By Kitty J. Lin
The current filing fee to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is $306. This fee may be a little out of reach for some individuals who are in financial distress and have to decide whether to use their money to pay their electricity bill or their phone bill. So what can these people do if they need to file for bankruptcy to get debt relief? There is some good news. If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case you may be eligible for a fee waiver if your gross household income falls under 150% of the poverty guidelines for the number of people in your household. Currently, if you live within the 48 contiguous states, the 150% poverty level is $1,396.25 for a household of 1, $1,891.25 for a household of 2, $2,386.25 for a household of 3, and so forth. For a more complete list if you have more family members or if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, please consult with a bankruptcy lawyer in your area to help you determine if you qualify for a filing fee waiver. Filing fee waivers are granted or denied based on the discretion of the judge in your bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy judge looks at the totality of circumstances to determine whether or not to grant the fee waiver. The bankruptcy judge basically looks at your entire financial situation to see if you can afford to pay the filing fee.
Denial of Filing Fee Waiver
If the bankruptcy judge denies your application for a filing fee waiver, the judge has two options: 1) make the entire filing fee of $306 payable immediately (normally 5 to 10 days from the denial of your fee waiver) or 2) allow you to pay the filing fee in installments. These two options are also based on the discretion of the bankruptcy judge. In most of the cases I have seen the bankruptcy judge allows people to pay the filing fee in three to four installments. Please note this does not guarantee the same result for you. As previously indicated the judge has the discretion to choose any of the two options for you depending on your financial situation.
Are Fee Waivers Available in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Cases?
Filing fee waivers are available in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases but not Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. See Rule 1006(c) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are normally filed by people that have regular income and are able to make monthly payments to a Chapter 13 trustee to pay a portion of their debts back in a chapter 13 plan of reorganization. Therefore, if you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy case with any number of bankruptcy lawyers you should be able to pay the filing fee as well. If you cannot pay the entire amount immediately you may still apply to have your filing fees paid in installments. It is up to the discretion of the bankruptcy judge to grant or deny your application to pay the filing fees in installments.