Every client filing bankruptcy asks that question: how long will bankruptcy take?
Probably, the real question is “when will this be over?”
Like so many questions in the law, the answer is “it depends.”
From filing bankruptcy to discharge
In a Chapter 7, filing to discharge is about four months; in Chapter 13 it’s three to five years.
But, too often, the real gating issue is getting ready to file.
How long will it take you to get your attorney all the needed information?
And that’s a timeline that you, the client, control.
The source of delay
The real slow-down in most cases is getting the raw information to us.
Cases stall when the client
- fills out as much of our questionnaire as they find convenient;
- provides most of the paystubs;
- promises the tax return; and
- has to search for information on the insurance policy.
We hustle to get the schedules done, and the client then doesn’t have all the necessary funds to finish paying us.
After the case is filed
The protections from creditors that comes with a bankruptcy case kick in upon filing the case. The automatic stay halts levies, garnishments, collection calls, and foreclosures.
The stay remains in place until a discharge is entered at the conclusion of the case.
Once filed, a Chapter 7 marches fairly predictably to discharge. Most cases get a discharge in 3-4 months.
The debtor’s obligations after filing are few: show up at the 341 meeting, and complete the post bankruptcy education class.
Chapter 13 is different: 13 is a payment plan stretching over 3-5 years. The discharge comes when the plan payments are complete.
The biggest myth about Chapter 13 repayment plans
But in most districts, Chapter 13 debtors have few action items: make the payments to the trustee, provide requested updated information, and take the debtor education class.
What if I can’t make the plan payments
But back to the original question: how long does bankruptcy take?
The time required for the debtor to empower the attorney with a full deck of cards is unknowable, to the attorney, and is within the control of the client.
It seems to depend on how committed the debtor is to get out from under the financial problem.
Understanding your bankruptcy schedules
Interviewing a bankruptcy lawyer
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