When you file for bankruptcy, you must pay a filing fee and costs associated with credit counseling. If you can’t afford the filing fee, you might qualify to pay in installments or for a waiver of the entire fee.
Here’s the rundown of what you must pay, when you must pay it, and how to qualify for a fee waiver or installment payments.
Effective December 1, 2016, the total fees you must pay to file a bankruptcy petition are:
The bankruptcy court increases these fees from time to time. You can always find the most up-to-date fees on the website of the U.S. Courts at www.uscourts.gov.
Normally, the filing fee is due when you file your petition. However, there are two exceptions -- you may ask the court if you can pay the fee in installments, or you can request that the court waive the fee entirely.
You may ask the court to allow you to pay your filing fee in installments. To do this, you file Form 3A – Application and Order to Pay Filing Fee in Installments. On the form, you must state that you cannot pay the fee except in installments and then propose a schedule for payment of the entire fee. Your proposed payment schedule cannot have more than four installments, and the final payment cannot be later than 120 days after you file the petition.
You can ask the court to waive the filing fee. If the court waives the fee, you don’t have to pay it. In order to qualify for a fee waiver, you:
You will have to file Form 3B – Application for Waiver of Chapter 7 Filing Fee. In addition, you will have to appear in court so the judge can ask you questions.
Because you must have enough money to fund a repayment plan for three to five years in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 filers will rarely qualify for a fee waiver.
Also, Chapter 13 filers cannot make further payments to their attorney until the filing fee is paid in full. In practice, this means that Chapter 13 filers will rarely be able to pay the fee in installments, since their attorneys will most likely require payment of some attorney fees up front.
When you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must get credit counseling from an approved provider within six months before your filing. You must also take a personal financial management course prior to getting your bankruptcy discharged.
(To learn more about these requirements, see Credit Counseling & Debtor Education Requirements in Bankruptcy.)
Most approved credit counseling providers charge between $20 and $50 for the required counseling. Some don’t charge anything. The law requires the agencies to provide counseling without regard to your ability to pay, so if you can’t afford the counseling, let the agency know about this requirement.
The debtor education courses also cost about $50. If you can’t afford the amount charged, you can ask that the fee be waived or that you be allowed to pay a lesser amount.