Even though you may be too broke to pay your bills and have to file bankruptcy for debt relief, ironically, you must pay a fee to do so. Currently, it costs $335 and $310 to file a chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy respectively, but what do you do if you literally don't have two nickels to rub together? It is possible to get the fee waived. Here's more information about this option.

Only Chapter 7 Fee Can Be Waived

The first thing you need to know is only the fee for a chapter 7 bankruptcy can be waived. The fee for a chapter 13 petition has to be paid when you file. This is likely because you must have enough income to make the monthly payments into your plan, and the court figures that mean you should also have enough money to pay the fee.

If you're having trouble coming up with the money, you can request to pay the fee in up to 4 installments. You'll need to submit the installment plan application, which you can download from the bankruptcy court website, and list the dates you can make the payments. The entire fee must be paid no later than 120 days after filing your petition, so keep that in mind when figuring out your payment dates.

Your Income Must Be Lower Than the Poverty Line

The second issue is to qualify for the waiver is your family income must be 150 percent below the poverty line in your area. If you live anywhere besides Hawaii or Alaska and there are four people in your family, the monthly household income can't be greater than $3,075, for example.

It's important to note that the application for the waiver, which you can download here, does ask whether you're expecting a change in income over the next 6 months. While it may help your case if you're expecting to lose money (e.g. job loss), your request may be denied if your income will increase and your expenses will remain the same. However, it's important to be honest when filling out this form, because you can land in legal hot water if you omit the truth and are found out.

There May Be a Hearing

Lastly, the court may schedule a hearing to determine whether to grant your request or not. Typically this happens when it's not clear if you can afford the fee or not or when the court has some questions it wants to ask you about your financial situation. The good news is the court will let you know right then whether the fee will be waived. Additionally, since the hearing will take place a few weeks after you file, this can provide you with additional time to come up with the money.

For help with filling out and submitting the correct paperwork, connect with a bankruptcy petition expert near you.