When you file paperwork with the bankruptcy court—or any other court, for that matter—you’ll be required to pay a filing fee to cover the administrative costs associated with handling your case (unless you’re a low-income filer and qualify for a fee waiver). The bankruptcy fees are not the only fees you might have to pay in bankruptcy court, however. You can expect additional fees for things such as filing amendments (changes) to your petition, as well as for any motion you might make, a conversion (transfer) to another bankruptcy chapter if your situation changes, or an appeal if something doesn’t go your way. Keep reading to find out about more about the fees you can expect to pay in bankruptcy court.
Chapter 7 and 13 Petition Filing Fees
Your bankruptcy case starts when you file a court form known as a bankruptcy “petition.” In the petition, you’ll tell the court about your income and expenses; your assets and debt; and you’ll list past financial transactions on additional forms called “schedules.” Once completed, you’ll file the bankruptcy paperwork with the clerk of the court and pay the following filing fee:
These fees are the same in every bankruptcy court, no matter where it is located. You can find fillable, downloadable official bankruptcy forms on the U.S. Court’s website.
Applying for a Fee Waiver or Installment Plan
Some people cannot afford to pay the bankruptcy filing fee. If your income falls within 150% of the national poverty guidelines and you do not own a significant amount of property, you can apply for a fee waiver. If your income is too high to qualify and you don’t have $335 to pay right now (but need to file your petition immediately), you can ask the court to allow you to pay your fee in installments. Be cautious, however. The court might dismiss your case if you don’t pay your fee exactly as required.
Example. Lucy filed an application to pay her Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing fee along with her petition. The court granted her request to pay the $335 fee in four installments as follows: $84 on May 1st; $84 on June 1st; $84 on July 1st; and $83 on August 1st. When the last payment came due, Lucy forgot she was to pay $83 (one dollar less than the previous payments to take into account that $335 does not divide well by four) and sent a check for $84 instead. Because it was the wrong amount, the court clerk rejected her check. When the time to pay the fee elapsed, her bankruptcy case closed and Lucy did not receive a discharge (the order that wipes out debt).
Although this example would seem to strain credibility—the idea that the court would dismiss a case over $1—rest assured that it can happen. A trustee in the California Eastern district uses this example to illustrate the consequences of failing to timely pay filing fee installments in his introductory statements at the meeting of creditors (the one court appearance you must attend).
The Cost to Reopen Your Case
Although the vast majority of bankruptcy cases move through the system without incident, a small lapse on the part of the filer can result in the premature closing of your bankruptcy case. If you want to reopen it, you’ll need to pay. For example, if you forgot to file the certificate that proves that you completed your post-filing financial counseling course, the clerk will close your case without issuing you a discharge. If you have to reopen your case to take care of a problem, here’s how much you can expect to pay:
- $260 for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and
- $235 for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
Other Bankruptcy Fees
While in bankruptcy, you might need to let the court know that your circumstances have changed. You’ll do so by filing a written document called an “amendment” with the clerk of the court, and you’ll pay an additional $30 fee. Here are some examples of fees you might encounter (again, keep in mind that most people don’t experience these issues):
- $25 to “convert” (transfer) a case from a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- $30 to make a change to the petition or schedules (other than to change a creditor’s address)
- $53 for a returned check
- $176 to ask the court to force the trustee to give up your property (called a “Motion to Compel Abandonment of Property”), and
- $293 to file an appeal from a judgment or order.
If you have any questions about bankruptcy fees or any other part of the bankruptcy process, you should consult with a local bankruptcy attorney familiar with the practices of your local bankruptcy court.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do you pay the bankruptcy filing fee on my behalf or do I pay it myself?
- Is my filing fee included in the retainer amount for your services?
- Do I have to pay you the filing fee when I pay my retainer or can I wait until you file my case?