It may seem a tad cruel that you have to pay a fee to file for bankruptcy, especially if you don't even have two nickels to rub together. The hard truth is there are actually several fees that must be paid during the course of your bankruptcy before you can receive your discharge. If you desperately need the protection bankruptcy offers but can't afford to pay for it, here are a couple of things you can do.

A Brief Interlude About the Bankruptcy Fees

The bankruptcy filing fee encompass more than the amount of money required to submit the paperwork to the bankruptcy court. Here's a breakdown of the charges you'll incur during your quest to get your debts discharged:

All in all, your total out-of-pocket costs can be anywhere from $1,600 to $3,455. If there are challenges to your bankruptcy or issues that require special attention from an attorney, you may have to pay more.

Tackling the Bankruptcy Court Fees

The court filing fee is due the moment you submit your bankruptcy petition to the court. If you don't have the money at that time, you can ask the court to let you pay the fee in monthly installments. The fee can only be split into a maximum of 4 payments, and it must be paid in full no later than 120 days after you file your paperwork with the court. The application to pay monthly installments can be downloaded from the US Court website.

Alternatively, you can ask the court to waive the fee altogether. However, you must meet certain requirements to take advantage of this option:

  • You must be filing chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • You are unable to make monthly payments or pay in full within the allotted time
  • Your income is falls 150% or more below the poverty line
  • You are filing as an individual

If you qualify, you won't have to pay the fee at all. The application to have the bankruptcy fee waived can also be found on the US Court site.

The government requires companies that handle the credit counseling and financial management education to offer their fees on a sliding scale. If you can't afford the full amount, you'll be charge a lower fee based on your income. Those whose incomes fall 150% below the poverty line can have the fee waived. You'll need to talk to those specific companies about these options, however.

Handling Attorney's Fees

Attorney's fees may be a little more challenging to deal with. Because attorney's fees can be discharged in bankruptcy, most lawyers will ask that you pay the money up front. However, it doesn't hurt to ask if the person is willing to accept monthly payments or to handle the case pro bono. The lawyer may agree if your case and reason is compelling enough. Alternatively, look for a legal clinic that offers free or low-cost legal help.

Many attorneys offer a free consultation. Take advantage of this to discuss other ways you can make filing for bankruptcy more affordable.