You may be asking yourself if I file for bankruptcy but cannot afford the filing fee, can I still file. The answer may surprise you. The district court or bankruptcy court may be able to waive the initial filing fee for an individual debtor based on the debtor being less than 150% of the poverty level guidelines most recently published  by the United States Department of Health and Human Services applicable to family size.

In addition, if you are unable to pay in installments then applying for a waiver of the filing fee may be submitted when the bankruptcy case is filed.  The income comparison to the poverty guideline is the total combined monthly income on line 16 of schedule I of the bankruptcy schedule. This does not include food stamps or housing subsidies.  This may also include the income of the spouse even if not filing jointly, unless separated and includes any dependant that brings income into the household.

Family size defined as the debtor, the debtors’ spouse and any dependants listed on schedule I of the bankruptcy schedules. The bankruptcy court should consider the total individual circumstances before rendering a decision on whether to waive the filing fee or not. A debtor is not disqualified just because he/she has paid a bankruptcy attorney, a petition preparer or debt relief agency in connection with the filing.  The debtor must prove to the court the filing fee should be waived, as it is his/her responsibility.

The initial court procedure should determine whether the application to waive the filing fee should be granted, denied or set for an early hearing noticing the United States trustee, bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee, the debtor or the debtors’ attorney (if he/she has one).  If an order denying the application for waiver of the filing fee is entered is usually given a reasonable time (generally 10 days), to pay the entire filing fee or pay the filing fee in installments. This denial should notice the debtor if the filing fee is not paid in full or in installments, their case may be dismissed.

On the other hand, if the debtor’s application to pay the filing fee in installments is approved then later the debtor applied for a waiver of the filing fee, the court may waive the unpaid balance. This is subject to the individual bankruptcy court. If the case is converted from a chapter 13 to a chapter 7, the court could waive any unpaid balance on the filing fee if it is warranted and the debtors meet the requirements set forth in the bankruptcy code. There is much more involved depending in the individual circumstances, so it is best to have an experienced bankruptcy attorney that can help you understand what the requirements and procedures are in relation to your specific bankruptcy case.