Bankruptcy is challenging, both in emotional and financial terms. One question that often adds to the stress is, “How much do bankruptcy lawyers cost?” Well, for Chapter 7, the average cost is around $1,250 per case, while for Chapter 13, you can expect to pay $3,000. This article will break down the bankruptcy costs, including attorney fees. Let’s start!

Bankruptcy Cost (Quick Facts)

  • Sum up court, attorney, and credit counseling fees to get the total bankruptcy cost.
  • Chapter 7 court fee is $338; Chapter 13 is $313 as of October 2023.
  • Chapter 7 attorney fees usually range from $1,000 to $2,500 per case.
  • Chapter 13 attorney fees often vary between $2,500 and $6,000 per case.
  • Filing on your own (pro se) is cheaper but has a lower success rate.

Filing Bankruptcy Fees: What to Expect

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost filing

In the United States, there are two main types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is generally quicker and eliminates most of your unsecured debt, while Chapter 13 involves a payment plan to repay some or all your debt.

When you decide to file for bankruptcy, several types of fees come into play. These can include:
01

Initial Consultation Fees

Many bankruptcy lawyers offer free initial consultations, but some might charge a nominal fee.
02

Court Fees

Before you can file for bankruptcy, there are mandatory court fees. For Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the filing fee is $338, and for Chapter 13, it's $313.
03

Miscellaneous Expenses

Costs like credit counseling sessions and documentation could add to the expenses.

In some cases, you might be eligible for a fee waiver if your income falls below 150% of the poverty line for your state and household size. But, being eligible doesn’t guarantee the court will grant the waiver.

Understanding bankruptcy costs requires a look into the different types of bankruptcies. For instance, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy lawyer may charge a different fee than a Chapter 7. Here are some general insights.

 

Individual vs. Business Bankruptcy

Filing as an individual usually costs less compared to filing for a business bankruptcy. While Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the most used types of bankruptcy for individuals, there are other chapters you may encounter:

Chapter Who It's For What It Does Special Notes
7 Individuals Liquidation Quick process, no repayment
11 Businesses Restructuring & repaying debts More complicated & costly
12 Family farmers and fishermen Reorganize business & personal affairs Tailor-made for unique income & challenges
13 Individuals Repayment plan 3-5 years repayment
15 Cross-border insolvencies Provides a mechanism in U.S. bankruptcy court Encourages cooperation between U.S. and foreign courts

If you are not sure which type of bankruptcy is right for you, it is best to consult a lawyer.

Also, these are filing fees that a business must pay when initiating bankruptcy proceedings.

Document Type Amount ($)
Chapter 7 Voluntary / Involuntary 338.00
Chapter 9 1,738.00
Chapter 11 Voluntary / Involuntary 1,738.00
Chapter 11 Railroad 1,571.00
Chapter 12 278.00
Chapter 13 313.00
Chapter 15 1,738.00
Verified Petition 250.00

Business bankruptcies are more expensive, with the average cost being $1,738.

 

Installment Payment Schedule

If you’re unable to pay the full filing fee upfront, many courts offer the option to pay in installments. You get quick protection from debt collectors as soon as you file. This immediate shield called an “automatic stay”, applies even if you haven’t paid the full fee yet.

Let’s look at the Chapter 7 bankruptcy payment plan in comparison to the other chapters.

Chapter 1st Installment (within 5 days) 2nd Installment (within 60 days) 3rd Installment (within 90 days) 4th Installment (within 120 days) Total ($)
7 $80 $80 $80 $98 338.00
11 $400 $400 $400 $538 1,738.00
12 $50 $50 $75 $103 278.00
13 $80 $80 $80 $73 313.00
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How Much Does It Cost to File Bankruptcy

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost and other costs

For further analysis, we will focus on how much a lawyer charges for Chapter 7 and 13. These chapters are most common for individuals and have more set fees. Others often pertain to specialized business cases, where legal fees can vary due to complexity.

Expense Category Chapter 7 Chapter 13
Fee to file $338 $313
Switching fee (7 to 13 or 13 to 7) No Charge/$25 No Charge/$25
Financial courses up to $100 up to $100
Pro se total $350 - $450 $320 - $430
Total with attorney fees $1,600 - $3,000 $3,000 - $5,000

Thus, the average cost of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $2,250, and Chapter 13 is $3,500. If you are considering converting from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, it’s free. But, converting from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7 will cost you $25.

In some cases, you may also consider engaging other specialists. For example, a debt lawyer costs $150-350 per hour.

How Much Does a Bankruptcy Lawyer Cost?

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost pro se

Did you know that around 39% of Chapter 7 cases filed without a lawyer get dismissed? That means no debt relief. With an attorney, your success rate jumps to over 95%. In places like Los Angeles, twice as many people who filed on their own had their cases dismissed compared to those with lawyers.

Filing without an attorney, known as “Pro Se” demands a lot of time and stress to grasp the law, compile your paperwork, and make court appearances. When you’re already in financial difficulties, this extra burden could make things worse.

Now that you know why an attorney is worth the investment, let’s deal with the question “How much does a lawyer cost to file bankruptcy” under chapters.

 

Attorney Fees for Bankruptcy Chapter 7

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost chapter seven

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney is around $1,250. This often covers filing fees, court appearances, and paperwork. In Chapter 7 cases, you must pay all attorney’s fees before filing.

Let’s look at how the costs vary by state for Chapter 7. (Note: The following table includes selected states for illustrative purposes and is not exhaustive.)

State How much do bankruptcy lawyers cost for Chapter 7
Ohio $1,090 - $1,500
California $1,200 - $1,850
Texas $975 - $2,000
New Jersey $1,000 - $2,800
Alabama $1,170 - $1,500
Massachusetts $1,150 - $2,500

Costs for Chapter 7 attorneys appear to be consistent across different states, except for New Jersey, where costs can go up to $2,800. If you’re in Texas or Ohio, you might find more budget-friendly options.

 

Chapter 13 Attorney Fees

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost by chapters

Unlike Chapter 7, the cost for Chapter 13 can vary. Bankruptcy lawyer fees can range from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the case's complexity:
01

Low complexity

$2,000-$3,000
02

Moderate complexity

$3,000-$4,000
03

High complexity

$4,000-$6,000

This often includes retainer fee structures. Now, let’s look at how the Chapter 13 costs vary by state.

State How much do bankruptcy lawyers cost for Chapter 13
Ohio $3,700
California $3,300 - $4,800
Texas $2,500 - $3,825
New Jersey $4,500
Alabama $3,500 - $4,500
Massachusetts $4,000

Chapter 13 attorney fees tend to be higher and show more variation than Chapter 7 fees, both within states and between them. States like California offer a wide range, due to local market factors.

In Chapter 13 cases, you usually don’t have to pay all attorney costs upfront. You pay a part of the attorney’s fees before filing. The rest gets paid through your Chapter 13 repayment plan.

If you’re dealing with mortgage issues, filing for Chapter 13 can offer a process called “Loss Mitigation” to change your loan. For these cases, the fee is generally around $5,500.

 

Sample Bankruptcy Attorney Cost

Here are some scenarios to give you an idea of potential attorney’s fees.

Scenario Fees (Single Filing) Fees (Joint Filing)
Retired on Fixed Income, No Home $1,500 $1,500
Working, Below Median Income, No Home $1,500 $1,800
Working, Above Median Income, No Home $1,700 $2,000
Above Median Income, Home Owned $1,800 $2,100
Self-Employed, Above Median Income, Home Owned $2,000-$2,500 $2,300-$2,700

The table reveals that attorney fees rise with income and property ownership. Joint filings usually cost more, except for retirees with no home.

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Hidden Bankruptcy Costs to Consider

how much do bankruptcy lawyers cost hidden costs

Taking two courses is generally required when you file for bankruptcy. The first is credit counseling before filing, and the second is a debtor education course after you’ve filed. Required counseling sessions cost between $20-$100.

Also to the filing fee and mandatory courses, other costs could include:

  • Printing costs for paperwork
  • Mailing costs for sending documents to the court
  • Amendment filing fees
  • Travel fees for meetings with your creditor
  • Possible lost wages for time off work related to your case

Besides to these, there are many other likely costs. Let’s look at each of them.

 

Adversary and Appeals Fees

Adversary proceedings and appeals add extra costs to the bankruptcy process.

Document Type Amount ($)
Complaint / Notice of Removal 350.00
Appeals 298.00
Cross Appeal/Direct Appeal Requesting 298.00
Direct Appeal Authorized 207.00

 

Fees for Case Changes

Sometimes, there are changes to your case that also have associated fees.

Service Amount ($)
Conversion from Chapter 7 to 11 922.00
Reopen Chapter 7 260.00
Reopen Chapter 13 235.00
Amended Bankruptcy Schedules 32.00
Motions (e.g., Lift Automatic Stay) 188.00
Transfer of Claim 26.00

 

Extra Court-Related Expenses

Attorney and filing fees might be your main focus, but other court costs can also add to the total.

Service Fee Notes
Copy of electronic record outside court $31 per record Audio recordings separate, see item 4
Certification of document $11 -
Exemplification of document $23 -
Audio recording of a court proceeding $32 Available in electronic format
Search of bankruptcy records $32 per item -
Payment returned (insufficient funds) $53 -
Filing an appeal or cross-appeal $293 Extra $207 fee if authorities approve the direct appeal
Motion to redact a record $26 per case Under appropriate circumstances, authorities may waive the fee.

Summary: Total Bankruptcy Cost

Taking everything into account:

  • Total cost with Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer: $1,600-$3,000
  • Total cost for Chapter 13 with an attorney: $3,000-$4,000

The cheapest way to file bankruptcy is to go it alone, known as filing “pro se.” It’s less successful but can cost as low as $350 to $450. You might save money by filing bankruptcy yourself, but it’s tricky and less likely to succeed. Hiring a lawyer costs more, but you’re more likely to get the outcome you want.

Remember, every bankruptcy case is different, and these are just guidelines. Consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney for a precise estimate tailored to your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have any bankruptcy question?

Contact Us
Do you need a lawyer to file bankruptcy?

It’s possible to file bankruptcy without a lawyer (pro se), although this has a low success rate and costs between $350-$450.

How long does bankruptcy stay on your credit report?

A bankruptcy filing can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy.

Is it cheaper to file Chapter 7 or 13?

Chapter 7 costs range from $1,600 to $3,000 including attorney fees, with a $338 filing fee. Chapter 13 costs between $3,000 to $5,000 for attorney fees and has a $313 filing fee. So, upfront, Chapter 7 is usually cheaper.

What is the success rate of Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

With a lawyer, the success rate is approximately 95%, while filing on your own (pro se) yields a success rate of around 56%.

Can you go to jail for filing bankruptcies?

Filing for bankruptcy itself won’t land you in jail. But, committing bankruptcy fraud is a federal crime that could result in up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If charged, the bail for such an offense can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

William Green lawyer
William Green
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