If you are filing a Chapter 7 and meet the income requirements, you can ask the court to waive your filing fee.
When you file bankruptcy, the court charges a filing fee. For a Chapter 7, it is $335. For a Chapter 13, it is $310. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, and meet certain requirements, you can ask the court to waive the filing fee. You can also ask the court to pay the filing fee in installments. The rules are specific and timing is important.
Who Can Get a Fee Waiver?
To qualify for a fee waiver, you will have to:
• File a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
• Be an individual (businesses can’t get fee waivers)
• Show you cannot afford to pay the fee in installments
• Show that your combined family income is below 150% of the Department of Health and Humans Services poverty guidelines (found at https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines)
• Provide information on whether you have paid an attorney or bankruptcy petition preparer to help file your case (you cannot get a fee waiver if you have paid an attorney or petition preparer)
• File your Application for Fee Waiver at the same time that you file your bankruptcy petition and schedules
Fee waivers are granted at the discretion of the court. Even if you meet the poverty guidelines, the court can grant or deny a fee waiver. The court can also set a hearing where you may be required to provide more information to the court or provide evidence of your inability to pay.
If a fee waiver is denied, the courts will generally give you a short time to either pay the filing fee in full, or will set up an installment plan.
Remember, if a fee waiver is granted and there are developments in the case that show it shouldn’t have been granted, the fee waiver can be vacated (undone), and you will be required to pay the fee.
If you don’t qualify to have your fee waived, or the court denies your request, you can ask to pay the fee in installments. You would then pay the fee in 3 or 4 payments over 90 – 120 days. A request to pay in installments must also be filed at the time you file your petition and schedules. You will have to tell the court how much you want to pay in each payment, and when you want to make the payment. Usually, the first payment is made at the same time that you file your case.
If you miss a payment, the court can dismiss your case.
If you begin making installment payments, you can later ask for a waiver. If granted, the waiver would only apply to whatever fees are left to be paid. You would not get the money back from the installments you had already paid.
Chapter 13 Fee Payment Options
Filing fees for a Chapter 13 case can’t be waived. In a Chapter 13, you are required to make a monthly payment into a plan, and you must have reliable income in order to do so. The thinking is that if you can afford to make plan payments, then you can afford to pay your filing fee.
You can ask for filing fees in a Chapter 13 to be paid in installments. You follow the same procedure as in a Chapter 7, but you will need to make sure that your Chapter 13 plan payments are adjusted for you to make the filing fee payments for the first few months. A good attorney will be able to help calculate the payments.