When you file for bankruptcy, you must pay a filing fee and costs associated with credit and debt counseling. If you can't afford the filing fee, you might qualify for a fee waiver or be able to pay in installments.
In this article, you'll find a 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, 2020, the total fees you must pay to file a bankruptcy petition are:
The bankruptcy court increases these fees from time to time. You can find the most up-to-date fees on the U.S. Courts fee webpage
Typically, the filing fee is due when you file your bankruptcy petition. However, there are two exceptions in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can ask the court if you can pay the fee in installments or waive the fee entirely.
To ask the court to allow you to pay your filing fee in installments, you file Form 103A Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments. On the form, you must state that you cannot pay the fee except in installments and propose to pay in no more than four payments within 120 days after filing the petition.
You don't have to pay the fee if the court waives it. To qualify for a fee waiver, you:
You'll request a fee waiver by completing and filing Form 103B Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived. You might have to appear in court so the judge can ask you questions; however, in many cases, the judge will approve the application without requiring an appearance.
Learn how to amend bankruptcy forms.
Because you must have enough money to fund a repayment plan for three to five years in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 filers don't qualify for fee waivers or installment payments in practice. Plan to pay the fee when filing the case.
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must get credit counseling from an approved provider within six months before filing. After filing your case, you must also take a debtor education course as a condition of receiving your bankruptcy discharge (the order that wipes out qualifying debt).
Most approved credit counseling providers charge between $15 and $30 for the required counseling, but you might not have to pay 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 $35. If you can't afford the amount charged, you can ask that the provider waive the fee or that you be allowed to pay a lesser amount.
Finding a way to pay Chapter 13 bankruptcy fees is relatively simple because many bankruptcy attorneys charge as little as $100 to start and roll the remainder into your Chapter 13 repayment plan. This approach allows you to pay your Chapter 13 fees over time.
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you'll need to pay your lawyer fully before filing your case. Why? Because Chapter 7 bankruptcy erases attorneys' fees. If you don't pay in full, your lawyer will go unpaid.
So how do you find the money to file for Chapter 7? Most Chapter 7 filers stop paying bills that will be erased in bankruptcy and use the funds to pay the lawyer instead. Others will borrow the money from friends and family.
But other strategies exist. Here's where you can learn more about what you can do if you can't afford a bankruptcy lawyer.
Did you know Nolo has been making the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to make sure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!
Our Editor's Picks for You
More Like This
Other Articles You Might Like
Helpful Bankruptcy Sites
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.
Updated October 20, 2022