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Chapter 7 Filing Fee – Can it be Waived?

Have you contemplated filing Bankruptcy but do not have enough money for the filing fee? Well there is a way that the filing fee can be waived but it must conform to the Official form otherwise you may have to pay the fee. When a chapter 7 case is filed the filing fee is paid at the same time, however in lieu of paying the filing fee or filing for an installment application a debtor may file the application for the filing fee at the same time the petition is filed.

The court initiates the case in the same manner by assigning a case number and processing all the paperwork. There is a standard of eligibility that must be met in order for the debtor to file the application for a waiver or deferment f the filing fee. A debtor who has income less than 150% of the poverty guidelines applicable to the family size and that is unable to pay the filing fee in installments. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) defines poverty guidelines separately for each state, which includes District of Columbia and Hawaii.

The income comparison on the poverty guidelines take the total combined monthly income as reported on line 16 of schedule I of the bankruptcy schedule. However, food stamps and housing subsidies are excluded in this figure. The income of the spouse is included whether or not a joint petition is filed unless the spouses have separate households and do not file the petition jointly. Also included in the total monthly income is any dependant in the household that has income.

Family size is defined as the debtor, spouse, and any dependants listed on schedule I in the bankruptcy schedules. The bankruptcy court considers the totality of the circumstances in determining if the debtor is unable to pay the filing fee.  A debtor is not disqualified from a waiver of the filing fee just because the debtor has either paid or promised to pay an attorney, debt relief agency or document preparer. Regardless, it is the debtor’s responsibility to prove to the court the filing fee should be waived.

In a case where the debtor files a chapter 7 and the filing fee is waived but the case gets converted to a chapter 13 case, the debtor is responsible for paying the chapter 13 filing fee, however the conversion order give the debtor ten (10) days to either pay the filing fee in full or in installments. The court can vacate an order waiving the filing fee if developments in the case or administration of the estate demonstrate the wavier was initially unwarranted. This is up to the individual court to decide. In addition, other fees may be waived at the discretion of the bankruptcy court for individual debtors whose filing fee was waived. If the debtor is approved for installment payments, they must certify they will not make additional payment or transfer any additional property to an attorney or other person for services in connection with the case until the filing fee is paid in full.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can advise you in your individual circumstances if you are unable to pay the filing fee or if you case does convert to a chapter 13 and the court is requiring you to make the chapter 13 filing fee or risk the case being dismissed. It is always a good idea to consult a bankruptcy attorney.

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