Bankruptcy Process and Timeline

If you decide to seriously explore the option of bankruptcy, schedule an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.  A good, experienced bankruptcy attorney should be able to help you understand your rights and put you at ease.  During this initial meeting, the attorney should understand your financial situation and explain whether bankruptcy may be a good option.

In order for the attorney to best advise clients about bankruptcy and consider all of the various options, they need to know the details about your finances. So come to the initial meeting prepared with important documents such as:

  • One recent bill from each creditor
  • Collection letters and any/all papers from the court
  • Notices concerning shut-offs, repossessions or foreclosure
  • As many pay stubs as you can locate for the past six or seven months
  • Tax returns for the past two years
  • Driver's license and Social Security card

Depending upon whether you file a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your case may be resolved and your debts discharged within 3 to 5 years (Chapter 13) or within as little as 4 to 6 months (Chapter 7).  Here is a basic, general timeline for a bankruptcy filing.  Please note that this information is general and may vary by state or bankruptcy district.

Before Filing 

  • You must complete a pre-filing credit counseling session with an approved agency prior to filing for bankruptcy. This must be done within 180 days prior to filing the bankruptcy petition.
  • Some states require that a debtor must be a resident of that state for a minimum number of days in order to file for bankruptcy in that state.

After Filing

  • Within 15 days of filing a bankruptcy petition, you must file specific information with the bankruptcy court regarding assets, income, expenses and liabilities. If you filed a Chapter 13 case, you must also provide a repayment schedule.
  • 30 days after filing a Chapter 13 case, the debtor must make the first payment to the bankruptcy trustee based upon the repayment schedule.  In a Chapter 7 case, the debtor must file a document with the court stating which debts they would like to reaffirm (if applicable) in order to retain a property.
  • About 45 days after filing, the court will hold a Meeting of Creditors (341 meeting).  At this meeting you will need to testify, under oath, regarding all the information provided to the court.
  • Before your debts can be discharged in bankruptcy, you must complete a two-hour bankruptcy education course from an approved agency.  Check with your attorney as to when you should complete this course.
  • In a Chapter 7 case, debts are usually discharged about 4-6 months after filing.
  • In a Chapter 13 case, debts are usually discharged 3 to 5 years after filing upon the completion of the repayment schedule.