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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.
Everyone knows that you don't mess with Texas and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas will help you make sure your creditors can't mess with you either. Seeking protection from the Texas bankruptcy courts is a way to ensure that you can 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. In 2018 alone, more than 15,000 Texans obtained some relief by taking advantage of the Texas bankruptcy laws. Sometimes life happens in a way that is unexpected and bankruptcy laws exist today to give honest folks who find themselves in unfortunate situations a fresh start. 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 sought relief from the bankruptcy court too. He may have been making $45,000 per month, but even that was not enough once creditors started garnishing his wages. In short, it's important to remember that being in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas - or anywhere for that matter - is not a reflection of who you are as a person. If you are struggling with your bills, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas 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 are researching how to file bankruptcy in Texas, one of the biggest questions on your mind may be "how much is all of this going to cost"? The good news is that you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas for free if you qualify for a fee waiver because your income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. Additionally, you do not need to hire an attorney and can instead file on your own (“pro se”), with or without Upsolve helping you navigate the process.
Collect Your Texas Bankruptcy Documents
When filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas, your first step should be to collect the documents you will need during the 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 trustee before your 341 meeting. Try to be as organized as possible when you are collecting the documents for your Texas bankruptcy. It may take you longer to put everything together, but when you are ready to take the next step, you will feel so much more prepared and have a better understanding of how to file bankruptcy in Texas. Finally, if you are 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 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.
Take Credit Counseling
When Congress amended the bankruptcy laws in 2005, it added a provision that requires everyone filing bankruptcy in Texas take a credit counseling course before their case can be filed. It's one of those absolute requirements that can only be waived in very (very) limited circumstances. Completing the course typically only takes a couple of hours or less, and most providers offer it online and by phone. If you prefer one-on-one counseling in person, you may be able to find an approved provider in your county. If you have already collected the documents you need to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas, it will help to have them handy during this course. One of the documents you will be filing along with your bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements is the certificate of completion you will receive at the end of the course.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The forms you have to complete when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas are either national forms (and the same in every state) or local forms that are specific to your district. Both sets of documents can be obtained for free online. 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 have earned in the last couple of years, your monthly expenses, a list of your debts and another list of your assets. Other information needed to complete your bankruptcy forms is more technical, such as the exemptions that you can claim to protect your assets. The benefit of working with an attorney or using Upsolve to help you file bankruptcy in Texas is that you may be able to fill in a more user-friendly questionnaire instead. It is important to carefully read and review each bankruptcy form to make sure you don’t accidentally miss anything. You are signing the forms under oath and penalty of perjury, and that is nothing to be messed with either!
Get Your Filing Fee
You are probably wondering why on earth someone that has to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas has to pay a court filing fee in order to do so. After all, you are seeking the protections of the bankruptcy court because you don't have enough money. Keep in mind that everyone's case 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. Folks unable to do so may end up filing bankruptcy in Texas, even though they make much more than you do. In other words, someone making 3 times as much as you do might be in the exact same position you are in that they cannot meet all their monthly expenses. Recognizing that some folks filing Chapter 7 truly do not have the ability to raise the mandatory $335 court fee, the court will grant a waiver to folks that qualify and,importantly,actually apply for a waiver. You can fill out the necessary paperwork to obtain a waiver, or request permission to pay your filing fee in installments before you go to court so you know you have everything ready to get your Texas bankruptcy started.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
The last step before filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas is printing all the forms to be filed with the 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, paying close attention to Texas bankruptcy laws. This is especially true if you are filing without an attorney, as you will likely have each form saved as a separate file on your computer. Print each document on standard sized paper (8.5 by 11 inches) in black and white and make sure you sign each signature page. Do not print multiple pages on one sheet and do not print on both sides of the paper. Since it will be helpful later to have a hardcopy of the set of forms that you file with the Texas bankruptcy court, 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 have your complete set of bankruptcy forms, your credit counseling certificate and your filing fee (or application to have the fee waived), you are ready to go to the court to begin the process of filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas. 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 (see below for more on the different districts), visit that district's bankruptcy court website to find out the locations available for filing your case. Since filing bankruptcy is stressful enough as it is, before you go to the courthouse make sure you know where to go, where to park, and when the clerk's office is open to the public. Once you are at the courthouse, find the clerk's office to file your Texas bankruptcy. Generally, they will take it from there and make sure you have everything you need in your packet. Bring your second copy of all the documents with you when you go and ask the clerk to endorse or stamp it for you. That way, you have your own paper copy with proof that you completed all steps for filing bankruptcy in Texas.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
Shortly after you are done filing Chapter 7 in Texas, a trustee will be appointed to handle your case. The trustee will be your primary point of contact during your Texas bankruptcy, especially if you are filing without an attorney (“pro se”). 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 trustee before your 341 meeting. Your trustee may also send you a separate letter asking for additional documents or information from you. Since filing bankruptcy in Texas means cooperating with the trustee, it is important to keep an eye out for any correspondence you may receive from your trustee.
Take Bankruptcy Course 2
Everyone in a Texas bankruptcy must take a course on financial management after their case is filed. This is the second of two courses you are required to complete when filing bankruptcy in Texas. It is similar to the course you took before you went to the court to file your 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 Chapter 7 in Texas due to circumstances entirely outside of their control. Regardless, everyone who wants to obtain a discharge of their debts as a result of their Texas bankruptcy must take the course. As with the first course, it is important to use an approved provider. Once done, you will receive a certificate of completion that has to be filed with the court.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting is a meeting with the Chapter 7 trustee that is handling your case. It is 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 and acceptable proof of social security number. You should review the paperwork you provided to the court when you filed your Texas bankruptcy in order to prepare for your 341 meeting. 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 will 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. Every other person walking into that room with you is there because their circumstances necessitated filing bankruptcy in Texas.
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 is yours to keep as long as you are able to claim an exemption for its full value. If you still owe on the car, a Texas bankruptcy allows you to keep the car by entering into a reaffirmation agreement. However, often it does not make sense to do so because the loan balance far exceeds the value of the vehicle. In that case, you can either redeem your car or truck, by paying the bank the value of the car instead of the full loan balance, or turn it in to the bank. If you choose the latter option and surrender the vehicle, the remaining balance on your loan will be discharged and you will not have to pay for it.
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 Texas means test for bankruptcy has to be completed to determine whether your income is enough to meet your reasonable and necessary living expenses. After all, having a higher income than others does not automatically mean you don't need relief. While Congress made getting there a bit complicated, the Texas bankruptcy means test aims to make sure that only folks who really need it are able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Data on Median Income Levels for Texas
Texas Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
|Household Size||Monthly Income||Annual Income|
Data on Poverty Levels for Texas
Texas Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2019
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
|Household Size||State Poverty Level||Fee Waiver Limit (150% PL)|
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 and available online for free. Nevertheless, 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 is 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 in Beaumont, Plano, and Tyler, as well as some secondary locations throughout the District. Anyone filing a Texas bankruptcy in this district is required to complete a local 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 provide this notice to the court.
Northern District of Texas Requirements
The Northern District covers 100 counties in north-central Texas and is divided into 7 divisions. The Northern District has its own verification for the list of creditors everyone filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas has to provide to the court. In addition, this district has a form request for a 30-day extension if you were unable to complete the required credit counseling course due to an emergency situation.
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 an attorney (“pro se”), that includes fairly detailed descriptions of a debtor'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 conducted. If you are filing your Texas bankruptcy without an attorney, the Western District has a specific Pro Se Filing Questionnaire you will have to complete and file.↑ Back to top
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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 and federal 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 is important to file the necessary designation with the county clerk. For personal property you are generally limited to a total fair market value of $30,000 if you are single, or $60,000 for a family, though not all of your assets count towards that limit.↑ Back to top
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, but make sure you ask how much it will ultimately cost you to hire the attorney.
Average Cost: $975 – $2,000
Texas Legal Aid Organizations
Folks looking to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Texas can find attorneys and low-cost legal service providers on the Texas State Bar website. This organization governs lawyers and while it does not provide legal services itself, it does provide a comprehensive 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 aid in your area by city online.
Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
600 East Weatherford Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Lone Star Legal Aid
1415 Fannin Street, Houston, TX 77002
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
301 South Texas Avenue, Mercedes, TX 78570
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Texas Court Locations
Bob Casey United States Courthouse
515 Rusk Street Houston, TX 77002
1701 West Business Highway 83 McAllen, TX 78501
Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse
615 East Houston Street San Antonio, TX 78205
Homer Thornberry Judicial Building
903 San Jacinto Boulevard Austin, TX 78701
Earle Cabell Federal Building and United States Courthouse
1100 Commerce Street Dallas, TX 75242
Eldon B. Mahon United States Courthouse
501 West Tenth Street Fort Worth, TX 76102
George H. Mahon Federal Building and United States Courthouse
1205 Texas Avenue Lubbock, TX 79401
J. Marvin Jones Federal Building
205 East Fifth Avenue Amarillo, TX 79101
Wells Fargo Bank Building
660 North Central Expressway Plano, TX 75074
110 North College Avenue Tyler, TX 75702
Jack Brooks Federal Building and United States Courthouse
300 Willow Street Beaumont, TX 77701
Texas Bankruptcy Judges
|Eastern District of Texas||Hon. Judge Bill Parker|
|Eastern District of Texas||Hon. Brenda Rhoades|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Barbara J. Houser|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Robert L. Jones|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Harlin D. Hale|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Stacey G. C. Jernigan|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Mark X. Mullin|
|Northern District of Texas||Hon. Edward L. Morris|
|Southern District of Texas||Hon. David R. Jones|
|Southern District of Texas||Hon. Jeff Bohm|
|Southern District of Texas||Hon. Marvin Isgur|
|Southern District of Texas||Hon. Jeffrey P. Norman|
|Southern District of Texas||Hon. Eduardo V. Rodriguez|
|Western District of Texas||Hon. Ronald B. King|
|Western District of Texas||Hon. Craig A. Gargotta|
|Western District of Texas||Hon. Christopher Mott|
|Western District of Texas||Hon. Tony M. Davis|
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