In order to obtain a fee waiver for the bankruptcy court's filing fees, at least in the Central District of California, the court may authorize a filing fee to be paid in installments or waive the fee entirely in certain circumstances. Note that if an installment payment plan is approved, the payment schedule must be followed or the bankruptcy case could be dismissed without the debtor receiving a debt discharge.
Chapter 13 Petition Package - In chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, it is generally not permitted to waive or pay in installments the filing fee. The purpose of chapter 13 is to catch up on payments, so if the filing fee is unaffordable, the court will query the debtor's ability to succeed in a chapter 13 case. Chapter 13 without an attorney has a 99% failure rate due to the complexity of repayment plan cases.
Chapter 11 Petition Package - Fee waivers or installment payments are typically not permitted in chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. Similarly to Chapter 13, filing without a counsel will result in the failure of your case due to the complexity of these cases.
Chapter 7 Petition Package - If a debtor files a chapter 7 bankruptcy case and his or her income is less than 150% above the federal H.H.S Poverty Guidelines (which varies based on the size of the family), the court may waive the filing fee entirely or authorize payments in installments. At the time the bankruptcy petition is submitted, the debtor must submit a written request to the court at the intake window of the Clerk's Office. The intake staff will contact the judge assigned to the bankruptcy case, and the judge will render a decision as quickly as feasible. This may require the debtor to wait a few hours at the courthouse if the judge is not immediately available, or the debtor may have to return the following business day. Even if the court does not waive the filing fee, it may permit the debtor to pay it in installments.
According to my understanding of the fee waiver program in our courts, the judge's position in determining whether to waive the fee is as follows: You cannot obtain a fee waiver if you employ a professional to assist you during the petition preparation phase. If you can afford to hire a petition preparer at the maximum rate of $200.00, then you can undoubtedly afford the $335.00 filing fee.
In addition to the filing fee, two credit counseling classes are mandatory. If you qualify as low-income, you can typically obtain a fee waiver. You will need to request it, but it is also possible.
After that, the only additional expenses will be incurred if you employ a non-attorney petition preparer or an attorney to represent you in your bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy filings with the assistance of an attorney tend to run much more smoothly than those prepared without one, but this does not mean it's impossible.
When registering for bankruptcy with the intention of saving money, one must consider whether there is anything to lose. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee's task is to search for assets to seize in order to pay creditors. If you have assets to safeguard and do not know how to protect them from the trustee's taking, it would be prudent to retain legal counsel.
However, if your income is genuinely low and you have no assets to protect, you are a prime candidate for filing bankruptcy on your own and obtaining fee waivers for the filing and counseling courses. In fact, the Central District of California has recently revised its forms in an effort to simplify the filing process. Additionally, we offer electronic self-representation (ESR), allowing you to petition for bankruptcy from the comfort of your own home. In the majority of our courthouses, self-help videos and a self-help desk are also available.
If you have nothing to lose but time, you can save money by preparing your own bankruptcy case. It may turn out even better than if you chose the inexpensive bankruptcy attorney, paid them, and they botched your case. Never fear, if you encounter a disgruntled trustee who asks you questions or recommends you consult an attorney, we're still here to help and rectify the record for a fee.""
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