While some people choose to hire an attorney to file their Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, it is possible to save the money and file your own bankruptcy papers. Doing this on your own will require careful study of federal bankruptcy guidelines. Once bankruptcy is completed, you will be permanently protected against being sued for the collection of consumer debts that are covered by your filing.
Before filing bankruptcy, write down a list of your debts and your assets, including items such as a home or stocks, and your income. You will need to ensure that you do not make too much money to file a Chapter 7 case and pass a federal means test (find a link in the Resources section below). You will also be required to complete an approved credit counseling session and retain the certificate that proves you met this requirement. The United States Bankruptcy Courts website has all the necessary Chapter 7 papers, which you can download and fill out by hand.
Visit your local division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts to file your Chapter 7 case. Be sure to bring your completed papers, any proof of income, your credit counseling certificate, and copies of your last three tax returns. As of August 2009, the filing fee was about $300. If you cannot afford to pay the fee in full, you can apply to pay the money in installments. Simply tell the clerk you wish to file bankruptcy and he or she will accept your papers.
Finalizing Your Case
Once your papers are filed, your creditors can no longer legally contact you. This also means they cannot sue you, repossess your car, evict you from your apartment, foreclose upon your home, or attempt to seize your wages.
Your next step in a do-it-yourself Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to attend the 341 meeting of creditors at your local courthouse. You will receive a date for this hearing in the mail. Most of the time no one shows up to object to the bankruptcy and your case will move forward. If someone objects to your bankruptcy, you may need to secure an attorney.
It will then take another three to seven months for your discharge hearing. At this hearing, a federal bankruptcy judge will legally absolve you of your accepted debt obligations. You will then receive discharge papers in the mail. Remember that your case will be reported on your credit files for the next 10 years.