Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in Fort Worth, Texas.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 16, 2020
If you are eligible to file bankruptcy under Chapter 7, you can save money by preparing your bankruptcy case on your own. You can work with an attorney if you’d like to, but the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is so straightforward that unless your circumstances are unusually complex, you should be able to complete your petition yourself.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
Americans who don’t own small businesses generally have two options when it comes to filing personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Not everyone is eligible to file under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, however. This process is limited to those who don’t earn much income. Unlike Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is very straightforward. The courts keep this process easy to file, primarily because most low-income filers can’t afford to work with a bankruptcy attorney.
If you own luxury property or otherwise unusually expensive real estate or personal property, you may benefit from speaking with an attorney. Similarly, if you don’t mind spending a little money to have someone else prepare your case for you, investing in legal services may be a good option for you. However, if you want to save money, your financial situation isn’t unusually complex, and you feel up for a relatively straightforward challenge, you can choose to file on your own successfully.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
If you don’t meet the eligibility income limits for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may want to explore filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy instead. In this scenario, you’ll want to connect with a bankruptcy attorney, as most Chapter 13 cases filed without a lawyer’s assistance fail. This process is simply much more complex than Chapter 7 bankruptcy is. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires filers to create a repayment plan that must be adhered to for 3-5 years. Without an attorney’s help, your plan may be rejected or fail over time.
If you’re worried about hiring an attorney to help you with a Chapter 13 case, don’t fear. Your repayment plan will likely be structured in such a way that you’ll pay your legal fees with funds that would have gone to other creditors anyway.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
If the thought of preparing your bankruptcy petition on your own feels intimidating but you can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, you may find accessible legal guidance through a legal aid society. These organizations provide legal services to members of low-income households who pass eligibility screening requirements.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Legal aid societies function like really busy law firms do. Attorneys meet with clients one-on-one and to advice and assistance. However, because these organizations operate on tight budgets, they are restricted in the number of people they can help. They are also often overbooked. As a result, you will likely need to be screened for eligibility and placed on a waitlist before you can receive help through a legal aid non-profit.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Many legal aid societies, in Texas and throughout the United States, are funded by an organization called the Legal Services Corporation. Legal aid nonprofits funded by LSC are required to provide services to individuals who reside in households that earn less than 125% of the federal poverty line annually. However, this is a minimum standard. Each legal aid society constructs its own eligibility criteria. As a result, you won’t be able to answer the question “How do I know if I’m eligible for legal aid?” until you contact an organization that you’re interested in working with. Each non-profit can clarify its eligibility criteria for you.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
There are numerous legal aid societies located in and around Fort Worth. The phone numbers and alternative contact information for each is listed below. If you aren’t eligible to receive services at one, try another. Each organization has its own screening criteria, so it can’t hurt to “shop around.”
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
Anyone, including those who hope to file on their own, can schedule an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney. Most bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations to anyone who is interested in exploring their legal options. If you schedule a consultation, you won’t be obligated to work with that attorney in the future or to file for bankruptcy. The consultation process is risk-free. Just make sure that you’re not scheduled to meet with a paralegal, as these individuals can’t provide legal advice.
If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation with a reputable attorney to discuss your legal issues, you can find a lawyer in your area using a few different resources. Instead of hoping that Google will give you a good recommendation, you may want to search local bar association websites, the website for the Texas State Bar Association, or the “find a lawyer” feature on the website for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Some aspects of bankruptcy law are complex, but filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code is generally so straightforward that filers can accomplish this goal without hiring a bankruptcy attorney. You don’t have to file on your own (“pro se”) if you prefer to work with a professional, but the option is available to you if you’d like to save some money, time, and/or stress.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you choose to file for bankruptcy without an attorney’s assistance, you won’t have to navigate the process without any guidance at all. There are numerous resources available to help you. For example, the non-profit organization Upsolve maintains an extensive database of articles in its Learning Center. These articles are free to access at all times and you don’t need a login to read them. In addition to articles about filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se, you’ll find articles about credit counseling, managing credit card debt, curtailing debt collector harassment, etc.
In addition, Upsolve provides eligible filers with access to its free web tool. This tool allows individuals who are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy (not joint filings) to prepare their bankruptcy petitions pro se on a secured, guided platform. This non-profit service is free, so Upsolve never asks filers for their credit card numbers. This tool provides a great way to seek a fresh start through consumer bankruptcy in an easy-to-follow, secure format for those who qualify.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
Another great place to find self-help filing resources is at the bankruptcy court nearest to wherever you live. You can either pick up resources related to filing before you begin preparing your bankruptcy case or you can pick some up when you drop off your completed bankruptcy petition. The latter will help you prepare for your meeting of creditors.
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
Filing bankruptcy can help you to achieve a fresh financial start. It isn’t the only debt relief option available to those struggling to make ends meet, but it’s an excellent choice for some Americans. If you’ve decided that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best choice for your financial situation, you can use helpful resources to file on your own, develop an attorney-client relationship within a legal aid society, or hire a lawyer at a law office that practices bankruptcy. There is no one “right way” to approach the bankruptcy process. Do whatever works best for you.