Fees for filing a bankruptcy petition are set by the federal government, rather than the state. However, the cost of your bankruptcy filing in Georgia can vary, as the price to use the services of an attorney depends on where you live and the nature of your case.
There are several types of bankruptcy, each with its own fees.
- In Chapter 7, a court trustee liquidates most of your assets and uses the money to pay creditors. The filing fees for Chapter 7 total $335 at time of this publication. If you'reliving at less than 150 percent of the poverty level, you may be able to get a waiver.
- Chapter 11 is primarily for businesses. It allows a company to reorganize its debts, wipe out some of them and pay the rest over time. The filing fee is $1,717.
- Farmers and fishermen can file Chapter 12 with just $275 in filing fees. The petitioner can gradually pay off his debts over several years, and wipe out any remaining balance.
- In Chapter 13, like Chapter 12, the petitioner pays off debts over 3 to 5 years. The filing and administration fees are $310.
Unless you qualify for a waiver, you have to pay the bankruptcy fees if you want to wipe out your debts. The court can give you permission to pay in installments.
The Bankruptcy Georgia website says there's no hard and fast rule for what an attorney will cost if you hire one. Several factors come into play:
- Where you live. You may have to pay more in Atlanta than a smaller town such as Valdosta or Thomasville.
- The bankruptcy chapter. Chapter 7 is relatively simple to arrange, takes only a few months and usually has the lowest fees. Other chapters, with payment plans stretching out for years, require more work -- and the expenses that reflect that added responsibility.
- Your situation. The more assets you have and the more creditors you need to pay off, the more complex your bankruptcy can become. Fees go up accordingly. One Atlanta attorney, for example, says that his fees for filing Chapter 7 range from $1,000 to $1,800; Chapter 11 requires at least a $10,000 retainer up front.
- Who you hire. Two bankruptcy attorneys in the same county may charge very different fees for the same case.
The best way to find out is to contact several attorneys in your community, explain your case and ask for estimates. Confirm that their estimate includes the filing fees.
You can use the American Bar Association's online guide to find Georgia attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal assistance to people in bankruptcy.
Cost of Education
You must take a credit-counseling course in the six months before you file for bankruptcy, then take a debt-management course before you receive your discharge. The Justice Department maintains a list of approved counselors online, as well as a list of debt-management classes. The department considers reasonable fees to be $50 or less, and some agencies will waive the fee. If your income is under 150 percent of the poverty level, you're entitled to a waiver if the company offers one.
- U.S. Courts: Chapter 7 — Bankruptcy Basics
- U.S. Courts: Chapter 11 — Bankruptcy Basics
- U.S. Courts: Chapter 12 — Bankruptcy Basics
- U.S. Courts: Chapter 13 — Bankruptcy Basics
- Bankruptcy Georgia: How Much Does it Cost to File Bankruptcy in Georgia?
- Will B. Geer: What Will Filing Bankruptcy in Atlanta Cost Me?
- Justice Department: Approved Credit Counseling Agencies — Georgia
- Department of Justice: FAQ — Credit Counseling
- Justice Department: Approved Debtor Education Agencies — Georgia
- American Bar Association: Pro Bono Program Listings — Georgia
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.