• Believe it or not, it actually costs money to file for bankruptcy, even if you don't hire a lawyer. Before you can even file, you are required to obtain credit counseling, which can cost $75 or more. When you actually do file, the court will assess a filing fee of $299 or more. Of course, the U.S. court system is aware that some bankruptcy debtors will simply be unable to pay these fees. If you are broke, it is possible to have these fees waived and essentially file for bankruptcy for free.

    Credit Counseling

    The federal bankruptcy reform that occurred in 2005 made credit counseling mandatory. You must now obtain counseling from an approved organization within 180 days of filing your bankruptcy petition. The U.S. Trustee's web page maintains a list of approved agencies that can be searched by location (see Resources below). Some of these agencies will voluntarily waive their fee after you submit your financial information if it demonstrates your inability to pay. Be sure to ask whether you qualify for a fee waiver before you begin the credit counseling process.

    Filing Fees

    When you finally get your bankruptcy paperwork in order, the court will expect you to pay a filing fee. If you are broke, you are most likely filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which costs $299. All bankruptcy courts allow a bankruptcy debtor to request a fee waiver by filing Form B3B (see Resources below) along with their petition. The court will review your filing and determine whether you qualify for a fee waiver. If not, you will most likely be permitted to pay by installment.

    Legal Resources

    Preparing the initial documents necessary for filing bankruptcy is a complex process that is usually performed by an attorney. It is possible to do it yourself, but you will need help. Your local public library will most likely have self help legal books on bankruptcy that you can use free of charge. Some cities might also have free legal services programs that can offer some assistance. Most importantly, each of the bankruptcy forms includes detailed instructions (see Resources below). Filling out the forms correctly according to the court's instructions is essential to prevent your case being dismissed.


    U.S. Courts: Rule 1006. Filing Fee

    U.S. Courts: Official Bankruptcy Forms

    U.S. Courts: Bankruptcy Basics

    More Information:

    Form B3B Application for Fee Waiver

    List of Approved Credit Counseling Agencies

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