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How To File Bankruptcy for Free in South Dakota

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In a Nutshell

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 15, 2022

When you’re unable to afford basic expenses, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be a financial lifeline. Most people feel they’re in a much better position when they get the relief and protection bankruptcy provides. Though there are several debt relief options you can turn to, filing bankruptcy is considered the ultimate form of debt relief. It gets rid of credit card debt, medical bills, and other unsecured debts and gives you a fresh start, often in a few months. This guide provides an overview of how to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota on your own.

How To File Bankruptcy for Free in South Dakota

Some people choose not to file bankruptcy because a bankruptcy lawyer is too expensive. While a lawyer is usually the most expensive cost, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own, without a lawyer. In this article, we’ll go over how to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney.

Collect Your South Dakota Bankruptcy Documents

There are many steps you need to take before you go to court to file your bankruptcy petition. Start by gathering and organizing your bankruptcy documents. These documents will help you fill out the paperwork to file your case. You’ll also have to provide copies of some of these documents to the court or to your bankruptcy trustee later in the bankruptcy process. At a minimum you need:

  • Copies of your tax returns from the last two years,

  • Paycheck stubs from the previous 60 days, and

  • A bank statement from the day that you file for bankruptcy (you may not get this until after filing your case).

It’s also good to get a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You can use the information in your credit report to verify your debt amounts and your creditors’ information, including their contact information. If you use Upsolve’s free filing tool, it will pull your credit report for you.

It can also be helpful to have up to the last year of bank statements for any open accounts you have, any bills or statements you’ve received from creditors, and any correspondence you may have from collection agencies or third-party debt collectors.

Take a Credit Counseling Course

You must take a credit counseling course before you can file for bankruptcy. The course will teach you about your debt relief options outside of bankruptcy as well as about the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. It’ll take you 1-2 hours to complete, and you can take it online or over the phone. 

You need to take a course from a state-approved provider, and you’ll have to pay a small fee. If you can’t afford it, you can apply for a fee waiver. After you complete the course, you’ll get a certificate, which you’ll need to file with your other bankruptcy forms. You must take the course no more than 180 days before you file for bankruptcy.

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

You must complete several forms when you file bankruptcy. This part of the process is often the most complicated. Many of these documents are federal forms, so they’re the same for every state. You can download the forms for free from as fillable PDFs. If you qualify to use Upsolve’s filling tool, you’ll complete an online questionnaire, and then the forms will be generated for you. If you hire a bankruptcy attorney for your bankruptcy case, they will ask you questions and then fill out the forms for you. 

No matter how you complete the forms, you must sign them before filing them, so you should always review the information and make sure it’s accurate. Avoiding mistakes at this point will help ensure that the bankruptcy process goes smoothly.

Get Your Filing Fee

You have to pay a $338 fee to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The court accepts fee payment by money order, cashier’s check, or cash. If you can’t afford the fee and you make less than 150% of the poverty level, you can apply for a waiver. To see if you qualify, see the South Dakota Fee Waiver Eligibility table below. 

If you can’t afford to pay the fee all at once and you don’t qualify for a waiver, you can request an installment payment plan. While it’s best to pay the fee in full if you can, sometimes you need to file quickly, and paying in installments can help make that happen.

For example, if you’re facing wage garnishment or other collection actions, you’ll want to file as soon as you can. Once you file for bankruptcy, the court can stop most collection actions, including wage garnishment, with the automatic stay. If you pay your fee in installments, be aware that missing a payment puts your case at risk of being dismissed before your unsecured debts are discharged.

If you don’t use an attorney for your bankruptcy filing, you aren’t allowed to use the court’s online program to file your forms. You need to turn in paper copies to the court. You should print and sign all documents before you turn them in. All forms should be printed on white 8.5” x 11” paper in black ink. Also, print single-sided. If you print each section separately it can be helpful to follow a checklist, so you don’t miss any forms and you keep everything in order. Once you’ve printed all the documents, look through them and sign in every required signature spot.

If you use Upsolve’s filing tool, it will give you your documents as a packet in a single download. It also has dividers that mark your signature pages.

File Your Forms With the South Dakota Bankruptcy Court

You aren’t allowed to file your bankruptcy online if you don’t use a lawyer. You can drop them off at the South Dakota Bankruptcy Court in Pierre or Sioux Falls.

If you don’t want to bring the forms in person, You can mail the forms to:

U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse

225 South Pierre Street, Room 203

Pierre, SD  57501-2463 


U.S. Courthouse

400 South Phillips Avenue, Room 104

Sioux Falls, SD  57104-6851

One benefit of bringing the papers to court yourself is that the clerk will look through your papers and you may be able to fix any errors they may find on the spot. Note that you have to turn in the forms yourself. You aren’t allowed to have someone else drop them off for you. 

The court is still open during COVID-19, though it’s good to check to make sure your preferred filing option is still available before you file. 

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

After you file your papers with the court, it will assign a trustee to oversee your bankruptcy case. The trustee’s main job is to verify the information you’ve provided. They do this by looking over some of your documents and meeting with you in person to ask some questions at a meeting called a 341 meeting. After you file for bankruptcy, you’ll get a notice with your trustee’s contact information and the date of your 341 meeting. You need to send the following documents to your trustee no more than seven days before your 341 meeting:

  • Copies of your two previous federal income tax returns, and

  • A bank statement for the day that you file, in order to verify the amount of money you have that day. 

The trustee usually sends you a letter that goes over what they need from you. They might also ask you for:

  • Recent paycheck stubs,

  • Vehicle titles,

  • Mortgage records, and/or

  • Documents concerning your assets.

Take a Debtor Education Course

Before you can get your discharge, you have to take a debtor education course, which focuses on personal financial management skills. You need to take the course within 60 days of the 341 meeting from an approved provider. These will often be the same companies as the ones that offer the credit counseling course you have to take before you file. 

When you finish the class, you’ll get a certificate of completion. You need to send this to the bankruptcy court. In some cases, the provider will send the form for you. If you don’t send the certificate to the court within 60 days of your creditors’ meeting, the court can close your case without discharging your debts.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

In the 341 meeting, you’ll answer questions from the trustee under oath. The trustee will confirm that your name and Social Security number are the ones you provided on the bankruptcy documents. The meeting is also called a creditors’ meeting (or meeting of creditors) because your creditors may go to the meeting and ask you questions under oath. But this doesn’t happen often. Usually, the 341 meeting takes under 10 minutes. It’s not too difficult to prepare for the meeting. Remember, there’s not much that can go wrong. Just stay calm and answer the questions honestly, and it’ll be over before you know it! 

Historically, these meetings were held in person, but throughout COVID-19, they’ve been online or over the phone. This may change, so pay attention to any notices you get about your meeting, so you know how to attend.

Dealing with Your Car

You may think filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy means you’ll lose your car, but you can choose to keep your car or give it up, depending on what’s best for you and whether you own the car outright or have a loan. 

  • If you own the car outright you can keep it by using an exemption to protect up to $7,000 of equity in your car. (We’ll cover exemptions more in detail later.)

  • If you have a car loan, you want to keep your car, and you’re current on your payments, you can opt for a reaffirmation agreement. In this, you reaffirm to your lender that you’ll keep making payments on the loan as usual.

  • If you have a car loan and you don’t want to keep paying on it, you can surrender your car. If you do, bankruptcy laws prevent you from having to pay the balance of the loan.

  • You could also redeem the car by paying the lender the fair market value of the car. The difference between your loan amount and the market value of the car will then be discharged in your bankruptcy, and you’ll own the car free and clear. If you owe a lot more on your loan than the car is worth, this could be a good option. The downside is that you need to pay the amount to redeem the car as a lump sum.

  • If your car is being leased and you’re up to date on your payments, you can keep the lease on its current terms or you can terminate it. If you decide to keep the car, you can continue making payments and driving the car. If you decide to terminate the lease, then you have to give the car back, but you won’t have to make more payments. 

If you decide to give up your car, remember that you can buy a car again in the future. After you’ve completed the bankruptcy process, you may even be offered better terms on a loan if you wait a while for your credit score to recover.

South Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test

Not just anyone can file for bankruptcy. To qualify, you have to pass a means test. The first part of the test compares your average household income to the median income of a similar South Dakota household. If your income is lower than the median income, you pass the test and qualify to file Chapter 7. If it’s higher, you can take the second part of the test, which looks at your expenses along with other factors. If you don’t pass this part of the means test, you can look into filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which includes a 3-5 year repayment plan.

Data on Median income levels for South Dakota

South Dakota Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed In 2024
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income

Data on Poverty levels for South Dakota

South Dakota Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed In 2024

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

Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)

South Dakota Bankruptcy Forms

Most of the forms that you use to file your Chapter 7 case are federal forms. This means they’re the same for filers in all states. South Dakota has several local forms but the only one typically needed when first filing your case only applies if you’re filing with the help of a bankruptcy attorney.

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South Dakota Districts & Filing Requirements

The same bankruptcy district court serves all of South Dakota. The court has two locations: one in Sioux Falls and one in Pierre

You’ll need to provide a cover sheet and pay the filing fee when you submit your forms to the court. The filing fee is $338, which can be paid by cashier’s check or money order. If you can’t afford to pay the full filing fee, you can apply to pay installments or apply for a fee waiver.

You can drop off your forms at a clerk’s office at the Pierre or Sioux Falls locations during business hours. You can also mail the forms to:

U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse

225 South Pierre Street, Room 203

Pierre, SD  57501-2463


U.S. Courthouse

400 South Phillips Avenue, Room 104

Sioux Falls, SD  57104-6851

Be sure to check the court’s latest COVID-19 measures before you file.

South Dakota Bankruptcy Exemptions

Under the Bankruptcy Code, after you file bankruptcy, a trustee can sell any non-exempt assets or possessions you have to help pay off your debts. But most Chapter 7 filers have all their property protected through bankruptcy exemptions

In some states, you can use either federal exemptions or state exemptions. South Dakota has opted out of federal exemptions, so you have to use the state bankruptcy exemptions if you’ve lived in South Dakota for at least the last two years. 

Exemptions can be used to protect everything from household goods to certain retirement accounts. South Dakota doesn’t have a specific vehicle exemption, but it does have a “wildcard exemption” that allows you to protect up to $5,000 in assets. Many people use this wildcard exemption to protect their vehicles.

Exemptions also help protect real property like your primary residence or mobile home. Many filers in the state use the homestead exemption to protect all the equity in their home, though there are certain rules to use this exemption.

South Dakota Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

Though not everyone needs to hire a lawyer, using a bankruptcy attorney can make the process easier, especially if you have a complicated case. Bankruptcy lawyers usually charge a flat fee. In South Dakota, this fee ranges from $1,100 to $1,200. The cost will depend on how complicated your case is. Your first instinct may be to go with the lawyer who has the lowest fee. But you’ll want to be sure that the attorney is the best match for you, so you should take other factors into account before deciding on a lawyer.

If you want to use an attorney but don’t have the money for attorney fees, you may be able to get legal advice through a legal aid organization. These groups provide free or low-cost legal services to qualifying individuals.

Dakota Plains Legal Services, Inc.
(605) 856-4444
160 Second Street, P.O. Box 727, Mission, SD 57555-0727

East River Legal Services
(605) 336-9230
335 North Main Avenue, Suite 300, Sioux Falls, SD 57104

Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

South Dakota Court Locations

United States Post Office and Courthouse

United States Post Office and Courthouse
225 South Pierre Street Pierre, SD 57501

United States Courthouse

United States Courthouse
400 South Phillips Avenue Sioux Falls, SD 57104

South Dakota Judges

South Dakota Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
District of South DakotaHon. Charles L. Nail

South Dakota Trustees

South Dakota Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Forrest C. Allred
Lee Ann Pierce

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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