I read that a hearing with a judge is required for a waiver of the bankruptcy filing fee. Is this a new requirement? It stresses me to attend the hearing with the trustee. I can't imagine another one with a judge. Which documents does the judge review to determine if you should be approved for the fee waiver? Does the judge review all of your documents or review them critically like an audit? And is your income somehow watched for the next 60 days in case it increases? I didn't know what is meant when it stated that the fee waive could be canceled later if they find increase income, etc. Since I hope to get a job soon, maybe I shouldn't apply for the fee waiver? In other words, is this is a more stressful process than if I didn't apply for a fee waiver?
Go ahead and apply for the fee waiver. In my district of you qualify for the fee waiver when you file your case and you have not paid for an attorney the waiver request will no approved. As for documentation, remember you have to provide your paycheck stubs or if you don't have a job you have to sign an affidavit regarding your income for the last six months. Of you get a job between filling and the hearing, if any, the judge might order that you have to pay the filling fee. So what? If you don't apply for the fee waiver and you file bk you'll have to pay the filling fee, so you really have nothing to lose by filling for the fee waiver.
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Here is a general form for waiving, see: http://www.uscourts.gov/forms/bankruptcy-forms/application-have-chapter-7-filing-fee-waived. Some jurisdictions require going in front of a judge. Others only need supporting documents like schedule I & J from your voluntary bankruptcy petition. Best to ask this of the clerk of the bankruptcy court.
The judge can only waive the fee if your income is below 150% of the HHS Poverty Guidelines for your family size, and you can prove that you cannot afford to pay the fee in installments over a few months. Even if you pass the income requirements, being approved is in the judge's discretion and since 11/1/2011 it's a little bit harder because a judge will want evidence like permanent disability.
If the judge denies the waiver, then you will have to make payment arrangements to pay the fee in installments. Failure to make payments in a timely manner or failing not to pay will result in the court dismissing your bankruptcy case.
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If you can't handle the stress or figure out how to do the fee waiver, you can just pay the filing fee. You can pay the filing in installments, no questions asked (it is a simple form you fill out). But, as you are finding out, if you apply for a fee waiver, you need to "prove" that you cannot afford the filing fee.
As for what would happen at the hearing, if one is held, the judge only does what he is asked to do. You are filing a motion for the judge to waive the filing fee; so the judge is only going to look at the materials that are relevant to that determination.
I would suggest hiring a local bankruptcy attorney. This is just one of many issues you'll need to deal with in bankruptcy. However, our SC bankruptcy judges don't typically have hearings on these. Either you meet the criteria, or you don't.
This is only intended for general information and is not legal advice. See an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice.
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