the list at a computer terminal available for public use at the courthouse.

Rhode Island Bankruptcy Exemptions

Exemptions determine which of your assets are protected from your creditors after your Rhode Island bankruptcy has been filed with the court. Rhode Island bankruptcy laws give you the option to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions or the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions. The Ocean State includes protections for a homestead with up to $500,000 in equity as well as generous exemptions for personal property, including furniture, motor vehicles, and a wildcard exemption that can be used to protect any property not otherwise protected.

Rhode Island Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island is $1,150. How much it would cost to hire a lawyer for your Rhode Island bankruptcy depends on your specific circumstances but Rhode Island bankruptcy lawyers typically offer free initial consultations and can provide you with a specific quote for your case at its conclusion.

  • Attorney cost estimate: $1,100 – $1,200

Legal aid in Rhode Island provides free legal services to low-income residents in civil matters. If you think you will need more help with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Rhode Island than the free legal clinic offered by the court, you can contact one of the Rhode Island legal aid organizations in your area for help. The court provides some links to the organizations in your area directly on its website.

Rhode Island Legal Services, Inc.
(401) 274-2652
56 Pine Street, 4th Floor, Providence, RI 02903

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Rhode Island Court Locations

The Federal Center

The Federal Center
380 Westminster Street Providence, RI 02903

Rhode Island Judges

Rhode Island Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
District of Rhode IslandHon. Diane Finkle

Rhode Island Trustees

Rhode Island Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Joseph M. DiOriojmdiorio@dioriolaw.com
(401) 632-0911
Stacy B. Ferrarastacyferrara@earthlink.net
(401) 828-5800
Lisa A. Geremialisa@geremiademarco.com
(401) 885-1444
Charles A. Pisaturo Jr.cpisaturo@earthlink.net
(401) 274-3800

Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer


Andrea practiced exclusively as a bankruptcy attorney in consumer Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team as Managing Editor. While in private practice, Andrea handled... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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