How to Request a Bankruptcy Fee Waiver

A "Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Fee Waiver" can be a necessity to many people filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Legally avoiding the $306 court fee can provide help when an individual needs it the most. This tutorial should be used in tandem with the File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer tutorial. To receive a bankruptcy fee waiver you are not allowed to use a lawyer, so it is strongly recommended that you use a "Bankruptcy Software for Consumers" software program to guide you through the paperwork.


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    Do NOT hire a lawyer or bankruptcy petition organizer if you are planning on applying for a "Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Fee Waiver". Question 12 of the fee waiver states, "Have you paid (or promised to pay) an attorney any money for services in connection with this case, including the completion of this form, the bankruptcy petition, or schedules?" There are subsequent questions about paying someone "other than an attorney (such a bankruptcy petition organizer (BPP) or paralegal)" to prepare your forms. These are qualifying questions, and, if you answer "yes" to any of them, your fee waiver will be denied (the court figures if you can afford to pay $1400 to a lawyer or $300 to a petition organizer, you can afford to pay them too). If you have hired an attorney or BPP, you cannot answer "No" because they are required to put their signature all over the rest of your forms.
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    Find out if you are income qualified for a bankruptcy fee waiver. This is separate and more restrictive than the income qualification for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To qualify, you must fall below 150% these Federal Poverty Guidelines.
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    Complete all of your necessary paperwork. Here's the "Catch-22". The fee waiver is designed to be filled out in tandem with the entire bankruptcy package, and therefore has references to Schedules A, B, and J that you will need to answer. The forms are probably intimidating to someone who is looking at them for the first time, and you probably want to hire an attorney, therefore nullifying your "fee waiver" option. You can purchase a "Bankruptcy Software for Consumers" program for under $45 to properly guide you through the paperwork.
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    File your fee waiver with your other bankruptcy paperwork with the bankruptcy court clerk. Details on this step are included in the bankruptcy without a lawyer tutorial.
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    Wait up to 10 days. The judge can only waive the fee if your income is 150% below the poverty line for your family size, and you can prove that you cannot afford to pay the fee in installments of 4 to 6 months. The court must decide quickly and inform you and the trustee in about 10 days.
    • Good news: If the judge approves the waiver, then you are filing under the status in forma pauperis (Latin for “in the manner of a pauper”).
    • Bad news: If the judge denies the waiver, then you will have to make payment arrangements to pay the fee in installments. Failure to make payments in a timely manner or failing not to pay will result in the court dismissing your bankruptcy case.

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Categories: Bankruptcy