Average Attorney Fees in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 attorney fees vary by court and district. Learn more.

Attorneys’ fees in Chapter 13 bankruptcy can vary significantly by state and district. However, most courts have Chapter 13 fee guidelines which can help you determine the average for your area.

If you’re interested in reorganizing your debt, you might want to start by learning whether you’re eligible to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Attorneys’ Fees Must Be Reasonable

Bankruptcy law requires an attorney who files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to disclose the fees for the court’s review and approval. The judge determines whether the amount is reasonable. If the court finds the fee excessive, it can order the attorney to refund all or a portion of it.

"No-Look" Fees Are Presumed Reasonable

Courts don’t want to review fees in every case, so most courts have local rules or fee guidelines which set a "presumptively reasonable" or "no-look" fee amount for a Chapter 13 case. Different courts use different terms, but the meaning is the same. If the amount charged by the attorney is equal to or less than the presumptively reasonable or no-look fee, the court will let it stand.

Here are a few other things to know.

  • Court review is still permitted. The guideline or local rule, however, does not change the bankruptcy law. The court can still review fees less than the presumptively reasonable amount if the circumstances warrant it. For instance, if an attorney couldn’t get the court to confirm (approve) a repayment plan due to the attorney’s lack of knowledge, the court might refund a no-look fee.
  • Most attorneys charge guideline fees. While the presumptively reasonable fee isn’t intended as a fee limit, an attorney will likely set the fee based upon the court's guidelines as long as it’s a straightforward case. Doing so helps avoid the time and expense associated with a court review.
  • Court review is required for higher fees. Some cases require more work than others and an attorney can charge a higher fee. But the attorney would need to follow the fee review procedure in their court, and justify the higher fee.

Services Covered by Chapter 13 Attorneys’ Fees

The services included in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy flat fee varies by district. In some districts, the attorney is expected to handle everything that comes up without additional charge. In other districts, a lawyer is permitted to charge more as long as the attorney discloses the additional fees to the court.

The additional services could include things such as defending a motion by a secured creditor for relief from stay (to continue with foreclosures or repossessions) or a repayment plan modifications.

Before you hire a bankruptcy attorney, you’ll want to have a clear idea what the fee includes.

Paying Attorneys’ Fees Through the Plan

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the lawyer will require you to pay the fee in full before filing the matter. Otherwise, the amount still owed to the lawyer would get wiped out by the bankruptcy discharge—the order that erases qualifying debt.

By contrast, the Chapter 13 fee is often paid, at least in part, with plan payments after the debtor files the case. Although some attorneys might let you pay the entire Chapter 13 fee through the plan, your attorney will likely require you to pay a portion upfront as part of the retainer agreement (you must pay something for the retainer to be binding).

How to Find the District Fee Guidelines

Check the website of the bankruptcy court. You can use the Court Locator tool to find bankruptcy court websites.

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