Bankruptcy can be a complex process, and the average person probably isn’t equipped to go through it alone. Working with a bankruptcy attorney can help ensure your bankruptcy goes as smoothly as possible and complies with all the applicable rules and regulations governing bankruptcy proceedings.
You’ll also have to meet some requirements before you can file for bankruptcy. You’ll need to demonstrate you can’t repay your debts and also complete credit counseling with a government-approved credit counselor. The counselor will help you assess your finances, discuss possible alternatives to bankruptcy, and help you create a personal budget plan.
If you decide to move forward with bankruptcy proceedings, you’ll have to decide which type you’ll file: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Both types of bankruptcy can help you eliminate unsecured debt (such as credit cards), halt a foreclosure or repossession, and stop wage garnishments, utility shut-offs and debt collection actions. With both types, you’ll be expected to pay your own court costs and attorney fees. However, the two types of bankruptcy relieve debt in different ways.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as “straight bankruptcy,” is what most people probably think of when they’re considering filing for bankruptcy.
Under this type of bankruptcy, you’ll be required to allow a federal court trustee to supervise the sale of any assets that aren’t exempt (cars, work-related tools and basic household furnishings may be exempt). Money from the sale goes toward paying your creditors. The balance of what you owe is eliminated after the bankruptcy is discharged. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can’t get you out of certain kinds of debts. You’ll still have to pay court-ordered alimony and child support, taxes, and student loans.
The consequences of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy are significant: you will likely lose property, and the negative bankruptcy information will remain on your credit report for ten years after the filing date. Should you get into debt again, you won’t be able to file again for bankruptcy under this chapter for eight years.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy works slightly differently, allowing you to keep your property in exchange for partially or completely repaying your debt. The bankruptcy court and your attorney will negotiate a three- to five-year repayment plan. Depending on what’s negotiated, you may agree to repay all or part of your debt during that time period. When you’ve completed the agreed repayment plan, your debt is discharged, even if you only repaid part of the amount you originally owed.
While any type of bankruptcy negatively affects your credit, a Chapter 13 may be a more favorable option. Because you repay some (or all) of your debt, you may be able to retain some assets. What’s more, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will cycle off your credit report after seven years, and you could file again under this chapter in as little as two years.