Filing bankruptcy costs money. Setting aside what you will pay in attorney fees, you will have other costs, even if you file pro se (without counsel).
To file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have to take a pre-filing credit counseling course before filing the case, and then take a post-filing financial management course to obtain a discharge. This will cost you anywhere from $20-$100, depending on which agencies you use.
Court costs to file Chapter 7 are $335. They are $310 to file Chapter 13. I often am asked whether you can either pay the court fees in installments or even have them waived. The answer is yes, but only in certain circumstances.
As stated in previous blogs, if you are paying attorney fees in a Chapter 7, the proper thing to do is pay those attorney fees in full prior to filing the bankruptcy case. If so, you must pay your court filing fees in full prior to filing as well, because your district will almost certainly not allow the attorney to collect his/her fee without the court fees being paid in full first.
In the event you are either not filing with an attorney or are perhaps using an attorney fully paid through legal insurance, you should be able to pay your filing fee in installments, depending on your judge’s approval. In the Northern District of Georgia bankruptcy court, you usually get 90 days after filing to pay the court fees in full.
Court fees can also be waived entirely should you fall within a certain percentage of the poverty level based on 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.
Note that if you are paying an attorney, it is unlikely you will qualify for this waiver even if you fit the poverty line figure, because you most likely cannot skimp the court to pay the attorney.
Chapter 13 filing fees will not be waived, because one cannot simultaneously need a fee waiver and have enough monthly income to afford a repayment plan. The fees however can be paid in installments, subject to your judge’s approval. That being said, if you cannot afford to pay your filing fees in full prior to your case being filed, it is unlikely you will have the resources to make your monthly Chapter 13 repayment plan work in the long term.