How to File Bankruptcy for Free in Texas (2020 Guide)

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In a Nutshell

Live in Texas and need help filing for bankruptcy and can't afford an attorney? Our legal aid nonprofit guides Texas debtors through the chapter 7 process.

Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.  
Updated August 5, 2020


Everyone knows that you don't mess with Texas and a bankruptcy filing can help you make sure your creditors can't mess with you either. Seeking protection from the Texas bankruptcy courts allows you to focus on what matters most: making sure you have a roof over your head and food on the table for you and your loved ones. Sometimes life happens in a way that is unexpected and U.S. bankruptcy laws exist to give honest folks who find themselves in unfortunate situations a fresh start. There’s no shame in getting debt relief through bankruptcy. 

Former Texas Governor John Connally filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas for his business after the sharp drop in oil prices led to the collapse of the Texas real estate market. Football Hall of Fame inductee Warren Sapp also applied for debt relief through a bankruptcy filing. He may have been making $45,000 per month, but even that wasn’t enough once a creditor started a garnishment. 

In short, it's important to remember that filing bankruptcy is not a reflection of who you are as a person. If you are struggling with credit cards, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be the best way to get back on your feet and take care of yourself and your family.

How to File Bankruptcy in Texas for Free

If you’re looking at your debt relief options, you’re probably worried about how much the bankruptcy process will cost you. The good news is that you don’t have to hire a bankruptcy attorney to file Chapter 7. Keep reading to learn how to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas on your own!  


Collect Your Texas Bankruptcy Documents

Your first step should be to collect the documents you will need during the bankruptcy process. Some documents, like your paycheck stubs, collection letters you have received from creditors, and a recent copy of your credit report will be useful when filling out your bankruptcy forms.

Other documents, such as the tax returns you filed in the 2 years before filing bankruptcy in Texas will need to be submitted to the bankruptcy trustee before your meeting of creditors. Try to be as organized as possible when you are collecting the documents for your Texas bankruptcy. 

Finally, if you’re closing a bank account before filing your bankruptcy, make sure you get a complete copy of your bank statements for the 6 months before the account is closed. Your bankruptcy trustee may want to review your statements, and once an account is closed, it can be time consuming and even expensive to get them from the bank. It may take you a while to collect everything but when you’re ready to take the next step, you’ll feel more prepared. 

Take Credit Counseling

Federal law requires that you complete a credit counseling course before filing your bankruptcy case. This requirement is the same in the entire country, but the credit counseling provider you use has to be approved for the Texas bankruptcy district you’re filing in. 

Completing the credit counseling typically takes a couple of hours or less, and most providers offer it online and by phone. When done, you’ll get a certificate of completion. This has to be submitted to the court with your bankruptcy petition, so be sure to put it in a safe place. If you prefer one-on-one counseling in person, you can do so through Money Management International at their San Antonio and Sugar Land locations. 

Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Some of the information required for the bankruptcy forms to be ready for filing Chapter 7 in Texas is general in nature. Where you live now and where you've lived in the last 3 years, who your employer is and how much you’ve earned in the last couple of years, your monthly expenses, a list of your debts and a list of yourassets

Other information, like what Texas exemptions you’re claiming, is a little more technical. The benefit of working with a law firm or using Upsolve’s free online tool is that you’re able to fill out a more user-friendly questionnaire instead. It’s important to carefully read and review each bankruptcy form to make sure you don’t accidentally miss anything. Remember, you’re signing the forms under oath and penalty of perjury, and that’s nothing to be messed with either!

Get Your Filing Fee

You’re probably wondering why on earth someone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy has to pay a filing fee to the federal court. After all, you’re asking for bankruptcy protection because you don't have enough money, right?! Keep in mind, everyone's situation is different. What matters is whether your monthly income allows you to meet your monthly living expenses while leaving you enough money to pay down your debt. 

In other words, someone making 3 times as much as you might be in the exact same position you’re in because they can’t pay all their monthly expenses. Recognizing that some folks filing Chapter 7 truly don’t have the ability to come up with the $335, the Texas Bankruptcy Court will grant a waiver to folks that qualify and, importantly, actually apply for a waiver. You can submit the necessary paperwork to obtain a waiver or request to make monthly payments with the rest of your bankruptcy forms. That will allow you to get the automatic stay protections that kick in when your petition is filed without having to come up with the full filing fee ahead of time. 

The last step before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas is printing all the forms you’ll submit to the bankruptcy court. You want things to go smoothly when you are at the courthouse, so it makes sense to be methodical and take your time putting together your packet. This is especially true if you’re filing without an attorney, as you’ll likely have each form saved as a separate file on your computer. 

Print each document on standard sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches) in black and white and make sure you sign each signature page. Don’t print multiple pages on one sheet and don’t print on both sides of the paper. It’ll be helpful to have a hardcopy of the set of forms that you submit to the Texas Bankruptcy Court, so, take a moment at this stage to either print a complete second set, or make a copy of the one set you already printed.

Go to Court to File Your Forms

Once you’ve printed your bankruptcy forms, your credit counseling certificate and your filing fee (or application to have the fee waived/pay it in installments), you’re ready to file your Texas bankruptcy case. There are four federal districts in Texas and all of them have several offices covering the Lone Star State. 

Once you determine what district you live in, check out your filing options. Filers without a bankruptcy lawyer can either drop off their bankruptcy forms in person or mail it to the bankruptcy court. The coronavirus has caused some courts in the United States to change their methods, so be sure to check out your options before heading out. 

Mail Documents to Your Trustee

Once your case has been filed, a bankruptcy trustee is appointed to handle your case. The trustee will be your primary point of contact during your Texas bankruptcy, especially if you’re filing without a bankruptcy lawyer. The trustee is also the person that will be asking you questions at your 341 meeting. 

The Bankruptcy Code requires that you send a copy of your most recent federal income tax return to the bankruptcy trustee before your 341 meeting. Your trustee may also send you a separate letter asking for additional documents or information from you. Since you have a duty to cooperate with the bankruptcy trustee, it’s important to keep an eye out for any correspondence you may receive from them.

Take Bankruptcy Course 2

Every bankruptcy filer has to take a course on financial management after their case is filed. It’s similar to the course you took before you went to the court to file your bankruptcy forms. This course is intended to teach you how to budget and use your money after your case is filed. 

Of course, many folks find themselves filing bankruptcy on account of something entirely outside of their control. Still, everyone who wants to get their debts discharged has to take the course. As with the first course, it’s important to use an approved provider. Once done, you’ll receive a certificate of completion you’ll need to submit to the bankruptcy court.

Attend Your 341 Meeting

The 341 meeting is a meeting with the Chapter 7 trustee that is handling your case. It’s called a 341 meeting because it is required by Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. Everyone filing Chapter 7 in Texas must attend a 341 meeting. The most important part of the 341 meeting, in addition to attending it, is bringing a valid picture ID - like your driver’s license, and acceptable proof of social security number. 

To prepare, review the paperwork you provided to the court when you filed your Texas bankruptcy case. Folks that you owe money to may attend the meeting and ask you questions, but that rarely happens. The 341 meeting is a public meeting, so you’ll see a number of folks head into the meeting room at the same time you do. This is nothing to worry or feel strange about. They’re all there for the same reason you are. 

Dealing with Your Car

How to deal with your car or truck when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas is one of the most important questions folks usually have. After all, you need your car to get around, go to work, pick up kids from school and do all those things that make the Lone Star State great. 

If your vehicle is paid for, it’s yours to keep as long as you are able to claim an exemption for its full value. If you still owe on a car loan, a Texas bankruptcy allows you to keep the car by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. Of course, if the car loan balance is much higher than the value of the vehicle, you can surrender the car. Unlike a repossession outside of bankruptcy, you’ll not have to pay the unsecured portion of the loan - that’s discharged. Finally, if you’re able to raise some funds to buy your vehicle for its current value, you can do that as well.

Texas Bankruptcy Means Test

Everyone who wants to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas has to make sure they are eligible to do so. The first step is to compare your household income to the median household income of the same size in your state. If your household income is greater than this limit, the second part of the bankruptcy means test determines whether your income is enough to meet your reasonable and necessary living expenses and fund a repayment plan in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If not, you’re eligible to file a Chapter 7.

Data on Median Income Levels for Texas

Texas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Household SizeMonthly IncomeAnnual Income
1$4,241.83$50,902.00
2$5,574.92$66,899.00
3$6,162.33$73,948.00
4$7,188.25$86,259.00
5$7,938.25$95,259.00
6$8,688.25$104,259.00
7$9,438.25$113,259.00
8$10,188.25$122,259.00
9$10,938.25$131,259.00
10$11,688.25$140,259.00

Data on Poverty Levels for Texas

Texas Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
Household SizeState Poverty LevelFee Waiver Limit (150% PL)
1$1,063.33$1,595.00
2$1,436.67$2,155.00
3$1,810.00$2,715.00
4$2,183.33$3,275.00
5$2,556.67$3,835.00
6$2,930.00$4,395.00
7$3,303.33$4,955.00
8$3,676.67$5,515.00
9$4,050.00$6,075.00
10$4,423.33$6,635.00

Texas Bankruptcy Forms

Most of the forms you are going to need for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas are the same everywhere else in the country andavailable online for free. But, there are some Texas bankruptcy forms that have been created by each one of the four districts that you should know about. While there is some overlap across the districts, it’s very important that you know and follow the requirements of your district.

Eastern District of Texas Requirements

The Eastern District has three divisions, with primary offices inBeaumont,Plano, andTyler, as well as somesecondary locations throughout the District. Anyone filing a Texas bankruptcy in this district is required to complete alocal form to verify the address listing for their creditors. Additionally, if you have to amend (change) any information on your schedules and statements you also have to providethis notice to the bankruptcy court.

Northern District of Texas Requirements

The Northern District covers 100 counties in north-central Texas and is divided into 7 divisions. The bankruptcy court has  offices in Amarillo, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Lubbock. The Northern District has its own verification for the list of creditors everyone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas has to provide to the bankruptcy court. In addition, this district has a form request for a 30-day extension if you’re unable to complete the required credit counseling course due to an emergency.

Southern District of Texas Requirements

The Southern District spans 43 counties and serves nearly 8.6 million people over 44,000 square miles. The county you live in determines which of the 7 divisions in this district will handle your Texas bankruptcy case. This district has a wonderful resource, especially for folks filing without a bankruptcy attorney, that includes fairly detailed descriptions of adebtor's duties and responsibilities when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas posted on its website.

Western District of Texas Requirements

The Western District has four divisions and one unstaffed location in Midland where some hearings and 341 meetings are held. If you’re filing your Texas bankruptcy without an attorney, the Western District has a specific Pro Se Filing Questionnaire you will have to complete and file. 

Texas Bankruptcy Exemptions

Even though there are four distinct districts in the state, the exemptions are the same across the entire Lone Star State. You can choose between Texas bankruptcy exemptions andfederal bankruptcy exemptions when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas. 

If you choose the exemptions available under Texas bankruptcy laws, and you own your home, it’s important to file the necessary designation with the county clerk so you can claim the homestead exemption. For personal property, you’re generally limited to a total fair market value of $30,000 if you’re single, or $60,000 for a family, though not all of yourassets count towards that limit. Most Texans filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy don’t have any non-exempt property.

Texas Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost

The average cost of a bankruptcy lawyer in Texas is a little higher than the national average and ranges between $975 - $2,000. Often, lawyers offer free consultations to folks wanting to learn more about their options for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas. It makes sense to take advantage of such a free consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer, but make sure you ask how much it will ultimately cost you to hire the attorney.

If you can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you can find low-cost legal service providers on the Texas State Bar website. This organization governs lawyers and while it doesn’t provide legal services itself, it does provide acomprehensive referral directory for low-income Texans. Additionally, if you want to learn more about your bankruptcy options, you can find a listing of Texas legal aidin your area by city online.

Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
(817) 649-4740
600 East Weatherford Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102

Lone Star Legal Aid
(713) 652-0077
1415 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77002

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
(512) 374-2725
301 South Texas Avenue, Mercedes, TX 78570

Upsolve
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)

Texas Court Locations

Bob Casey United States Courthouse

Bob Casey United States Courthouse
713-250-5500
515 Rusk Street Houston, TX 77002

Bentsen Tower

Bentsen Tower
956-618-8065
1701 West Business Highway 83 McAllen, TX 78501

Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse
210-472-6720
615 East Houston Street San Antonio, TX 78205

Homer Thornberry Judicial Building

Homer Thornberry Judicial Building
512-916-5237
903 San Jacinto Boulevard Austin, TX 78701

Earle Cabell Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Earle Cabell Federal Building and United States Courthouse
214-753-2000
1100 Commerce Street Dallas, TX 75242

Eldon B. Mahon United States Courthouse

Eldon B. Mahon United States Courthouse
817-333-6000
501 West Tenth Street Fort Worth, TX 76102

George H. Mahon Federal Building and United States Courthouse

George H. Mahon Federal Building and United States Courthouse
806-472-5000
1205 Texas Avenue Lubbock, TX 79401

J. Marvin Jones Federal Building

J. Marvin Jones Federal Building
806-324-2302
205 East Fifth Avenue Amarillo, TX 79101

Wells Fargo Bank Building

Wells Fargo Bank Building
972-509-1240
660 North Central Expressway Plano, TX 75074

Plaza Tower

Plaza Tower
903-590-3200
110 North College Avenue Tyler, TX 75702

Jack Brooks Federal Building and United States Courthouse

Jack Brooks Federal Building and United States Courthouse
409-839-2617
300 Willow Street Beaumont, TX 77701

Texas Judges

Texas Bankruptcy Judges
DistrictJudge Name
Eastern District of TexasHon. Judge Bill Parker
Eastern District of TexasHon. Brenda Rhoades
Northern District of TexasHon. Barbara J. Houser
Northern District of TexasHon. Robert L. Jones
Northern District of TexasHon. Harlin D. Hale
Northern District of TexasHon. Stacey G. C. Jernigan
Northern District of TexasHon. Mark X. Mullin
Northern District of TexasHon. Edward L. Morris
Southern District of TexasHon. David R. Jones
Southern District of TexasHon. Jeff Bohm
Southern District of TexasHon. Marvin Isgur
Southern District of TexasHon. Jeffrey P. Norman
Southern District of TexasHon. Eduardo V. Rodriguez
Western District of TexasHon. Ronald B. King
Western District of TexasHon. Craig A. Gargotta
Western District of TexasHon. Christopher Mott
Western District of TexasHon. Tony M. Davis

Texas Trustees

Texas Trustees
TrusteeContact Info
Michelle H. Chowmhchow@swbell.net
(214)521-6627
Michael J. McNallymichaeljmcnally@cox-internet.com
(903)597-6301
Christopher J. Moser
(214)880-1805
Linda S. Paynelinda@paynetrustee.com
(972) 628-4904
Mark A. Weisbartmark@weisbartlaw.net
(972) 628-4903
Stephen Joseph Zayler
(936)634-1020
Shawn K. Brownshawn@browntrustee.com
(817) 348-0777
James W. Cunningham
(214)827-9112
Marilyn D. Garner
(817) 505-1499
Areya Holder Aurzada
(972) 438-8800
Myrtle L. McDonaldmmcdonald@epitrustee.com
(806)792-0056
Jeffrey H. Mimsjffm@chfirm.com
(214) 210-2913
Harvey L. Mortonhlmortonlaw@aol.com
(806)762-0570
Diane G. Reed
(972) 938-7334
Kent D. Ries
(806)242-7437
Scott M. Seidelbankruptcy.trustee@earthlink.net
(214) 234-2503
Daniel J. Sherman
(214)942-5502
John D. Spicerjdspicer@chfirm.com
(214) 573-7331
Robert Yaquinto Jr.
(214) 942-5502
Allison Davison Bymanadb@hwa.com
(713) 328-2874
Lowell T. Cagelcage@cagehill.com
(713)789-0500
Catherine S. Curtisccurtis@pulmanlaw.com
(956) 467-1000
Eva S. Engelharteengelhart@rossbanks.com
(713) 626-1200
Christopher R. Murraycmurray@diamondmccarthy.com
(713)333-5116
Janet S. Northrupjsn@hwa.com
(713) 328-8233
Ronald J. Sommersrsommers@nathansommers.com
(713)960-0303
Rodney D. Towrtow@rtowtrustee.com
(281) 429-8300
Randy W. Williamsrandy.williams@tklaw.com
(713) 653-8645
Ronald E. Ingallsron@ingallstrustee.com
(830) 307-3244
J. Patrick Lowejohnplowe@sbcglobal.net
(830) 278-6271
Randolph N. Osherowrosherow@hotmail.com
(210)738-3001
Jose C. Rodriguezjrodlaw@sbcglobal.net
(210)738-8881
Ron Satijainfo@satijatrustee.com
(512) 900-8223
James E. Studenskyjstudensky@epitrustee.com
(254) 776-9630
Johnny W. Thomas Jr.1thomas@prodigy.net
(210) 226-5888


Written By:

Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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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 full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea ha... read more about Attorney Andrea Wimmer

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