Bankruptcy is a complicated legal process that involves in a number of steps. When filing for personal bankruptcy protection, you may opt for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, depending on your specific situation. How long it takes to resolve your bankruptcy case typically depends on which chapter you file, how extensive your debts are and whether any issues arise during the process.
Chapter 7 Timeline
Chapter 7 bankruptcy typically takes the shortest time to complete and most cases can be resolved within four to six months. Within 14 days of filing your bankruptcy petition, you must submit the appropriate documentation to the court, including a list of creditors, a list of debts and assets and a financial statement. Within 21 to 40 days after you file, you'll be required to attend a meeting of creditors. This meeting is presided over by the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case and usually lasts no more than a few minutes. If the trustee determines that your information is correct and there are no issues that need to be addressed, you can expect to receive a discharge of your case within 60 to 90 days.
Completing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy takes much longer to complete than Chapter 7. When you file Chapter 13, you agree to repay your outstanding debts over a period of three or five years. The length of your repayment plan is based on your income. The more disposable income you have to pay to your creditors, the longer you repayment period will last. You won't be able to receive a discharge of your case until all of the plan payments have been made in full. If you miss a payment, you must notify the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case immediately in order to prevent a dismissal of your case.
Potential Roadblocks to Discharge
There are several things that can delay a bankruptcy proceeding. If one or more of your creditors objects to the inclusion of a specific debt in your filing, an adversary proceeding can be filed against you. All adversary proceedings must be resolved before you can receive a discharge. The trustee can also initiate an adversary proceeding if he believes that your filing violates the federal bankruptcy code in some way. If you file Chapter 13, you must submit a repayment plan to the court and your creditors for approval. If either the court or your creditors deems the plan unacceptable, you will have to resubmit a modified plan in order for your case to proceed.
If your bankruptcy case is dismissed, you must wait 180 days before filing a new petition. If you receive a discharge and for some reason have to file bankruptcy again, you are limited as to how often you can receive bankruptcy protection. Under federal law, you must wait eight years after receiving a discharge in a Chapter 7 case to file a new Chapter 7 petition. The waiting period is four years if you plan to file Chapter 13 after a Chapter 7 discharge.
Rebecca Lake is a freelance writer and virtual assistant living in the southeast. She has been writing professionally since 2009 for various websites. Lake received her master's degree in criminal justice from Charleston Southern University.