My understanding is that your household income must be below the current poverty line, not median income. Go to your local bankrutpcy court website and you should be able to find a link to the current poverty line stats.
Your family income (not including non-cash governmental benefits) must be less than 150% of the federal poverty guideline. Some courts will also allow you to deduct the amount you pay for child support. Many courts scrutinize motions to waive the filing fee very carefully to prevent abuses, so do not expect to get the fee waived if you have any luxury expenses -- which might include cable TV and cigarettes for some judges.
28 USC Sec 1930(f)(1) provides, in pertinent part, "(f)
(1)Under the procedures prescribed by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the district court or the bankruptcy court may waive the filing fee in a case under chapter 7 of title 11 for an individual if the court determines that such individual has income less than 150 percent of the income official poverty line (as defined by the Office of Management and Budget, and revised annually in accordance with section 673(2) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981) applicable to a family of the size involved and is unable to pay that fee in installments...."
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Kevin and Walter gave you the standard, income cannot exceed 150% of the poverty line. I can't speak for every district, but if the debtor has hired an attorney, a fee waiver will not be approved unless the attorney is appearing pro-bono (for free) or charged a very low, below market fee. As a general rule, if you have an attorney, you don't get a fee waiver. In my district, and I suspect in most districts, a hearing is required. Your opposition is the bankruptcy trustee. $60 of that $306 chapter 7 filing fee goes to your bankruptcy trustee, they don't like to let fee waiver go by unscrutinized.
A few weeks ago, at a 341 meeting, the person ahead of my clients did not have an attorney. The debtor had obtained employment the same week she filed bankruptcy. Debtor filed for a fee waiver. At the 341 meeting, the trustee informed the debtor that she was going to object to the waiver.
The alternative is paying the filing fee in installments. You can usually do so in up to 4 installments, and the requested is granted without a hearing.
Oh dear. You are not only about to file to waive the court costs, you are going to file a bankruptcy petition without an attorney. Aren't you? Filing without an attorney is like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. You may live, but you ain't gonna enjoy the trip.
But it sounds like maybe you have no need to file a bankruptcy at all. I suspect that you may be "judgment proof." That means that you have no assets that a creditor is allowed to reach. So, go see a bankruptcy attorney and ask if you are judgment proof. Many excellent attorneys don't charge for the initial consultation. So, you have nothing to lose.
The Bankruptcy Court would like to see you get the justice you deserve. But the Court's resources are stretched very thin. They are laying off staff and cutting costs wherever they can. That means that one is asking a lot when one asks the Court to give away it's lifeblood, i.e. the court costs that it collects. And you will be a serious drain on time and resources of the Court personnel without an attorney.
If you have a job or income at all, the most likely outcome of your motion to waive fees will be an order to allow you to pay the fees in 3 or 4 payments. Good luck.
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It's a case by case basis. Maid 3 factors are income, car, other assets. Look up a free BK clinic in our area, if you truly do qualify a lawyer may take your case for free and get the fee waived.
Sometimes in my district they will still waive the filing fee if the lawyer only charges a small amount too. Or you can do the installment plan to pay the court over a few months.