Can I Use My Credit Card to Pay My Bankruptcy Lawyer?

Most bankruptcy lawyers won't accept payment by credit card for attorneys' fees.

If you want to file for bankruptcy, but don't have the cash to pay your lawyer, you’re likely wondering if you can pay with a credit card. The answer is no—but your friends and family can fund your legal services with a credit account of their own.

Find out why a bankruptcy attorney won’t accept your credit card payment for legal fees but will accept a credit card payment from someone else.

A Friend or Relative Can Pay Your Bankruptcy Lawyer With a Credit Card

Bankruptcy law prohibits attorneys from advising you to incur more debt on the eve of a bankruptcy filing—and that includes charging services on a credit card or taking out cash advances (more below). This is true even if you intend to pay the credit card charges. You’re still incurring debt when the bankruptcy attorney processes the charge.

Some attorneys, however, accept debit cards because those amounts come directly from your checking account deposits. Attorneys can also take credit cards from friends or relatives who are willing to pay the fee for you. The only requirement is that you disclose who paid for your legal services in your bankruptcy paperwork.

Learn more about what you should expect from your bankruptcy lawyer.

You’ll Get Stuck Paying Credit Card Charges Made Shortly Before Bankruptcy

Lawmakers recognize that some people considering filing for bankruptcy could be tempted to run up debts before filing a case—and that wouldn’t be fair to creditors. Bankruptcy law has provisions that make many of those last-minute debts potentially nondischargeable.

For instance, there are two ways a creditor could challenge a charge made shortly before filing:

  • a luxury item purchased on credit, or cash advance, might be considered presumptive fraud, and
  • any credit purchase made when you have no intention to repay the debt could also be fraudulent in bankruptcy.

In either case, the creditor could file an adversary proceeding (lawsuit) in your bankruptcy case to challenge the discharge of the debt. Keep in mind that it is permissible to charge necessary items, such as food and needed clothing.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Payment Plans

Many bankruptcy attorneys offer payment plans for fees. Even if your attorney will allow you to pay your fees with a plan, if you’re filing a Chapter 7 case, it’s unlikely that the lawyer will file your case until you’ve paid the entire fee.

Getting a Bankruptcy Lawyer When You Have No Money

If you don’t have the cash to pay the costs of your bankruptcy services, consider these alternatives:

Stop making credit card payments

  • Some debtors stop making payments on their credit cards or other dischargeable debt until they have saved up enough to pay their fees. But you’ll want to make sure that you qualify for bankruptcy before taking this step. If you aren’t eligible, you could have a hard time bringing your credit accounts current.

Get a loan from a relative or friend

  • You can ask a friend or relative for the money. As mentioned above, your attorney can accept a credit card payment from someone other than you. Keep in mind, however, that you must list this loan in your bankruptcy paperwork, and it will likely get wiped out in a Chapter 7 case.

Consider Chapter 13 bankruptcy

  • Even though you’re eligible to file a Chapter 7 case, you might consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case In many jurisdictions, you can include part or all of the lawyer’s fees in your Chapter 13 payment plan.

Get help from Legal Aid

  • Contact your local Legal Aid or Legal Services Corporation office to determine if you are eligible for reduced or no-cost representation because of your limited income.

Look for pro bono bankruptcy help

  • Look for bankruptcy attorneys who provide free or low-cost bankruptcy assistance. Help might not always mean representation.

To learn more about paying your bankruptcy lawyer, see Options If You Can’t Afford a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer.

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