How to File Bankruptcy for Free

By Fraser Sherman - Updated April 11, 2017

There are several types of bankruptcy, but only one allows you to file for free. That's Chapter 7, which gives individuals with almost no assets a chance to wipe out their debts. Download the 103B waiver form from the U.S. Courts website, fill it out and submit it to the bankruptcy court with your Chapter 7 paperwork. Even if the court grants you a waiver, there are other bankruptcy fees and charges you may still have to pay.

Types of Bankruptcy

Federal law breaks bankruptcy into several chapters:

  • Chapter 7 allows an individual to liquidate assets to pay off creditors, then wipe out the remaining debt. It costs $335 to file the petition.
  • Chapter 11 is for corporations that choose to reorganize, paying off some debts and erasing others. It costs $1717 to file the petition.
  • Chapter 12 is for family farmers and fishers. It costs $275 to file the petition.
  • Chapter 13 sets up a multi-year debt payment plan for individuals. The court wipes out the remaining debts at the end of the payment period. It costs $310 to file the petition.

Other chapters cover special circumstances such as municipal bankruptcy.

Tip

Bankruptcy is complex, and one error can get the case thrown out of court. If you can't afford a lawyer, the U.S. Courts website has links to possible sources of free legal assistance.

Filing the Waiver

Chapter 7 is the bankruptcy procedure for individuals who don't have enough money or assets to qualify for a Chapter 13 repayment plan. After you download Form 103B – Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived, fill it out with the necessary information:

  • family income
  • projected changes to your income within the next 120 days
  • non-cash government assistance
  • monthly expenses
  • whether anyone helps you pay the bills
  • cash you have on hand
  • other assets, such as a home

If your combined family income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline, you may qualify for a fee waiver. The court will either grant the waiver, schedule a hearing to discuss your request, or reject the waiver. If the judge refuses to grant you the fee waiver, he can still permit you to pay the fees on an installment plan.

Payment Plan

The installment plan gives you the option to make four fee payments over 120 days after you file bankruptcy, instead of paying the whole amount up front. Unlike the waiver, it's available whether you're filing Chapter 7, 11, 12 or 13. Download Form 103A – Application for Individuals to Pay the Filing Fee in Installments from the U.S. Courts website. Fill out the dates of your proposed payments and the amount of each installment. Submit it to the court with your other paperwork for the judge's decision.

Miscellaneous Fees

Even if you are granted an extension or a waiver for your filing fees, bankruptcy expenses can add up. The U.S. Courts website lists the fees as of 2017. These include:

  • 50 cents to make copies
  • $11 to certify a document
  • $31 to get an audio transcript of a court proceeding
  • $47 if you file a document not related to the case

Some of these fees can be waived with the judge's approval. Most of them cannot.

About the Author

A Durham, NC resident, Fraser has written about law, starting a business, balancing your budget and fighting evictions, among other legal and financial topics.

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