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 in San Antonio, Texas.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated September 16, 2020
If you’re thinking about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can either choose to prepare your bankruptcy petition with the help of an attorney or you can navigate the bankruptcy process on your own. Both of these approaches are viable options. You’ll want to pick the approach that best fits your unique financial situation and your personal preferences.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are the two most common types of bankruptcy filed by individuals and married couples who don’t own businesses. Each of these consumer bankruptcy approaches features potential benefits and drawbacks. One of the most compelling benefits of filing forChapter 7 bankruptcy is that the process is generally so straightforward that most filers can prepare, submit, and defend their bankruptcy cases without the assistance of a bankruptcy lawyer.
The Bankruptcy Code only allows filers who don’t earn much income to take advantage of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. Most low-income filers don’t own a small business, much real estate, or other unusually valuable assets. Additionally, their finances don’t tend to be overly complex. As a result, it isn’t too difficult for them to complete the financial paperwork required to file bankruptcy or to complete the other steps required for a successful filing.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is usually so straightforward that most filers don’t need to work with a bankruptcy attorney to secure a discharge and a fresh financial start. Ordinarily, only those with unusually complex finances or other special needs require professional legal advice to complete a Chapter 7 filing. However, some filers prefer the low-stress approach of hiring a bankruptcy law firm and that’s always a valid option too. In the end, each filer needs to make an informed decision about which approach makes the most sense for them.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Unlike filing for Chapter 7, filing forChapter 13 bankruptcy is a complex process, regardless of how much property you own or how nuanced your financial situation is. Most Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions prepared without a lawyer experienced in bankruptcy law matters fail. Therefore, it’s important to speak with a bankruptcy law office if you’reineligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Developing an attorney-client relationship while filing for Chapter 13 will help ensure that you understand the legal issues involved and that your repayment plan is ultimately successful. Your attorney can also help you halt wage garnishments, deal with debt collectors, address outstanding credit card debt, and prepare you for your meeting of creditors.
You may be concerned about affording attorneys’ fees. When you construct your repayment plan, you’ll likely be able to pay your attorney with funds that would have otherwise been used to pay down unsecured debt anyway.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
If you’reeligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you’d like to work with an attorney but can’t afford this resource, you may be able to access free legal services through a legal aid society. These non-profit agencies provide free legal help to members of low-income households who meet certain eligibility criteria.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Legal aid services in Texas are usually in high demand. Therefore, you may not be able to access free legal assistance until after you’ve been placed on a waitlist and been moved, over time, to the top of it. Before a legal aid organization will place you on a waitlist, you’ll likely be screened to ensure that you meet the society’s eligibility criteria. Legal aid attorneys can only work with so many clients at a time, so they tend to be strict about which members of the community they’ll serve.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
Even though no-cost credit counseling is available to anyone, regardless of income level, as offered by accredited, non-profit credit counseling agencies, legal aid agencies generally only serve those who earn very little income. These agencies have limited resources. As a result, most adhere to eligibility criteria set forth by the Legal Services Corporation. This non-profit established by Congress during the 1970s funds legal aid societies. Each funding recipient is required to provide certain legal services to members of households with an annual income that does not exceed 125% of the federal poverty line.
If you’re not eligible for assistance through one agency, you may be eligible for assistance through another. It is therefore generally a good idea to contact multiple agencies and to inquire about their eligibility criteria at that time.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
Below, you’ll find the contact information for legal aid societies in and near San Antonio. You can place your name on the waitlist of any agency you’re eligible to work with, provided that you take your name off each list once you receive assistance from the agency that opens a spot for you first.
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you don’t qualify for legal assistance through legal aid, you can request an initial consultation from a bankruptcy attorney. Most bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations. You can attend a free consultation even if you plan to file for bankruptcy on your own. The consultation will allow you the opportunity to ask a lawyer (don’t schedule a meeting with a paralegal or administrative professional) questions about filing for bankruptcy. Taking this meeting won’t obligate you to work with a lawyer or to file for bankruptcy. Consultations are simply helpful, no-risk resources.
To find a licensed bankruptcy attorney in your area, consider the “find a lawyer” page on the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys’ (NACBA) website. Alternatively, local bar associations and the Texas State Bar Association website may be helpful as well.
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
If you feel confident in your ability to file on your own and you’d like to save some money, there are many self-help filing resources available online and in print that can prove to be useful. Remember, unless your financial situation is unusually complex, you should be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own (“pro se”) without hiring an attorney.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you opt to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own, you may want to consider using some of the free self-help filing resources on the Upsolve website. Upsolve is a non-profit organization that provides resources to the public at no cost. For example, hundreds of articles about the bankruptcy process and debt relief alternatives can be found on the UpsolveLearning Center at any time. You will not need to go through a login process to access these materials.
Eligible filers can even utilize Upsolve’sfree web tool to prepare their bankruptcy petition. This no-cost platform allowslow-income filers a secure, streamlined way to prepare their bankruptcy case. It can be relatively challenging to locate all the forms required to file for bankruptcy and to keep each step of the process straight. Upsolve’s free web tool takes much of the stress and much of the guesswork out of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
You can also pick up self-help filing resources at the bankruptcy court located nearest to you. Although some resources may be found online, bankruptcy courts typically provide printed resource materials that can be picked up at the courthouse.
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
Although filing for bankruptcy is not the best debt relief option for everyone, this process can provide a fresh start under many different circumstances. Thousands of individuals and families across the United States file for bankruptcy every day. Some file with the assistance of an attorney, others file pro se. If you choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, choose whichever approach and whatever resources are right for you and you alone. There is no single “right” way to approach this process.