Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated April 9, 2020
Filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota is not something anyone wants to do, but sometimes is makes sense to avail yourself of the protections offered by the Bankruptcy Code. If you are struggling to make your minimum monthly payments every month or are suddenly faced with more medical bills than you could ever hope to pay off, you are undoubtedly worried about what that will mean for your family going forward. There are few things more stressful than having to choose between paying your creditors or putting food on the table. While it may seem like it makes sense, using your money to pay your credit card, then using the newly available credit card balance to buy your groceries is not a long term solution. All you are doing is essentially postponing the decision on how to handle it, which will neither lower your stress level nor help you move forward. Before you take any drastic steps such as liquidating your retirement savings or selling some of you property, remember that the exemption laws will allow you to protect certain property no matter how much money you owe to your creditors. Knowledge is power and you are doing the right thing by researching your debt relief options. This guide will provide you with a general overview what the process of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota typically involves so you can familiarize yourself with what to expect.
How to File Bankruptcy in South Dakota for Free
You do not have to hire (and therefore pay) a lawyer to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota. Additionally, if your income is so low that you can't pay the court fees in installments even after filing bankruptcy in South Dakota you can apply to have the court filing fee waived.
Collect Your South Dakota Bankruptcy Documents
Filing bankruptcy in South Dakota comes with certain disclosure requirements. In other words, the price you pay for the relief you get after filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota is giving the court a full and honest picture of your financial situation. In order to make sure you have all of the information you will need, it's best to start the process of filing a South Dakota bankruptcy by collecting certain documents that you will need to prepare your forms. One of the documents that will be helpful in completing your list of debts is your credit report. You are entitled to a free copy of your report from each one of the three credit reporting agencies every year. You can request it from each agency separately or go through a third party to get it. In order to make sure you are correctly representing your income as part of your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota, gather every paycheck stub you have received in the last six months. Additionally, you will need a copy of your most recent federal income tax return after filing bankruptcy in South Dakota, so make sure to pull that from your files at the same time.
Take Credit Counseling
Only people who take a credit counseling course are eligible to file a South Dakota bankruptcy. The purpose of the course is to make sure everyone is fully informed about their bankruptcy options before filing bankruptcy in South Dakota. You have plenty of time to complete this requirement, as you can take it any time in the 6 months before your case is filed with the court. Two of the providers approved to teach this course to folks filing bankruptcy in South Dakota offer it in person: the Allen Credit and Debt Counseling Agency, located in Wolsey and Black Hills Children's Ranch, Inc., located in Rapid City. If you don't live close to either one of these locations, you can also take the course online or by phone. Once you complete the course, you will receive your certificate of completion, which is valid for 180 days. Make sure to put it with the rest of your bankruptcy documents as you will need it when filing bankruptcy in South Dakota and remember to circle the date the certificate expires on your calendar. If you wait to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota until after the expiration date, you will have to the take the course again before you can file.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
Since you can't send an alternate to take the credit counseling class and probably don't want someone else going through your files to collect your documents, completing the bankruptcy forms is the first step in the process of filing your South Dakota bankruptcy case that someone can actually help you with. If you hire a lawyer, they will prepare the forms based on the information you provide to their office. If you are filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota without a lawyer ("pro se") you may want to see if you qualify to go through Upsolve for this step, as it will take a lot of the complications out of completing the forms. The good news is that all of the forms you need to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota are available for free online. You can even download a detailed instruction manual on how to complete the forms. Since the bankruptcy forms you provide to the court when filing bankruptcy in South Dakota have to be signed under penalty of perjury, it is important to carefully review everything to make sure you did not miss anything. While most documents can be updated (amended) after filing your South Dakota bankruptcy case, if your first set of documents looks as though you are not taking your duties as a debtor seriously, the court and your trustee may wonder what else you may have left out.
Get Your Filing Fee
If you make more than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines you will not be eligible to have the court filing fee for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota waived and will have to pay the full $335 to the court. The court accepts payments in the form of a cashier's check, money order, or cash in the exact amount. You can purchase a money order at any U.S. Post Office near you for $1.25. Since not everyone filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota has the ability to save up the full amount before their case has to be filed, the court does allow you to ask for a payment plan instead. A payment plan allows you to file your case right away and stop all creditor collection actions, including any wage garnishments that may be the reason you are unable to save up the full court filing fee in the first place. Keep in mind, however, that the court can dismiss your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota if you don't make all payments on time. That's why it's better to pay the full fee when your case is first filed, if at all possible.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
At this time, only folks filing bankruptcy in South Dakota with the assistance of a lawyer can submit their paperwork to the court electronically. Everyone else has to submit the documents to the court in paper, either by mailing it to the court or dropping it off in person. If you completed the forms needed for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota on your own, chances are you have them saved on your computer as a number of different files. Combine that with the fact that all the forms look really similar, printing your forms can quickly become confusing. The best strategy to avoid accidentally forgetting a form, or printing another one multiple times by accident, is to make a checklist like this one the first thing you print. Even though filing bankruptcy in South Dakota is a legal proceeding, all forms are printed on normal 8.5" x 11" paper that any home or office printer can handle. Although you only need one full set of the forms to file your South Dakota bankruptcy case, it's a good idea to print a second copy (or make a copy) to keep for your own files.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
The South Dakota Bankruptcy Court has locations in Pierre and Sioux Falls. If you can't easily make the trip to the court to hand in everything in person, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota by mailing all of your bankruptcy forms, along with the court filing fee to the court via U.S. Mail. However, if you are worried about making sure that your case is filed by a certain date, so you can prevent a foreclosure from taking place, or stop a creditor from garnishing your wages, it is best to visit the courthouse in person. That way, if you forgot to print or sign something, or there are any other technical issues that prevents the court from opening your South Dakota bankruptcy case as soon as they receive the bankruptcy forms, you have the opportunity to fix it right then and avoid an unnecessary delay. Folks filing bankruptcy in South Dakota only have to provide a single copy, containing their original signatures, of all the bankruptcy forms. If you bring your own copy, or submit the first page of your Voluntary Petition along with a self-addressed and stamped envelope in the packet you are mailing to the court, the clerk can stamp it with all the pertinent information about your case.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
The court will assign a trustee to your case as soon as you are done filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota. The trustee's job is to make sure that everything is done in accordance with South Dakota bankruptcy laws and procedures. You will find the name and contact information for your trustee on part 5 of this notice after your case has been filed. Your trustee may send you a letter with a request to provide certain documents to their office before the date set for your 341 meeting. These documents enable the trustee to do the necessary due diligence and make sure you are providing all required information to the court in your bankruptcy forms. If you don't receive any correspondence from your trustee after filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota, you nevertheless must provide a copy of your most recent federal income tax returns to their office at least 7 days before your 341 meeting. Although the trustee does not represent you in your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota, you have a duty to cooperate with the trustee, so make sure to keep an eye out for any requests from the trustee and follow the instructions given on how to submit everything.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Even though completing the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course makes you eligible to be a debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota, it does not make you eligible to have a discharge entered in your case. The discharge is the court order that tells your creditors that they are not allowed to ask you to pay your debts ever again; basically, it's the primary goal of everyone filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota. In order to be eligible to have your discharge entered, you have to take a second bankruptcy course after your case has been filed. This second course must again must be taken with a provider that has been specifically approved to offer it to folks filing bankruptcy in South Dakota. If you like the company you used to complete the credit counseling course before filing your South Dakota bankruptcy case, find out if they are approved to offer the second course. Not all of them are, but those that do provide both classes sometimes offer a discount if you sign up for the second course with them. When you have completed the class, you will receive a certificate of completion that has to be filed with the court. Some, though not all, will do this for you. If not, you can use this form to let the court know that you are ready to have your discharge entered when the time comes.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting, or "creditors' meeting" as it is often referred to, will take place approximately 20 - 40 days after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota has been filed with the court. The same notice that contains the contact information for your trustee will tell you the date and time your meeting will take place and the location. In order to prepare for the meeting you should review the documents you submitted to the court when your South Dakota bankruptcy was first filed. The only thing you typically have to bring to the meeting are a government issued picture ID and acceptable proof of your social security number. Even though this is the only time everyone filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota has to appear in person, making it an inherently stressful event, the meeting itself typically lasts only about 5 - 10 minutes; and, despite the fact that it is called a creditors' meeting, creditors rarely attend. Instead, it will be mostly a meeting with your trustee, who will check your IDs and then ask you certain questions they ask everyone filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota. The county you live in determines the location where your creditors' meeting will take place.
Dealing with Your Car
Your car is unique in that it plays multiple roles in your South Dakota bankruptcy case. On the one hand, it is an asset you must disclose and claim as exempt to the extent possible. On the other hand, if you are still making payments on your car, it is a secured debt which means that if you stop making payments the creditor can repossess it. A lot of people don't realize that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota actually gives them more options to deal with their car than they had before their case was filed. If you like your car and you have no problem making the payment every month, you can enter into a reaffirmation agreement which will essentially keep everything the way it was before filing Chapter 7 in South Dakota. However, if the car is in poor condition, the loan balance is significantly higher than the vehicle is worth, or you struggle to come up with the payment every month, it may make more sense to surrender the vehicle as a reaffirmation agreement does not protect you from having your car repossessed if you are unable to make your payments. Since the debt will not be discharged if you reaffirm it, you might end up right where you started when the lender sues you to collect on the deficiency challenge after a repossession.
South Dakota Bankruptcy Means Test
Since Chapter 7 bankruptcy provides such wide ranging relief, only folks who pass the South Dakota means test for bankruptcy are eligible to file a South Dakota bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The first part of the means test checks whether your household income is greater than the median household income in South Dakota. The second part of the South Dakota means test for bankruptcy checks whether you actually have disposable income left after paying certain pre-determined expenses. If you don't, you are able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota even if you exceed the income limits.
Data on Median income levels for South Dakota
South Dakota 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 South Dakota
South Dakota 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)|
South Dakota Bankruptcy Forms
Everyone who files a South Dakota bankruptcy case has to use the official national forms to disclose the bulk of the information needed. The court has also prepared certain local South Dakota bankruptcy forms for use within the district. Together, the national online bankruptcy forms and the court's local forms make up the South Dakota bankruptcy forms. All of the South Dakota bankruptcy forms are available for free on the court's website.
District of South Dakota Requirements
Every person who files a South Dakota bankruptcy case has to provide the court with all the paycheck stubs they have received in the 60 days before their case is filed along with a coversheet like this one. If you receive any return mail from the court, which happens if a creditor's address has been changed since your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota was filed (or because it was wrong on the documents you submitted with the court) you have to make reasonable efforts to find the correct current address for the creditor. If you are unable to determine what that new address is, you are required to file a statement like this one detailing your efforts you find the correct address.
South Dakota Bankruptcy Exemptions
The South Dakota bankruptcy exemptions determine which people who file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota can keep and which assets have to be sold for the benefit of their creditors. In addition to protecting your homestead and certain personal property, the South Dakota bankruptcy exemptions include a so-called "wildcard exemption" of up to $7,000 that can be used to protect otherwise non-exempt assets. Even though some states allow debtors to elect the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of those contained in state law, if you lived in the Mount Rushmore State for at least 2 years when your South Dakota bankruptcy is filed, you are not allowed to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions.
South Dakota Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost
If you are not comfortable preparing and filing your South Dakota bankruptcy case on your own, or if you are worried about losing certain assets, it may make sense to spend the money needed to hire a lawyer. The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer is in line with the national average at $1,150 for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota.
Attorney cost estimate: $1,100 – $1,200
South Dakota Legal Aid Organizations
Not everyone who needs help from a lawyer for a civil matter can afford to hire one. That is why a number of South Dakota legal aid organizations exist throughout the state. If you need help with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Dakota, reach out to one of the organizations providing legal aid in South Dakota to see if you are eligible for free legal assistance through them.
South Dakota Court Locations
South Dakota Judges
South Dakota Bankruptcy Judges
|District of South Dakota||Hon. Charles L. Nail|
South Dakota Trustees
South Dakota Trustees
|Forrest C. Allred|
|Lee Ann Pierce|