The fee to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is currently $335. If you cannot afford to pay this fee up front or in installments, you might qualify for a waiver of the fee. Along with your other bankruptcy forms, you will have to complete and file an Application for Waiver of the Chapter 7 Filing Fee (Form 3B).
(To learn about the other forms you must file in bankruptcy, see Completing the Bankruptcy Forms.)
How to Get the Fee Waiver Application?
You can find the most recent version of the Application for Waiver of the Chapter 7 Filing Fee on the U.S. Court’s website at www.uscourts.gov. To learn more about getting the official and other forms, see The Bankruptcy Forms: Getting Started.
Who Qualifies for a Chapter 7 Fee Waiver?
You qualify for a fee waiver if:
- you are an individual (businesses cannot apply for fee waivers)
- you are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- you cannot pay the fee in installments over 120 days, and
- your combined family income is less than 150% of the official poverty line.
If you cannot afford to pay the fee up front, but can pay in installments, you can file an Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments.
What Is the Official Poverty Line?
The fee waiver income limits are based on the official poverty guidelines last published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). You can find the bankruptcy fee waiver income limits on the U.S. Court’s website at www.uscourts.gov. Click on “Bankruptcy,” “Bankruptcy Resources,” and “Poverty Guidelines.”
As of early 2014, if you live on the continental U.S., your income must be less than $1,458.75 per month for single-person households, $1,966.25 for two-person households, and so on, in order to qualify for a fee waiver. Even if you meet the poverty guideline cut-off, you still have to state (under penalty of perjury) that you cannot pay the fee in installments.
Completing the Application for Fee Waiver
In order to complete the Application for Fee Waiver, you must provide information about your family size, combined family income, monthly expenses, cash on hand, bank accounts, personal property, and real estate. You can get much of this information from the Schedules that you have already completed. In particular, you’ll need information from Schedule I (income), Schedule J (expenses), Schedule A (real property), and Schedule B (personal property).
You must also provide information about:
- any amounts you’ve paid or promised to pay an attorney or anyone else for services related to your bankruptcy filing, and
- any bankruptcies you’ve filed in the previous eight years.
The form also gives you an opportunity to provide any other information that helps explain why you cannot pay the fee up front or in installments.
The Court’s Order on Your Application for Fee Waiver
The court may order one of several things. It can:
- grant the fee waiver
- schedule the matter for a hearing at which you must appear, or
- deny the fee waiver and order a payment schedule for the fee.
This article provides general information only. There are many legal issues involved and important decisions to be made when filing for bankruptcy. You must understand the entire bankruptcy process, learn about the applicable federal and state laws, and determine how those laws will affect your particular situation before you complete the bankruptcy forms. If you want to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, use a good do-it-yourself book like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to ensure you make well informed decisions about your bankruptcy case.