Bankruptcy / Cheapest Ways To File

7 Cheapest Ways to File Bankruptcy

Written by Ben Tejes
Updated Apr 24th, 2024
This article is for informational purposes only. Ascend does not provide legal advice, and are not attorneys. If you'd like to speak with a bankruptcy attorney that serves your city, you can speak with one in a free consultation.

Many people do not explore bankruptcy as a debt relief option because they do not believe they can afford to file for bankruptcy relief. However, there are some cheap ways to file bankruptcy that can make it an even more affordable debt relief option. 

To help us understand the cheapest bankruptcy attorneys in an area, we spent ~$1,000 on a website called Pacer that can tell you how much attorneys charge for their services, so you can get a FREE estimate below.

We do this exercise for ALL 50 states, and here's an example of one we ran in the state of Colorado. I removed the actual names.
Attorney Fees Example by State to understand Cheapest Attorney Fees Option

So, if you want to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you are afraid you cannot afford to file a bankruptcy case, these cheap ways to file Chapter 7 might help.

1. Find An Affordable Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney Near You

First, you may want to take our attorney fee calculator below to see what the potential rate may be in your area. We built this calculator to give estimated bankruptcy costs in YOUR zip code. You can compare the results to what you are seeing in the market and you can also have a local attorney reach out directly for a free consultation. Thankfully, most bankruptcy attorneys offer free consultations, so you can understand pricing early in the conversation. 

Can you find a $500 bankruptcy attorney near you?

It's rare to find a $500 bankruptcy attorney, but thankfully you can get a free bankruptcy consultation where you can understand the cost or use the calculator above to help. All that to say, a $500 bankruptcy attorney fee case may be possible depending on 5 main factors related to your case.

The cost of the bankruptcy attorney fees often on a number of factors including:

  1. Type of bankruptcy
  2. Your location of residence
  3. The expertise of the bankruptcy attorney
  4. The complexity of the bankruptcy case
  5. The amount of connection involved in the bankruptcy case

In short, you may be able to find a $500 bankruptcy attorney if you live in a specific place where the attorney fees are low, your type of bankruptcy is a Chapter 7 with no complexity, you have a potentially inexperienced attorney, and most of the work is completed by a paralegal and you have very little to no interaction with an actual attorney. 

Please read this article regarding bankruptcy lawyer fees for more information about attorney fees.

$500 Bankruptcy Attorney Fees depend on a variety of factors.

Understand $500 Chapter 13 Downpayment vs $500 All-In Chapter 7 Attorney Fees

Some attorneys may take a down payment of $500 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but need the entire payment in full for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcies are very different, so I created a comprehensive Chapter 7 vs Chapter 13 YouTube video.

Are there free bankruptcy lawyers near you?

It may be even rarer to find a free bankruptcy lawyer or a pro bono bankruptcy attorney. Many people are already experiencing financial hardship to even afford bankruptcy, so lawyers will often set up payment plans or do a $0 down option. 

The reason is often that bankruptcy attorneys have costs, so they have to recoup those costs by charging for their services. That said, you may be able to find free legal services with your local legal aid, but I will mention that these services maybe for those who cannot even afford a payment plan.

2. Find an Affordable Attorney With an Installment Plan Before Filing Chapter 7

Some bankruptcy lawyers offer installment plans before filing Chapter 7. The attorney’s office handles telephone calls from your creditors and begins working on your bankruptcy forms while you pay weekly or monthly payments to the law firm. 

When you pay the fees and costs in full, the law firm files your bankruptcy case. 

Many bankruptcy attorneys take monthly payments, and it can be helpful to understand if they take credit cards albeit potentially not yours.

3. Find an Affordable Attorney With an Installment Plan After Filing Chapter 7

This option is harder to find as many attorneys require payment in full before filing a Chapter 7 case. The reason is that an attorney’s fees are discharged through the Chapter 7 case. Therefore, attorneys are more cautious about accepting payments for attorneys’ fees after they do the work to file the bankruptcy case. 

4. Request a Waiver of the Filing Fee and Cost of Bankruptcy Courses

Depending on your income level, you might qualify for a waiver of the Chapter 7 filing fee. In the alternative, you might qualify to pay the Chapter 7 filing fee in installments. To do this, you must file an application to waive a bankruptcy filing fee (Bankruptcy Official Form B 3A) with your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition.

You may also qualify for a waiver of the fees for both bankruptcy courses. You must work directly with the company providing your Credit Counseling Course and Debtor Education Course to determine if you qualify to waive these bankruptcy costs. 

5. File Chapter 7 Without an Attorney

You are not required to hire a bankruptcy lawyer to file a Chapter 7 case. Some individuals choose to file bankruptcy without an attorney. There are many resources available online if you choose to file Chapter 7 without a lawyer. 

We provide an overview of the Chapter 7 process and a Chapter 7 calculator on our website. We also provide information about Chapter 7 bankruptcy in our bankruptcy blog. You can also find information about filing without an attorney from the United States Courts. Local bankruptcy courts often have information on their website about filing bankruptcy without an attorney. You can search online or call the local bankruptcy Clerk of the Court’s Office.

Nolo has a guide to filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy you can purchase online. It is not considered legal advice, but it is advertised as a step-by-step guide for filing Chapter 7. However, bankruptcy rules and bankruptcy laws change. The official bankruptcy forms and the information used to calculate the Means Test also change periodically. It is important that you ensure you are using the most up-to-date information available if you decide to file Chapter 7 without an attorney. 

Be Careful If You File Chapter 7 Without an Attorney

If you decide to file bankruptcy without an attorney, you need to be cautious. When you file under Chapter 7, you may not be able to dismiss your case voluntarily. If the Chapter 7 trustee determines that your property may be sold to repay your debts, you might not be able to stop the process.

You may want to consider filing Chapter 13. Most bankruptcy attorneys include a majority of their attorneys’ fees in the Chapter 13 plan. You may also want to explore bankruptcy alternatives for debt relief. 

Caveat to filing a cheap bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney

6. Request Free Legal Aid

Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for legal aid. If you qualify for legal aid, you are assigned an attorney who helps you with your bankruptcy case. Many states have a Pro Bono program through the state’s Bar Association. Other states have legal aid offices you can contact. 

Here's an example of what a pro bono bankruptcy opportunity may look like:

California Pro Bono Directory in California for potentially cheap legal aid

7. Borrow Money from a Friend or Family Member

Some individuals borrow money from a friend or family member to cover the costs of filing Chapter 7. However, be very careful. You cannot repay your friend or family member before filing Chapter 7 or during your Chapter 7 case. You may be required to disclose the debt on your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. The debts owed to friends and family members are typically discharged through your Chapter 7 case. However, if you choose to repay this debt after your Chapter 7 case is closed, you could do so.

Use Ascend's Free Calculator to Estimate The Total Cost of Bankruptcy

Ascend allows you to compare debt-relief options, including bankruptcy and debt settlement. You can take our Chapter 7 means test calculator which allows you to estimate whether you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how much it may cost. If you are interested to see what the cost of an attorney would be in your area, use the calculator below.