Can you get your filing fees waived if you are unable to afford them? The answer is yes, depending on where you fall on the poverty line against your household size.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1930(f)(1), a Debtor qualifies for waiver of the Chapter 7 filing fee if that Debtor: 1) has income less than 150% of the official poverty lien income applicable to a family of the size involved (as last published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services) and 2) is unable to pay the filing fee in installments. In 2012, the official poverty lien income amount for a two-person household was $15,130.
In the event you do fall under the poverty line and can get the filing fees waived, please note that in almost no scenario should you be filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 is a repayment plan chapter. As such, if you cannot afford your court costs, you almost invariably cannot afford any sort of trustee payment.
Assuming you are requesting your filing fees be waived and are filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should probably either be filing your case without an attorney, or, if you have an attorney, most likely he is taking your case pro bono.
This will vary by district, but it’s likely your judge will frown upon your attorney collecting a fee in the same case the debtor is using his poverty situation to waive the court costs. This is partly because court costs help pay office staff. An exception would be if the debtor’s legal insurance is paying the attorney.
Finally, please note that there is an alternative to paying your fees in full before filing the case and getting a waiver of all of your filing fees. This option is called paying your filing fees in installments. It requires filing a motion and getting court approval, but the gist of it is the debtor wants to file bankruptcy immediately but cannot pay all the court costs at this moment.
This is yet another scenario where it is unlikely the debtor is filing Chapter 13, because inability to pay the court costs probably means the debtor cannot afford a repayment plan.
Peter Bricks is a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). He is a regular contributor to bankruptcyblog.org has bankruptcy attorney offices in Woodstock, Jonesboro, Cumming, Atlanta and Dunwoody.