Virtually all courts, from local city courts to the Supreme Court of the United States, charge filing fees for filing a case, filing appeals, and sometimes filing motions and other documents. These are fees that help the courts keep running, and are in addition to the fees you pay to your lawyer. Bankruptcy Courts are no different. To file a Bankruptcy case, you will pay a filing fee of $350 for a Chapter 7 case and $310 for a Chapter 13 case. Click here for other fees charged in the Northern District of Georgia. The reality is that many people filing for Bankruptcy, especially on an emergency basis, may not have the money to pay these fees. In some limited circumstances, the Court may waive these fees or allow them to be paid in installments.
In order to get a waiver of the filing fee, you must fill out an application to be submitted to the Judge assigned to your case. The form can be obtained at the Clerk’s office when the case is filed, or by clicking this link. You will need to complete the form with details about your family’s income, and be prepared to provide an explanation and evidence. In general, you will need to show your income is less than 150% of the current official poverty level (note that this number is periodically adjusted). Once you file the Application, the Judge will either rule on the Application (granting or denying it), request more information, or set a hearing. Judges will not just rubber stamp these applications – it is difficult to get a complete waiver of the fee.
You may also apply to pay the filing fee in as many as four installments, by completing this Application. It is, not surprisingly, far easier to get approval for installments than a waiver. Keep in mind that if you do get approval, the Court will not forget about the obligation to pay installments on time. It will be in the computer system, and no discharge will be granted until the fees are paid. Ultimately, the case will be dismissed and closed.
A couple final notes. If you still owe fees from a prior case, the Clerk’s office will check and will note this on your application before submitting it to the Judge. You will have to pay these fees, even if you get an installment plan or waiver for the current case. The Court also assumes that if you have money to pay a lawyer, you have money to pay the Court. If you have paid a lawyer, your chances of getting a waiver or installment plan are slim. You need to get approval for one other the other, and then pay a lawyer. Of course, that does not mean you should file the case on your own, or not speak with a lawyer before filing a case! You most definitely should meet with a lawyer or two to review your case, and many lawyers will assist with getting a waiver or installment plan. We all understand your situation, and many can be retained and work out a payment arrangement with you.
Scott Riddle is a Bankruptcy and Foreclosure lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia. The best way to contact us is by phone at 404-815-0164. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us through the contact page.