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You may be wondering how to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy for free. Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases help many individuals manage debt problems effectively and efficiently. With the help of the bankruptcy court, an individual can stop debt collection actions by filing Chapter 13, including foreclosures, repossessions, debt-collection lawsuits, and wage garnishments. The person can restructure their debts into an affordable plan. At the end of the Chapter 13 repayment plan, most people are debt-free, except for their mortgage, if they have a home loan.

However, many people worry about the cost of filing Chapter 13. They worry that they cannot pay a bankruptcy lawyer to prepare and file a Chapter 13 case. The good news is that you are not required to hire a bankruptcy attorney to file Chapter 13, but that does not mean you should not consider hiring a bankruptcy attorney to help you navigate the Chapter 13 process.

How Can You File Chapter 13 for Free?

The Bankruptcy Code permits individuals to file Chapter 13 without an attorney. However, you will still need to pay the filing fee for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, which is currently $310. You must also pay for the bankruptcy courses, which are required as part of the bankruptcy filing. 

The fee for the Credit Counseling Course and the Debtor Education Course ranges from $10 to $50. The courses are available online, in person, and by telephone. There are numerous companies approved by the United States Trustee’s Office to offer the classes. Just make sure that you choose a company from the list that is approved to offer classes in your state.

You can download copies of the official bankruptcy forms online. However, many bankruptcy districts have local forms that they require debtors (individuals seeking bankruptcy relief) must use if filing a case in that jurisdiction. Chapter 13 plans are common local forms that are unique to a bankruptcy district.

Other costs that you incur when filing Chapter 13 without an attorney are travel costs and postage. You must either file your bankruptcy forms in person at the bankruptcy court, which could be several hours from your home, depending on where you live, or you must mail the forms. An average Chapter 13 bankruptcy case includes between 30 to 60 pages of forms. 

Also, you must mail a copy of your proposed Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan to each creditor and party in interest listed on your bankruptcy forms. In some cases, that could be over 100 parties. There will also be other forms that you are required to mail to all parties throughout your Chapter 13 case. Many bankruptcy attorneys include postage and copies as part of their Chapter 13 attorneys’ fees.

Things to Consider About Filing Chapter 13 Without an Attorney:

Even though you can file a Chapter 13 case for free, except for filing fees and costs, you may want to consider several important things before filing Chapter 13 without an attorney.

  • Do you understand bankruptcy laws regarding different types of debts and how those debts need to be handled in a Chapter 13 plan?
  • Can you research and choose which bankruptcy exemptions to use for your case? Some states have state-specific bankruptcy exemptions while other states allow debtors to use federal bankruptcy exemptions. Bankruptcy exemptions protect the equity in property from being used to repay creditors.
  • Do you understand what bankruptcy forms to use and how to complete those bankruptcy forms?
  • Are you aware of the requirements for discharging (forgiving) debts in bankruptcy?
  • Do you understand how to calculate the Means Test? The calculations on the Means Test can significantly impact how much you must pay to the Chapter 13 trustee.
  • Are you comfortable with researching various bankruptcy laws and applying those laws correctly in your case?
  • Do you know how to calculate a Chapter 13 plan according to the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code?
  • Are you comfortable arguing motions using case law and bankruptcy laws before a bankruptcy judge?

A bankruptcy lawyer provides legal advice, guidance, and support through each aspect of a Chapter 13 case. Chapter 13 cases can be complex. Creditors may object to your proposed plan, or the Chapter 13 trustee may object to the plan. You must respond to those objections and file amendments to the plan. 

If you choose the wrong bankruptcy exemptions, you could have a much higher bankruptcy payment than necessary. In other words, there are many ways in which a bankruptcy attorney can protect your interests. The attorney fee you pay may be worth it to know that your Chapter 13 case is handled correctly.

Alternatives to Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In some cases, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case may not be the best way to get out of debt. Debt settlement or debt management may be a better way for you to get rid of debts. Through a detailed debt management problem, you may be able to repay your creditors without filing bankruptcy. Ascend has several resources that can help you decide if Chapter 13 is right for you.

You may want to begin by using our free Chapter 13 calculator to estimate what your repayment plan would be in a Chapter 13 case. You can explore Chapter 13 in more detail in our blogs and articles about Chapter 13. Our Debt Settlement Guide provides detailed information regarding settling your debts with individual creditors. You may also want to compare debt management and debt settlement to see which option works best in your financial situation.

If you find that debt management is right for you, we suggest you try our Savvy Debt Payoff app. It is an efficient tool for managing finances and paying off debts. If you have questions or want to talk to someone, contact Ascend. You can call/text us at 833-272-3631 for additional information about our services. 

Post Author: Ben Tejes

Ben Tejes is a co-founder and CEO of Ascend Finance. Before Ascend, Ben held various executive roles at personal finance companies. Ben specializes in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Debt Settlement, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and debt payoff methods. In his free time, Ben enjoys spending time going on adventures with his wife and three young daughters.

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