If you can't pay your bankruptcy attorneys' fees all at once, you might be able to make the payments in installments. In fact, paying bankruptcy fees in installments is common in Chapter 13 cases. Most attorneys will allow clients to pay Chapter 7 attorneys' fees in installments but will require payment of the entire fee before filing the case.
(Do you know which chapter is best for you? Start by reading What Are the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)
When you hire an attorney to represent you in bankruptcy, you should plan to pay three amounts:
Many people can pay the court's Chapter 7 filing fee in up to four installment payments, and some get the court fees waived. By contrast, you'll have to pay the court fees for a Chapter 13 case at the time of filing.
Many Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorneys will allow you to pay your fees through an installment plan. You'll make your payments according to the schedule and, once you've paid the entire fee, the attorney will file your case.
Don't expect your lawyer to file your bankruptcy paperwork beforehand, however. Any money you owe when you fie your case will get discharged (wiped out) with other qualifying debt. Once the Chapter 7 case gets filed, the attorney can't take any steps to collect a balance owed.
In a Chapter 13 case, you'll likely pay some of the attorneys' fees up front, but not the entire amount. The attorney will likely take the remainder through your Chapter 13 repayment plan payments (the trustee pays the attorney from your monthly plan payment).
Chapter 13 cases last from three to five years and are more labor-intensive than a Chapter 7 case, and the higher fee often reflects the need for a long-term relationship.
When you pay your bankruptcy attorney's fees through the Chapter 13 plan, most of the plan payments made at the beginning of a Chapter 13 case will go toward paying the attorneys' fees. Once paid, the Chapter 13 trustee will begin distributing your monthly payments among your other creditors.
Some attorneys will allow you to retain them for specific aspects of the case, but most prefer to handle the entire matter. The simplest way to find out about other payment arrangements is by contacting the bankruptcy lawyer directly.