How Long Does Filing Chapter 7 Take?
For those who are struggling with debt and experiencing harassment from creditors, time is of the essence. This can be especially true when it comes to getting finances back on track and restoring a sense of normalcy to life. You, or someone you know, may be considering filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy but are unsure about how long the filing process takes.
Typically, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is relatively quick to complete. Your bankruptcy case could be completed and discharged within 3-6 months of filing bankruptcy.
However, there are some important dates that can affect your right to file a case and obtain relief. The following filing timeline illustrates the relevant dates in a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
6-8 Years Before Your Bankruptcy
If you received a Chapter 13 or Chapter 12 discharge in a case filed within the previous six years, you will be eligible for a Chapter 7 discharge generally if, in the prior case, you paid at least 70 percent of your allowed unsecured claims, and your plan was proposed in good faith and was your best effort.
You are ineligible for a Chapter 7 discharge until eight years from the date you filed a prior Chapter 7 and received a discharge.
1 Year Before Your Bankruptcy
If you have tried to delay or defraud your creditors by transferring, hiding, or destroying your property within the 1-year period prior to your bankruptcy, the court may deny you a Chapter 7 discharge and even allow your creditors to recover the property that you transferred.
Also, if you pay back one of your creditors who is also a relative or close business associate (“insider”) at any time within the 1-year period prior to the filing of your bankruptcy case, the payment may be deemed an unlawful preference and the court may recover all such payments and distribute them to your other creditors.
If you had a prior bankruptcy case dismissed within one year of the time you file a Chapter 7 case, the Automatic Stay entered in the Chapter 7 case will be terminated within 30 days unless you can demonstrate that the Chapter 7 case was filed in good faith.
180 Days Before Your Bankruptcy
If within 180 days before your bankruptcy you had a prior bankruptcy case that was dismissed because you failed to obey court orders or you voluntarily requested a dismissal, then you may not file your bankruptcy case until this 180-day period expires.
Also, within the 180 days before your bankruptcy filing, you must receive an individual or group briefing from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency.
90 Days Before Your Bankruptcy
You must be a resident of the state in which you intend to file your bankruptcy case for at least 90 days before the filing. If you have not lived in the state in which you intend to file your case for at least 90 days, you may only file your case in the state where you have resided, or which has been the location of your principal assets, for a majority of the prior 180 days.
Also, if you pay back any of your creditors, even one who is not a relative or close business associate (“insider”), at any time within the 90-day period prior to the filing of your bankruptcy case, the payment may be considered an unlawful preference and the court may recover all such payments and distribute them to your other creditors.
If you incurred new credit of $500 or more for “luxury goods or services” within the 90-day period before your bankruptcy, or if you obtain a cash advance in the amount of $750 within 70-day period before your bankruptcy, the debt is presumed to be non-dischargeable.
Your Case is Filed!
Your case is formally commenced when you file your bankruptcy petition with the appropriate bankruptcy court. In most cases, as soon as you file your petition, the court will enter an Automatic Stay order prohibiting your creditors from taking or continuing any collection or legal action against you. This means no more harassing letters or phone calls for as long as the automatic stay remains in effect, generally for the duration of your bankruptcy case.
Next, the court will send a notice of your case to all of the creditors listed in your petition.
Additionally, the bankruptcy court will assign a bankruptcy trustee to oversee your case. The trustee is a federal employee appointed by the court to monitor your case and make sure you are eligible for bankruptcy. The trustee will review your petition, make sure that it is complete, and then schedule a meeting of your creditors.
15 Days After Your Case is Filed
You have a deadline of 15 days after you file your petition to file certain financial “schedules” with the court-documents declaring your assets, liabilities, expenses, income, and a statement of your affairs. In most case, however, your attorney will file these schedules with your petition.
Approximately 15 Days After Your Case is Filed
Within approximately 15 days after you file your case, the court will mail the Notice of Commencement of Case to you and to all of the creditors listed in your petition. This notice will inform you of the date set by the court for the meeting of your creditors, and the deadlines for your creditors to object to your case and file their claims against you.
Approximately 30 Days After Your Case is Filed
Within 30 days after you file your case, or before the meeting of your creditors if that occurs first, you are required to file a Statement of Intention. In this document, you advise the court whether you intend to keep your property that serves as collateral for your debts, or whether you intend to surrender it to your creditors.
If you intend to keep the property, you must indicate your intention to: (1) reaffirm your debts and continue making all of your payments on those debts; or (2) redeem the property by paying the fair market value for it, in which case you will receive a discharge of debt owed over the fair market value of the item.
You must serve a copy of your Statement of Intention on the bankruptcy trustee and your creditors at the time you file it with the court.
45 days After Your Statement of Intention is Filed
You have 45 days after your Statement of Intention is filed to surrender or keep your property as you indicated in your Statement and make all necessary payments.
Approximately 3 to 6 Weeks After Your Case is Filed
The court will hold the Meeting of Your Creditors about three to six weeks after your bankruptcy case is filed. At least seven days before this meeting, you are required to provide to the trustee and any creditor requesting it a copy of your most recently filed tax return.
The court-appointed trustee will preside over this meeting. At the meeting, which you are required to attend, you will be asked to testify under oath as to the accuracy of the statements in your petition. However, most creditors typically do not appear at the meeting, and you will not be before a judge. The meeting is very informal, and in most cases will last no more than 10 minutes. If you do not attend the meeting, your case will be dismissed.
Within 45 days after you file your petition, you must file a statement containing a certificate from your attorney that you received an explanation of the various chapters available to you under the bankruptcy code, evidence of any payments you’ve received from any employer within 60 days of your filing, an itemized statement of your monthly income, and an estimate of any increase income or expenditures you expect over the next 12 months.
30 Days After The Meeting of Your Creditors
The bankruptcy trustee and your creditors have to 30 days after the conclusion of the Meeting of Creditors in which to make objections to your exemptions.
60 Days After The Meeting of Your Creditors
Your creditors have 60 days after the date first set for the Meeting of Your Creditors to object to the discharge of any of the debts listed in your petition and schedules.
Your creditors can object to your request to discharge a debt if the debt was obtained or incurred as a result of any of the following types of misconduct: fraud; embezzlement or larceny; and any willful or malicious injuries you have caused others; or a divorce or separation (this does not include debts for child support and spousal maintenance, which are non-dischargeable by law).
Additionally, your creditors can object to the discharge of all your debts if you have engaged in any of the following conduct: concealment or destruction of property or financial records; false statements; withholding information; failing to explain losses; failure to respond to material questions; or a discharge in a prior Chapter 12 or 13 case filed within the previous 6 years or a Chapter 7 case filed within the previous 8 years.
The trustee must move to dismiss your case within this time period if he finds that the granting of relief would be an abuse of the provisions of Chapter 7. You will receive your Chapter 7 discharge 60 days after the meeting of your creditors You will receive your discharge as soon as the 60-day time period for objecting to discharge or moving to dismiss your case expires. Even if you receive your discharge, the trustee may, however, move to set it aside if you do not turn over nonexempt property or if you commit other bankruptcy violations.
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 imposes one last hurdle before you’re eligible for your discharge–the financial education requirement. This requires you to complete an instructional course concerning personal financial management. Your attorney can refer you to an approved financial management class.
90 Days After The Meeting of Your Creditors
All of your creditors (except for government entities) must file their proofs of claim (these are documents your creditors submit to the court specifying how much you owe them) within 90 days after the first date set for your creditor meeting if they wish to share in the payments from your case if any assets are available for liquidation.
Government entities that have claims against you (such as the IRS) have 180 days after the filing of your case to submit their proofs of claim.