Bankruptcy is a federal legal process that consists, at minimum, of filing a court petition, attending credit counseling classes, and meeting with a bankruptcy trustee. In every consumer bankruptcy case there are three categories of fees: (1) bankruptcy filing fees; (2) credit counseling fees; and (3) attorney fees. Filing a bankruptcy case does not have to be expensive or unaffordable. Below are some tips and tricks to keep costs low.
Bankruptcy Filing Fees
Because bankruptcy is a federal legal process, court filing fees are the same throughout the country. For a Chapter 7, an erase-your-debts-start-fresh bankruptcy case, the filing fee is $306. For a Chapter 13, a repayment plan, the filing fee is $281. These fees must be paid to the clerk of the court upon filing. However, with the court’s permission individual debtors may pay in installments. The final payment cannot be later than 120 days after you file the petition. In some rare cases the filing fee may be waived altogether for debtors who earn less than 150% of the poverty level. Bankruptcy filing fees are the same whether a debtor files a single or joint husband and wife bankruptcy.
Credit Counseling and Financial Management Courses
The federal Bankruptcy Code requires each consumer debtor to receive credit counseling from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency approved by the United States Trustee within 180 days prior to filing a bankruptcy. This counseling fee is around $50.00 per household and is available in-person, by telephone, or over the internet. After filing, the debtor must complete an “instructional course concerning personal financial management.” This class is also available in-person, by telephone, or over the internet for a fee around $50.00 per filer.
The Bankruptcy Code directs approved providers of the credit counseling and financial management courses to provide services without regard to your ability to pay. If you can’t afford the counseling, the agency may waive the fee or require you to pay a lesser amount.
Attorney fees are negotiated between the debtor and the attorney. Attorney fees are paid up-front in Chapter 7 cases. In Chapter 13 cases, the attorney may elect to receive attorney fees in equal monthly installments. The attorney is paid from the debtor’s monthly payment to the trustee, and makes the entire process more affordable. A few not-for-profit agencies and private attorneys provide free bankruptcy representation to indigent individuals.
If you are in need of debt relief, but are afraid that you cannot afford the bankruptcy fees, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options. There are strategies that you and your attorney can employ to make the process fit your budget.