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According to the United States Courts, the cost to file bankruptcy can be between $313 and $1,738, depending on which chapter you file. The cost can increase if you decide to seek legal help to assist you with your case.
Between 2017 and 2021, there were over three million non-business bankruptcies filed in the United States, primarily from Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 filings. When filing bankruptcy, a person is in financial distress, and the last thing someone wants to worry about is how much it’s going to cost.
There are advantages and disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy, and understanding how much the process is going to cost can help you make the decision that’s right for you. Here, you’ll learn about the various court filing fees along with attorney fees should you choose to seek legal help.
There are different costs associated with filing for bankruptcy, and it depends on which chapter of bankruptcy you’re filing for. For example, Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is typically for individuals looking to eliminate debts, will have different fees than Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is for a debt repayment plan.
The cost to file bankruptcy is fixed, regardless of the state you live in. If you decide to seek legal help, attorney fees can vary depending on the complexity of your case, but we’ve listed some rough estimates to give you an idea:
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is significantly more expensive than the others. This is because it’s usually the type of bankruptcy reserved for businesses, and the size of the business is a main factor. This process is much more in depth, and the billable hours for legal help exceed that of what an individual would need.
Bankruptcy filing fees
Bankruptcy filing fees are paid to the court for the right to have your case heard. Much like the overall cost, the filing fees differ depending on the type of bankruptcy you file. The fees are broken down into a filing fee when you petition the court as well as an administrative fee.
When debating on which form of bankruptcy is right for you, it’s helpful to know that Chapter 7 has an additional fee because you’ll need to pay for a trustee. During the Chapter 7 process, the trustee goes through your financial documents and gives a decision to the court about whether or not you should qualify for this type of bankruptcy.
A trustee is also involved in the Chapter 13 filing process, but they’re paid with a percentage of the monthly payments you make as part of the payment plan.
The following fees are listed by the United States Courts:
- Filing fee: $245
- Administrative fee: $78
- Trustee surcharge: $15
- Reopening a Chapter 7 filing: $245
- Filing fee: $1,167
- Administrative fee: $571
- Reopening a Chapter 11 filing: $1,167
- Filing fee: $235
- Administrative fee: $78
- Reopening a Chapter 13 filing: $235
Regardless of the type of bankruptcy you file, these fees are due when you petition the court. Because you’re likely in financial distress when you file for bankruptcy, there are some cases where you may be able to make payments on the filing fees or have the fees waived entirely.
For businesses filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the fees are typically paid in one lump sum.
How much does a lawyer charge for Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
The attorney costs for bankruptcy will vary depending on the complexity of your case as well as your location. Lawyers typically charge an hourly rate and have a good idea of how much time will be spent on your case based on different factors involved in the filing process.
Since it’s the most common type, many people ask, “How much does it cost to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy?” Different studies have found a range of results for national averages.
- Chapter 7: $1,450 (NOLO)
- Chapter 11: Ranges can vary greatly depending on whether it’s an individual or a business as well as the size of the business
- Chapter 13: $3,000 (Natlbankruptcy.com)
Factors affecting your attorney fees include how you’re filing, what types of assets you have and much more. These are just some of the factors to take into consideration when you hire an attorney:
- How many creditors you have
- How much money you make compared to the state’s median income per household
- The number of nonexempt assets you have
- Whether or not you’ve filed for bankruptcy within the last eight years
- How many sources of income you have
- If you’re filing as an individual or as a business
- Ongoing fraud cases
- How many non-dischargeable debts you have, like student loans, child support and overdue taxes
- Payment plans and other arrangements made between attorney and client
While you may know when to file for bankruptcy, you may not know the correct process, which is where a bankruptcy attorney can help. Filing for bankruptcy not only involves quite a bit of paperwork, but it has to be done properly. If any documents are forgotten or left out, the court may not approve your case, and they may even charge you with bankruptcy fraud.
Similar to how it’s helpful to have a credit lawyer when disputing errors on your credit report, a lawyer’s expertise can help you with the bankruptcy process. They know exactly what the courts are looking for so you don’t miss anything when you file. Working with an attorney can also improve your chances of having your bankruptcy approved in a way that gives you the best outcome.
Other bankruptcy-related costs
In addition to the bankruptcy costs for filing, there are mandatory credit counseling courses that you’ll need to take. Before your bankruptcy is discharged, you’ll also need to take a debtor education course. These courses can be taken online, and they’re meant to help those who file manage their finances better.
The credit counseling courses can range between $10 and $50, but you may also have this fee waived if you’re unable to pay. For the debtor educator course, the cost is within the same $10 to $50 range. These courses must be taken through approved providers, which you can find on the U.S. Courts website.
How to reduce bankruptcy costs
Bankruptcy is often a last resort when you’re struggling with debt, so it can be difficult to find the money to cover the costs. Here are some ways you can file for bankruptcy while also saving some money:
- Pick the right bankruptcy: As you now know, there are multiple forms of bankruptcy, and some are cheaper than others. Knowing the differences between Chapter 7 bankruptcy vs. Chapter 13 can help you choose.
- Do your own filing: You can file on your own, which is called filing “pro se,” and save you money on administrative fees. Keep in mind, however, if this is done incorrectly, your bankruptcy filing can be denied as a result, so be sure to consult professional assistance before doing so.
- Find additional sources of income: If you’re low on funds, it may be a good idea to look into a side hustle. For example, some individuals make extra money by temporarily working for a rideshare service or something similar.
- Consider pausing paying credit card debts: Since you’re filing for bankruptcy, you need not worry about paying off these debts because they’ll be part of the filing. Attorney Cara O’Neill recommends you stop paying once you know you’re going to file. This will give you additional funds to pay for the filing fees and attorney fees.
If you’re in a situation where you don’t have the money to pay, there are some options you can look into. Finding additional sources of income through side work is always a great way to raise money, but there are also services for those with financial hardships.
- Find a free legal clinic: There are free legal clinics as well as the Legal Aid Society, which may provide pro bono legal representation if you meet certain criteria. This is typically offered based on your current income.
- Check with the state bar: Each state has a bar association that lawyers are registered with, and they may be able to help you find local lawyers offering pro bono work.
- See if you qualify for waived fees with the court: If you meet certain requirements in your state, the court may waive filing fees or provide you with a payment plan.
How does a bankruptcy affect your credit score?
After you file for bankruptcy, it can stay on your credit report from seven to 10 years. It may take longer if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy because it stays until your repayment plan is complete. As long as it’s on your credit report, it harms your credit, which makes it difficult to get loans and other lines of credit. It can also be difficult to rent a place to live or turn on services for a cellphone or various utilities. Whether you’ve already gone through a bankruptcy or are considering it, Lexington Law Firm has legal experts who can assist you with the process of repairing your credit. Our team has years of experience helping people repair their credit and improve their financial lives through our various services. To learn more, sign up today for a consultation.
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