When you’re in desperate financial distress, bankruptcy can be a lifeline. When you declare personal bankruptcy using Chapter 7 under the Bankruptcy Code, you can eliminate all of your unsecured debt (credit card debt, medical debt, etc.). If it’s not possible for you to file under Chapter 7, you can file under Chapter 13. Your unsecured debt will not be eliminated, but it will be greatly reduced and you will have three to five years to pay back that lower amount.
Declaring bankruptcy, however, means instigating a court procedure, and there are certain costs associated with that.
There is an entirely separate court system for bankruptcy and these courts need to be maintained, and the personnel paid. Part of that cost comes from the filing fee that the person filing for bankruptcy (the petitioner) pays. Currently, the national bankruptcy fee is $335 to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are unable to pay that amount in full at the time of filing, you can pay in four installments within 120 days of the date of filing. In other words, you can pay approximately $84 a month for four months. There are provisions to waive the fee entirely if your family income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. As of January 17, 2020, the federal poverty guideline for a family of four in Wisconsin is $39,300. There is also a small fee for the bankruptcy trustee. The filing fee for Chapter 13 is $310.
Credit Counseling Course Costs
When you file for bankruptcy, you must agree to participate in a credit counseling course at the beginning of the procedure, and a debtor education course at its conclusion. The cost of these courses varies widely. Some can be as inexpensive as $10, while some can cost about $60. You must attend a court-approved course. So you can expect to spend an additional $20 to $120. If you have been granted a filing fee waiver due to your low income, course costs are often waived as well.
You are not required to use an attorney when you file for bankruptcy, but it would be foolish not to do so. Bankruptcy is extremely complicated and any mistakes can have long-term, serious consequences for you and your family. Having an attorney responsible for the paperwork necessary helps assure mistakes are not made. There are ways to mitigate attorney fees, and certainly, consulting with a firm that specializes in bankruptcy law, like Burr Law, is a sensible course of action. We would be able to assess the nature of your situation, and anticipate the complexity of your case. So we would be able to give you a clear idea of what your attorney costs might be. While only 5% of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings were challenged by a creditor in 2019, if that happens, litigation would obviously increase attorney costs as well.
It is important to keep the costs associated with bankruptcy in the proper perspective. When you are being buried under a mountain of debt, the logic of incurring a small additional obligation should be apparent. Here at Burr Law we will work with you to make sure that you derive all possible benefits from filing for bankruptcy and still retain the financial means to restart your life.