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Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 28, 2020
Roanoke is a hardworking, adventurous, community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Its iconic Mill Mountain Star, which is illuminated every night, reflects the light and hope that inspires the way the people of Roanoke live their lives. And if you are considering filing bankruptcy in Roanoke, there is hope for you as well. Every year thousands of Americans file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and put the financial mistakes and heartaches of their past behind them. The type of bankruptcy you are said to be filing, whether Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13, is based on the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code which controls how that type of bankruptcy is handled. Most consumers file for bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy eliminates all of your dischargeable debts and wipes your slate clean. Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganizes your debt by consolidating your payments into one monthly payment. What doesn’t get paid in the 3 - 5 years the Chapter 13 plan takes to complete is discharged at the end. The benefit of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you are able to keep some or all of your non-exempt property and use it to catch up the mortgage on your home, if needed. However, filing Chapter 13 almost always requires the skill and expertise of an attorney. Most individuals who file a Roanoke bankruptcy of any kind are allowed to keep all of their personal property because they don’t have anything that is not exempt. The benefit of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke is that you are not required to make any payments and it can be completed in as little as 90 days, whether you have a lawyer, are using legal aid, or are filing on your own (“pro se”)!
Roanoke Bankruptcy Lawyers – Estimated Cost
Hiring a Roanoke bankruptcy lawyer costs $800 to $1200 for a standard Roanoke bankruptcy case. This cost can increase significantly if you have a bankruptcy that involves major assets, or you earn a high income. In both these instances, Upsolve believes hiring an attorney to represent you in your bankruptcy and guide you through the process is a good idea and an excellent investment if you can afford it. As a general rule, however, Upsolve believes if you have less than $10,000 in assets, don’t own your home and earn less than $55,000 per year then you can file your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke and restore your financial stability.
How to File Bankruptcy in Roanoke, Virginia for Free
If you can follow some simple, easy to understand steps you may be able to file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke for free, without hiring a lawyer. If you are ready to get the fresh start you deserve then get started on your Roanoke bankruptcy today!
Collect Your Roanoke Bankruptcy Documents
You may be anxious to begin completing your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms but before you begin, you should take some time and collect all the documents and records you will need. Doing so will allow you to answer all of the questions thoroughly and accurately. Many of the documents you need to prepare for your Virginia bankruptcy are everyday items like your pay stubs for the last two months, a recent W-2, bank records for the last six months, your last two tax returns, your mortgage statement, the certificate of title to your car, the deed to your home, your 401k or pension statement, and your insurance records. You will also need the bills you owe like medical bills, credit card bills, personal loans, payday advances, cable bills, utility bills, grocery receipts, and your car loan payments. Later on, after you file, you also need a copy of your driver’s license, state identification card, or passport and your original social security card. The more documents you have on hand when you begin, the easier it will be to complete filing bankruptcy in Roanoke.
Take Credit Counseling
You have to complete two bankruptcy-related credit counseling courses as part of your Virginia bankruptcy case. The first is a pre-petition course that reviews your current financial situation and what caused it. This course usually costs between $15 and $35. When you complete the course, you will be given a certificate that must submitted to the Court when you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke. This course is a prerequisite to being able to file bankruptcy and if you file your Roanoke bankruptcy petition without the certificate attached, the court clerk can throw out your case if the certificate is not provided within 3 days. The courses can be taken at an area credit counseling agency of your choice. One such agency, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service has an office on 7000 Peters Creek Road in Roanoke. A four-minute drive from historic Hollins University. You can also search the United States Trustee’s database of approved credit counseling agencies. These agencies offer the course online, over the telephone or in person.
Complete the Bankruptcy Forms
The modern-day bankruptcy system dates back to 1898. Unfortunately, the bankruptcy forms used today still use legal jargon that goes back to 1898 as well. As Upsolve CEO and co-founder, Rohan Pavuluri, once put it, the overall objective of your bankruptcy forms is to provide the Court with “what you own, spend, earn and owe.” That is a great way to look at each form you will have to complete. Ask yourself is the form asking you about what you own like a home or car? What you spend for things like groceries and gas? What you earn either at work or in a business? Or what you owe like credit card debt or medical bills? Looking at your bankruptcy forms in this way as you fill them out will remove a lot of the mystery and worry associated with filing bankruptcy in Roanoke. In the end, the most important rule is to be accurate, thorough and truthful.
Get Your Filing Fee
Filing bankruptcy in Roanoke for free may involve a filing fee that must be paid to the Court when you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Currently, the fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke is $335. This includes a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee and a $15 trustee surcharge. However, you should not put off filing your Roanoke bankruptcy just because you don’t have the money to pay the entire filing fee. With the Court’s permission, you can pay the filing fee in installments after filing your Virginia bankruptcy case. The number of installments is limited to four and you must submit a request to pay the filing fee in installments at the same time you file your petition. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee at all, then you must request a fee waiver. The fee waiver request must also be submitted at the same time you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.
Print Your Bankruptcy Forms
It is time to print your documents! The entire Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition packet is anywhere from 60 to 100 pages. In addition, you will have to print a text document known as a “matrix.” A matrix is a list of all your creditors and their addresses. The bankruptcy clerk uses it to mail notices of your Roanoke bankruptcy filing to all your creditors. Depending on how many creditors you have, the matrix is usually three to ten pages long. You may print your forms at home but since you will need at least two copies, you may prefer to print it at your local library. The Roanoke Public Library is located on 706 S Jefferson St SW, Roanoke, VA 24016. It is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Roanoke Valley Libraries also have a Law Branch located inside of the City of Roanoke Courthouse, 315 Church Ave SW Roanoke, VA 24016. The reference librarians at the Law Branch may be able to help you find additional resources relating to filing your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke. Wherever you decide to print your petition be sure to print on one side of each page only.
Go to Court to File Your Forms
Go to court to file your forms
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia has offices in Harrisburg, Lynchburg, and Roanoke. The Roanoke federal courthouse is located on 210 Church Avenue, a four-minute drive from the Taubman Museum of Art. You must file your Roanoke bankruptcy with the bankruptcy clerk located at this office. Bring a total of two copies of your bankruptcy forms, your filing fee, and your certificate of completion confirming you took the credit counseling course every person filing bankruptcy in Roanoke must complete. The Court is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Court is closed on weekends and on federal holidays.
Mail Documents to Your Trustee
One of the easiest requirements to overlook when you are doing your own Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke is to mail a copy of the required documents to your court-appointed Trustee. A Trustee is an individual, usually an attorney, appointed by the Court to oversee your Roanoke bankruptcy case. They will review your bankruptcy forms, discuss it with you at your creditors’ meeting and provide a report to the Court about whether they think you have anything they could sell for the benefit of your creditors. Remember, this affects only assets that are not protected by an exemption, or assets with a higher value than the limits set by state law, which is quite rare. When you mail the required documents (your most recent federal income tax return and anything the Trustee requested from you after filing bankruptcy in Roanoke) to the Trustee, make sure you mail them early enough so that they receive everything at least 7days before your creditors’ meeting.
Take Bankruptcy course 2
The second credit counseling course you are required to take deals with financial planning, how to prepare a budget and how to avoid needing bankruptcy protection in the future. This course costs between $15 and $50 and is usually longer than the first course. You will also be given a certificate of completion when you successfully finish the course. This certificate must be filed with the Court no later than 60 days after your creditors’ meeting. You can take this course at the same place where you took your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course. But, if the credit counseling agency doesn’t offer the second course for some reason, then you can locate an agency in your area that does through the Office of the United States Trustee. All of the credit counseling agencies included in the US Trustee’s database are approved to offer the course and issue the certificate of completion. Just realize your Roanoke bankruptcy will not be finished, and your discharge will not be entered, until you have completed both credit counseling courses.
Attend Your 341 Meeting
The 341 meeting of creditors is what most individuals who file bankruptcy in Roanoke will refer to as their “court date.” In most instances, the meeting is usually held in a conference room and not in the courtroom. The 341 meeting of creditors is an informal conversation between you and your court-appointed Trustee to discuss your Virginia bankruptcy case. Your creditors have a right to attend this meeting, although most never do. You should bring a copy of your bankruptcy forms and supporting documents to this meeting even if you have already mailed a copy of those documents to the Trustee , in case you need to refer to any of it to answer one of the Trustee’s questions.
Dealing with Your Car
If you are buying your car, and it’s not paid off when filing bankruptcy in Roanoke, you have to state what you intend to do with the car in one of your forms. You may either choose to keep the car or surrender it to the lender. To keep the car you must either enter into a reaffirmation agreement with the lender or redeem it. A reaffirmation agreement is an agreement between you and the lender where you agree to continue paying for the car and the lender agrees not to repossess the car. To redeem the car, you must pay the lender its fair market value and the balance is discharged as an unsecured debt. To surrender the car, you would simply agree with the lender on a place, date, and time when they can pick up the car or just let them come pick it up whenever. If you are leasing your car, none of the above will apply to you. Instead, your lease is what is called an “executory contract” and you must detail the terms of the lease and who you are leasing it from on Schedule G of your Roanoke bankruptcy forms. An executory contract is a contract that has obligations to fulfilled in the future, like your lease. You can choose to keep everything the same or use your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke to get out of your lease early.
Virginia Bankruptcy Means Test, Bankruptcy Forms, and Exemptions for Roanoke
Virginia Means Test
Unless your situation falls under one of the few exceptions, you will be required to take the Virginia bankruptcy Means Test when you prepare your Roanoke bankruptcy. The Means Test is a series of forms you will be required to fill out to determine if your currently monthly income exceeds the median monthly income for Virginia. If it does, then something known as a presumption of abuse exists in your case. A presumption of abuse means that you seemingly earn enough income to pay your bills. As a result, you must overcome this presumption of abuse by explaining to the Court why you need Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Currently, in Virginia, the median income for one person is $5,155 per month or $61,864 per year. If you earn less than this, then no presumption of abuse exists in your case and you are not required to complete the second part of the Virginia bankruptcy Means Test.
Median Income Levels for Virginia
Virginia Median Income Standards for Means Test for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
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Poverty Levels for Virginia
Virginia Fee Waiver Eligibility for Cases Filed On or After May 1, 2020
Eligible for fee waiver when under 150% the poverty level.
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Virginia Bankruptcy Forms
The set of Virginia bankruptcy forms you will submit to the Court to file your Roanoke bankruptcy case are collectively referred to as your “petition packet” because the very first document you submit to the Court for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Roanoke is called the “Voluntary Petition.” A petition in legal proceedings refers to a request being made of the Court. In the case of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you are requesting that the Court grant you a discharge. The discharge in turn legally eliminates all of your dischargeable debts. Most of the questions in the Voluntary Petition are routine such as your name, address, telephone number and what type of bankruptcy you are filing. However, if you are a renter, Question 11 requires you to indicate that you rent and whether your landlord is in the process of evicting you. If so, check the box and complete Form 101A – Initial Statement About An Eviction Judgment Against You. You must file this form with the bankruptcy clerk when you file your Roanoke bankruptcy. This form will allow you to pay any past due rent to the Bankruptcy Court in order to put the eviction on hold for 30 days.
Every person who files bankruptcy in Roanoke will want to know what Virginia bankruptcy exemptions they will be entitled to claim when they file. Exemptions are specific laws that allow you to keep most of your regular property. Exemptions vary from state to state and there are federal bankruptcy exemptions available to filers in some states. Virginia does not allow filers to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions, only the so-called non-bankruptcy exemptions to supplement the Virginia bankruptcy exemptions, if appropriate. These nonbankruptcy exemptions are not part of the Bankruptcy Code so claiming them correctly may require the assistance of an attorney.