There are fees and costs you have to pay when you start practically any legal action in court. Whether it's a small claims or a personal injury lawsuit, court personnel have to process your paperwork, make copies and many other things to get your case rolling. These things cost money. Filing fees are also meant to discourage people from filing frivolous or abusive lawsuits.

It's no different when you file for bankruptcy. You have to pay fees and costs up front when your case is filed. However, because the bankruptcy courts understand your dire financial condition, they may give you a break when it comes to the fee. Whether you're thinking of filing a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to help you ease your personal financial distress, you should know if, when and how much you have to pay to file.

Filing a Chapter 7 Case

A Chapter 7 case starts when a petition is filed in court. Usually, you file the petition (called a voluntary bankruptcy), but it's possible one of your creditors could file it against you (an involuntary bankruptcy case). Whether it's you or a creditor who files it, a $299 filing fee must be paid when it's filed.

The fee includes several items:

  • $245 filing fee
  • $39 administrative fee
  • $15 for compensation to trustee appointed to your case

Filing a Chapter 13 Case

A Chapter 13 case also begins with the filing of a petition, but only you can file one - a creditor can't file an involuntary Chapter 13 case against you. When you file the petition, you must pay a $274 filing fee. This fee includes:

  • $235 filing fee
  • $39 administrative fee

There's no trustee's fee because the trustee's payment is arranged for in your repayment plan.

Can't Pay the Fee?

You're filing for bankruptcy because your financial condition isn't good, so coming up with about $300 may not be easy. You have some options to help.

Waiver of the Filing Fee

If you're filing under Chapter 7 and you can't afford to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive the fee. To qualify for the waiver, your income must be less than 150 percent of the income official poverty line for a family the same size as yours.

Complete the fee waiver form and file it along with your bankruptcy petition.

Installment Payments of Filing Fee

Whether you're filing under Chapter 7 or 13, if you can't pay the filing fee at the time you file, you can ask the court to pay in installments. You can pay in up to four installments, and you can set the amounts for each payment. If the court doesn't like your plan, it will set a payment schedule for you.

You have 120 days from the time you file to make all payments. If you can't pay on time, the court can extend the installment period, but you'll have to explain why you're having trouble making the scheduled payments and how you plan on making future payments.

Reopening Fees

If you have to reopen your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy after it has been closed, you have filing fees to pay:

  • $245 for a Chapter 7 case
  • $235 for a Chapter 13 case

As a general rule, fee waivers and installment payments aren't available if you reopen your case.

Check for Current Fees

All the Chapter 7 and 13 fees listed here are current as of late 2010. They may change at any time, and may even be different depending the state where your bankruptcy is filed. For up-to-date fees, check with the clerk of the US Bankruptcy court in your area, or ask your attorney if you're ready to start the process.

You're thinking about bankruptcy because it's your only way out of a financial crisis. The added costs of filing fees don't have to stand in your way of getting the relief and the fresh start you need.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How much will you charge me to file my bankruptcy? Does it include filing fees? 
  • Are the filing fees doubled if my spouse and I file a joint bankruptcy?
  • If a creditor files an involuntary Chapter 7 case against me can I convert it to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy? Do I have to pay Chapter 13 filing fees?

Tagged as: Bankruptcy, Personal Bankruptcy, chapter fees, filing fees